Eating out is a great way to have fun and be sociable with your friends and family and take a break from cooking. However, it can be difficult to dine out while sticking to a healthier eating lifestyle.

The good news is that eating healthy at restaurants is possible with a few tips and tricks. If you follow these guidelines you can stick to your health goals without having to give up your social life as well.

1. Read The Menu Before You Go.

Often when you are going out to eat you may not be familiar with the menu. Look up the menu online and decide beforehand what you are going to order. You are more likely to make healthier choices if the restaurant atmosphere, hunger and peer pressure does not distract you. Making your decision before you arrive will avoid making snap decisions that you may regret later.

2. Eat A Healthy Snack Before You Arrive

If you are starving when you arrive at a restaurant you are more likely to end up overeating. Our eyes can be bigger than our stomachs and trick us into thinking we need/want more food. One way to avoid this is by eating a light snack before you arrive at the restaurant. A low-calorie snack such as yogurt, granola bar or protein shake will make you feel full and help prevent overeating.

3. Order a Soup or a Salad to Start

Studies have shown that eating a bowl of soup before a meal can reduce your calorie intake by 20%. A broth-based soup loaded with vegetables and some lean meat is both healthy and filling.

4. Ask To Make A Healthy Swap

Most people in the US don’t consume enough vegetables each day. Depending on your age and gender, you should be eating anywhere from 2-3 cups of vegetables per day. Vegetables are great to eat because they are low in calories and are loaded with fiber and nutrients. Increasing your vegetable intake has also been linked to a reduced risk of cancer, obesity and heart disease. When you are ordering your meal, swap part of your meal such as fries or potatoes for extra vegetables or a salad, this will boost your vegetable intake, cut your calories and help you feel better!

5. Have a Cup of Coffee Instead of Dessert

Tiramisu, cheesecake, chocolate cake: they all sound delicious, don’t they? It’s hard to turn down sweets after a meal, but skipping dessert and opting for a cup of joe instead can lower your calories and your sugar consumption. On top of that, you will reap the many benefits of drinking coffee such as increased energy and all the many nutrients such as Riboflavin, Pantothenic acid, and Magnesium

Remember, that there will be times when you want to eat your favorite foods and not worry about whether they are healthy or not, and that’s okay! It’s all about being flexible with your diet and eating in moderation. For those times when you are being more mindful of your healthy eating choice, try these 5 helpful tips and enjoy eating out!