Helpful preparation tips

Set yourself up for success

  • Pick a place with healthy food options.
  • Avoid “all-you-can-eat” restaurants and buffets.
  • Limit before meal foods like chips with dip, bread with butter and peanuts.
  • Select baked, broiled or roasted entrees.
  • Choose fish or poultry more often than red meats. If choosing red meat, order lean cuts (such as round or loin cuts). Trim off visible fat and take the skin off the chicken.
  • If the craving for dessert strikes, share with a friend of family member.
  • In place of high-fat, high-calorie desserts, choose fresh fruit, sorbet, ices or sherbet.

Make it your way

  • Order dressing or gravy on the side. Use it sparingly or dilute it with water, lemon juice or lime juice.
  • Season foods with pepper and herbs instead of salt or butter.

Stick to proper portions

  • Have an appetizer as your main course. The portions are usually smaller and cost less.
  • Eat half of your meal and take half home. This cuts calories and gives you a meal for another time. This will also save you money.

Try something new

  • Instead of soft drinks, choose unsweetened drinks, water or fat-free milk.
  • Instead of cream soups, try vegetable soups or soups with a broth base.

Tips for different ethnic foods

There are lots of delicious, healthy choices at different restaurants. Next time you go out to eat, try something from these suggestions.


  • Grilled burger on a lettuce wrap or rice bun
  • Grilled chicken
  • Grilled or baked salmon
  • Vegetable noodles with marinara sauce
  • Stuffed peppers with lean meat or grilled vegetables


  • Won ton or hot and sour soup
  • Steamed vegetable dumplings
  • Lightly stir-fried meals
  • Meals made with water chestnuts
  • Steamed rice
  • Fortune cookies


  • Roasted pepper or minestrone soup
  • Pasta primavera with red clam sauce or marinara sauce


  • Papadum or papad
  • Curries with a lentil (dal) or vegetable base
  • Shish kabob
  • Tandoori chicken or fish
  • Gobhi matar tamatar


  • Fish or vegetable sushi
  • Miso soup
  • Tofu dishes
  • Yakitori


  • Soft tortillas
  • Topping like black beans, salsa or pico de gallo
  • Fajitas with grilled chicken or vegetables
  • Enchiladas with chicken or fish and red sauce or salsa

Middle Eastern

  • Tabbouleh
  • Hummus
  • Roasted veggies in a whole wheat pita
  • Frikeh bel khodra
  • Shakshuka


  • Thin crust with light cheese and toppings
  • Add grilled chicken and vegetables to add protein and fiber and cut down on unhealthy fats and extra calories

Red light foods

These are foods you can consider making less often.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner

  • Fried or breaded meat or seafood
  • Bacon or sausage
  • Pancakes or waffles with butter

Side dishes

  • French fries, home fries, hash browns or mashed potatoes
  • Pasta with cream or cheese sauces
  • Creamed vegetables
  • Fried rice
  • Vegetables with butter sauce


  • Soda, sweetened drinks or fruit juice

Desserts or sweets

  • Ice cream
  • Apple pie or apple crisp
  • Baked goods, such as donuts or cake
  • Pudding or custard

Green light foods

Theses are foods you can consider choosing more often.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner

  • Grilled, baked or roasted chicken
  • Grilled steak (without gravy or butter on top)
  • Grilled, baked or broiled seafood
  • Fresh ham or ham steak
  • Whole grain, whole wheat or multigrain pancakes or waffles (without butter)

Side dishes

  • Roasted or baked potatoes
  • Pasta with red sauce or garlic and oil
  • Brown rice cooked with seasoning or broth
  • Steamed, canned or frozen vegetables (without butter)


  • Water, low-fat milk, unsweetened drinks or teas
  • Fruit juice diluted (watered down) with water

Desserts and sweets

  • Ice milk (ice cream made with low-fat milk)
  • Frozen yogurt, Popsicles® or Italian ice
  • Angel food cake
  • Jell-O®

Rev. 4/2019. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.