What should I order: A guide to making the perfect choice

Do you feel overwhelmed when you look at a menu? Do you struggle to decide what to order when you go out to eat or order takeout? You are not alone. Many people find it challenging to choose what to order, especially with so many options available. In this guide, we will give you tips on how to make the perfect choice when ordering anything from a restaurant menu to online shopping. Knowing how to make the right choice can help you enjoy your meal or purchases better and avoid disappointment.

Understand your preferences

The first step in making the perfect order is to understand your preferences. What are your favorite foods, drinks, or style of food? Understanding your likes and dislikes will make it easier to narrow down choices on the menu or on shopping websites. Consider what type of meal you are in the mood for, whether its something light, hearty, or indulgent. You may even choose to ask your server for recommendations based on your preferences.

How to identify your preferences

Take a moment to reflect on what you usually crave, what makes you satisfied, and what you dislike. Do you prefer savory or sweet foods? Are you in the mood for something healthy or indulgent? Knowing your flavor preferences also helps you identify the spices or ingredients that attract you in a dish. It can help you to identify, for instance, if you always crave for dishes with a lot of cheese or lots of spicy seasonings, helping you make an informed decision on taste without bearing the obnoxious element of surprise.

Types of food preferences

Preferences could refer to factors such as allergies, health conditions, dietary preferences, like vegan, vegetarian or keto diets, and cultural cuisine preferences. These should be considered when choosing a meal, as they could affect your optimal health or your enjoyment if ignored.

Consider the occasion and location

The occasion and setting can affect your meal choices. It is unlikely that you will eat the same meal options for lunch as you would for dinner. Your order choice may also differ when eating street food versus fancy restaurants. Consider the setting and occasion when choosing your meal. A casual setting may allow for a more relaxed food choice, while a more formal setting may require you to choose more sophisticated meals.

Casual dining

A casual dining setting would imply an informal atmosphere, meaning meals such as burgers, fried chicken, or sandwiches are acceptable meal choices. You could also settle for a salad or a bowl of soup.

Fine dining

A fine dining restaurant setting is characteristically formal, meaning you should avoid eating your favorite comfort food in there. It would be best to order sophisticated meals, such as black cod or steak. If the meal options come with unfamiliar names, it would be best to ask the waiter for a recommendation.

Check out the recommendations

Some restaurants provide specialty dishes that are unique to their cuisine or specialties. Checking out the recommendations could make it easier to order. If there’s a special dish that the restaurant or bar is known for, you can ask the server for more information about the dish. Online reviews and recommendations also make it easier to identify and order the right food or drink. If you are in a group, it will be ideal to ask if your fellow diners have any recommendations too.

How to approach recommendations

If you walk into a restaurant and the menu is overwhelming, consider asking the server for a recommendation. They could suggest a specialty dish or recommend an item that’s popular with customers. Also, checking reviews from previous customers could give you a good idea of what to order. You could also rely on past positive experiences to influence your order choice.

Checking for meal options for different times of the day

Some restaurants have specific meal options for a particular time frame of the day. For example, breakfast and brunch menus usually include dishes such as eggs benedict or bacon and eggs, pancakes or french toast, while lunch and dinner menus often have items such as pasta, steak, fish, or soups. Some individuals would prefer breakfast foods for dinner, but it’s worth checking out the menu to see what times the restaurant stops serving specific dishes.

Be mindful of special dietary needs

If you have special dietary requirements, you need to make sure that the dishes you order align with your health or lifestyle. If you have food allergies or restrictions, always let your server know. Many restaurants now provide menus with vegan, gluten-free, or keto options. Some people could be lactose intolerant, which means dairy should be avoided at all costs, while some could be allergic to seafood, nuts, or eggs. It’s essential to check for alternatives that suit your diet or allergy needs.

How to check for dietary options

Most restaurants now have menus with special diet sections to cater for various dietary needs, like vegetarian or gluten-free meals. You could also check for alternatives, like swapping dairy for nut milk, or toast for gluten-free bread. If you are unsure, don’t hesitate to ask the server for alternatives- for example, if the dish has a dressing that has egg, you could request dressing without egg.

Checking for allergens

It’s also essential to always check the menu for allergens on the dishes. If you have an allergy, let your server know, and ask if required – a dish can be modified or created to suit your needs. Also, always check for the cooking practices and ingredients of the dish since some dishes may contain small amounts of an ingredient that could affect you.

Take note of the nutrition information

Nutrition information is essential for individuals who are mindful of their health, calories or nutrients intake. Checking the nutritional information is crucial, especially when dining out. If you’re ordering takeout, you could visit the eatery’s website or reach out to them to obtain nutritional information. Dishes often vary in nutritional value, so it’s essential to compare the number of calories, fat, and proteins to make the best choice for your nutrition goals.

How to find nutrition information

Many foods come with nutrition information on their labels, either on the website or on the product itself. If eating out, most restaurants have the nutrition facts on their menu or on their website. You could also request the eatery you are ordering from to share the nutrition facts with you.

Consider your budget

Budget is a crucial consideration when making an order choice, especially when dining out or ordering takeout. Some meals come with an added cost, while some are cost-effective. Before choosing a meal, it is essential to consider your budget and see if the dish is affordable or within budget. You could also scan through food delivery apps to see meal options that are budget-friendly and still within your budget.

Identifying budget-friendly meals

Most restaurants now have different meal categories, such as economy, moderate, or premium, designed to fit different budgets. You could also check out coupons, deals, or discounts provided by the eateries, looking for meal specials might also help you identify some budget-friendly options.


Choosing what to order can be a difficult task, but with the tips outlined above, you can easily make the perfect choice. Identifying your preferences, the occasion, checking for alternatives, considering your budget, and checking for recommendations can make choosing your meal easier. With these tips in mind, you can enjoy your culinary experience better.


  • Q: How can I avoid food allergies or intolerance when dining out?
  • A: You should inform your server of any food restrictions or allergies before ordering food.
  • Q: Where can I find the nutritional information of foods?
  • A: You can find nutritional information on the eatery’s website or menu and on product labels.
  • Q: Is it advisable to order only what is recommended at a restaurant?
  • A: Not necessarily; everyone’s food preferences differ, so always ask for the menu or the restaurant’s specialty.


  • FDA. (2021). Read the Label: A Guide to the Nutrition Facts Label | FDA. [online] Available at: https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/read-label-guide-nutrition-facts-label [Accessed 31 Aug. 2021].
  • BBC Good Food. (2021). How to make the perfect food choice – BBC Good Food. [online] Available at: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-make-perfect-food-choice [Accessed 31 Aug. 2021].

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