Healthy Eating: Getting to Know Menu Jargon

menuSome words may be so small that you don’t even think about them when you’re ordering your dinner at a restaurant. But, when it comes to nutrition on the go, even little words can mean a lot for your waistline and overall health. Restaurant food is designed to not only taste good, but to sound appealing. Unless you go the extra distance and pick your server’s brain about food prep, you may not know all that is going into the making of your plate. So, what’s a good strategy to try and stay healthy? Know the difference between small words that should serve as warnings on the menu and words that mean it’s safe for your diet.

The “Good” Words

Of course, these words aren’t the be-all end-all of menu safety, but they’re usually a pretty good indicator that something is going to be OK. Just make sure you exercise good judgement on top of a discerning eye. The words general thought of as safe include:

  • Baked
  • Whole wheat
  • Boiled
  • Broiled
  • Vinaigrette
  • Vegetarian
  • Fat free (but this can mean added sugar too!)
  • Fresh
  • Stir-fried
  • Steamed
  • Grilled
  • High fiber
  • Seasoned
  • Light
  • Marinated
  • Roasted
  • Reduced
  • Multi-grain
  • Red sauce
  • Poached

Quite often, these words mean the preparation doesn’t include a lot of butter or oil or other things that will add fat and calories.

The “Bad” Words

Again, use your best judgement when looking at a menu, but in general if you’re looking to watch what you eat while dining out you should avoid foods with these words in the description:

  • Au gratin
  • Stuffed
  • Basted
  • Battered
  • Stroganoff
  • Stewed
  • Béarnaise or hollandaise
  • Smothered
  • Platter
  • Bottomless
  • Breaded
  • Loaded
  • Giant
  • Buttery or buttered
  • Casserole
  • Fried or deep fried
  • Cheesy
  • Country-style
  • Escalloped (or scalloped)
  • Crunchy
  • Covered
  • Creamed or creamy
  • Crunchy
  • White sauce
  • Value
  • Volcano

Remember, restaurants spend a lot of time and money not just on the food they serve, but the way they present the food to you. They want it to sound appealing and delicious, and they do a pretty good job of it. If you’re going to be a savvy consumer, you must educate yourself about what to look out for.

This doesn’t mean you can never have the stuff on the bad list. What it does mean is the stuff on the bad list should be limited and considered a treat rather than a staple of your diet.

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Image used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Bill Smith

This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of The Joint Corp (or its franchisees and affiliates). You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.