It’s not your imagination: eating out while watching your weight can feel like dodging landmines. That meal from your local restaurant could average around 1,330 calories, which is over half of what you’d need as far as a standard 2,000-calorie diet is concerned! At least that’s what researchers found when they analyzed 42 of the most frequently purchased meals from nine common restaurant categories.
Of course, it’s all about what you order, and you have control over that. Picking a meal that’s lower in calories, fat, sugar and sodium makes a big difference. Since not all menus include photos, one strategy is to avoid dishes with these 20 unhealthy words:
- Alfredo is a sauce made with Parmesan cheese and butter (example: “fettucine al fredo”).
- Au gratin indicates a dish is crusted with cheese, breadcrumbs, egg, butter, cream or all of the above (example: “potatoes au gratin”).
- Battered means it’s coated in a flour mixture and most likely fried in fat (example: “beer-battered fish tacos”).
- Bisque is code for a cream-based soup (example: “tomato bisque”).
- Buttery means it’s cooked in or made with plenty of butter (example: “buttery apple cake”).
- Breaded means it’s coated in breadcrumbs and most likely fried in fat (example: “breaded chicken fingers”).
- Cheesy means there’s a good chance it’s covered in cheese (example: “cheesy garlic bread”).
- Creamed means it’s cooked with heavy cream, half and half or whole milk (example: “creamed spinach”).
- Crispy or Crunchy is a sign that frying is involved (example: “crispy tofu”).
- Crusted also means it’s coated in breadcrumbs and most likely fried in fat (example: “crusted chicken romano”).
- Deep-Fried means it’s submerged in oil, lard, shortening or tallow and then cooked at a high temperature (example: “deep-fried okra”).
- Fried means it’s cooked in a sizeable amount of oil, butter, margarine, etc. (example: “fried chicken”).
- Loaded is a sign your meal is topped with cheese, bacon, sour cream or other decadent ingredients (example: “loaded baked potato”). Rarely are “loaded” menu items loaded with veggies.
- Fritter is another word for “battered” (example: “eggplant fritters”).
- Glazed means the food has been brushed with honey, syrup, sugar or other coating.
- Pan-fried technically means it’s fried in a pan with small amount of fat. It may seem healthy, but it’s common for restaurants to add more fat than needed. Order with caution (example: “pan-fried noodles”).
- Scalloped is a sign it has a cream sauce, cheese or breadcrumbs (example: “scalloped potatoes”).
- Smothered means it’s covered in sauce such as gravy (example: “smothered pork chops”).
- Tempura means it’s been deep-fried (example: “shrimp tempura”).
- Chips is a British term for thick-cut french fries (example: “fish and chips”).
If you steer clear of these 20 unhealthy menu words, you’ll up your chance of picking a healthier dish when you eat out. Of course, this is just a rule of thumb. When in doubt, ask for details such as what ingredients are used to make the dish and how the dish is cooked.