Americans eat out a lot. It can be challenging to make healthy choices that take into account portion control while also keeping sugar, fat and sodium at acceptable levels.

The Upshot research and writing team (Josh Barro, Claire Cain Miller, Darcy Everleigh, Matt Ruby and Rumsey Taylor) has put together a great piece that will equip you to “hack” the restaurant scene. The Upshot is a regular New York Times feature that dig deeps into a particular topic.

Every lunch or dinner they discuss stays under 750 calories; some meals are well under that. The breakfasts are under 500 calories. The good news? Restaurant options have never been better.

The most valuable tip? Don’t eat an entire portion.

If you’re not careful, you can end up eating an entire day’s worth of calories in a single restaurant meal, as we explained last year. So it’s important not to take restaurants’ definition of portion size literally. Consider pizza.

Pizza doesn’t have to be bad for you, especially if you pick one with a thin crust, top it with vegetables instead of meat and stick to two or three slices. Lisa Young, an N.Y.U. nutritionist, says that standard pizzas were 10 inches in diameter in the 1970s, much smaller than many pies today.

Portion inflation isn’t limited to pizzas, which is why splitting entrees is so important. If you’re dining alone, consider setting aside some food as soon as it comes, as we have with the Olive Garden meal here, to avoid what psychologists call “the completion compulsion.” Save the food for later – or, if there is no better option, throw it out, without guilt. Eating food you don’t need is a version of waste.


Related Links: