Dining Out on Healthy Bar Food

A night out with friends in a cozy pub, sports bar, or local tavern can be a fun way to rejuvenate at the end of the workweek. But as you probably have already realized, typical pub fare is not exactly South Beach Diet-friendly. When enjoying a night out in such a venue, you’ll need to be vigilant about sticking with the principles of the South Beach Diet and avoiding traditional bar food, like wings, nachos, and potato skins — not to mention watching your alcohol intake! Fortunately, many bars are offering healthier menu options these days, so the next time you head over to your favorite watering hole, keep the following tips in mind:

Beer, Wine, and Spirits
Starting on Phase 2 of the South Beach Diet, you can enjoy alcohol in moderation. It’s recommended that women limit their intake to one alcoholic beverage a day, and men to one or two a day. More alcohol than that will only add empty calories to your diet and potentially sabotage your willpower. Remember that it’s best to enjoy an alcoholic beverage with a meal rather than on an empty stomach. You can enjoy red or white wine (order white with seltzer and a squeeze of lime), or extra-brut champagne, prosecco, or cava. Spirits like gin, ouzo, rum, sake, tequila, and vodka are okay; just watch out for the sugary mixers. Have the bartender make your drink with seltzer or diet soda instead. Don’t go for regular beer; stick with the occasional light beer. If you’re following the South Beach Diet Gluten Solution (GS) Program and are avoiding or cutting back on gluten, then red wine, ouzo, extra-brut champagne, extra-brut cava, or extra-brut prosecco are fine gluten-free options, as are rum and tequila.

Best Pub Grub
Although fried foods, burgers, pizza, and other pub fare may be tempting, opt for healthier choices. Scan the menu for grilled chicken or turkey burgers; skip the white bun and pass on any accompanying fries or onion rings. You could also enjoy a broth-based vegetable or bean soup, a large green salad with grilled chicken or shrimp (skip the croutons and have oil and vinegar on the side), vegetarian chili, or a small sirloin steak with steamed veggies on the side.

What to Watch Out For…
Avoid all fried foods such as fried calamari, fried mozzarella sticks, popcorn chicken, and other greasy appetizers. Skip the crispy chicken sandwiches, salads topped with fatty meats or cheeses, buffalo wings (which are usually prepared with butter and sometimes sugary BBQ sauce), cheese-loaded nachos, and loaded potato skins (which typically include bacon, sour cream, and far too much cheese). Additionally, steer clear of the communal bowls of pretzels (or other processed salty snack foods) sitting on the bar, and enjoy a handful of nuts instead. Just be sure to count the nuts towards your daily nuts/seeds serving and do stick to a handful.

Foods to Enjoy

  • Lean "bunless" burgers
  • Caesar salad, without croutons
  • Grilled chicken salads and green salads
  • Roasted, grilled, or sautéed (in olive oil) poultry, seafood, and meat
  • Broth-based soups
  • Cut-up veggies with 2 tablespoons of dressing or 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of hummus
  • Shrimp cocktail (avoid the cocktail sauce, which may contain sugary ketchup)
  • Fresh fruit cup (Phase 2)


Foods to Avoid

  • Cheeseburgersand especially those with bacon
  • Panini and white-bread or white-roll sandwiches
  • Breaded and deep-fried foods
  • Creamy potato and pasta salads; coleslaw
  • Creamy soups, such as baked potato or New England clam chowder
  • Regular beer, wine coolers, sugary cocktails
  • Buffalo wings
  • Nachos, potato skins, and other fried appetizers
  • Cookies, pies, cheesecake, and other pastries


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