Whether you’re grabbing lunch from a local chain or sitting down for an elegant dinner, restaurant menus are designed to entice your taste buds. What they may not do, however, is tell you which dishes are healthy. Here are some tips to help you read between the menu lines and choose the best, waist-friendly option for you:
Opt for Meals Described as Grilled, Broiled or Steamed
That’s your hint that the food is prepared with less fat. Roasted, baked and even stir-fried are also good options. Want to start with soup? Choose a healthier broth-based option, like vegetable or minestrone, instead of a creamy one.
Skip Crispy, Breaded, Battered and Fried
And while you’re at it, avoid items that are described as rich, smothered or stuffed—all code for “loaded in fat and excess calories.”
Don’t Be Distracted by Fancy Names and Bold Fonts
What you order may have less to do with your preferences, and more to do with the how the food is presented on the menu and how you imagine it will taste, according to Cornell University study. Researchers analyzed 217 menus and the meal choices of 300 diners and found the items that are highlighted on the menu—with colored fonts, for example, or set apart in a box—are ordered most often, even if they are the least healthy. Tantalizing descriptions may influence your decision, too: Researchers tweaked the names of some menu items, from “seafood filet” to “Succulent Italian Seafood Filet” and “red beans and rice” to “Cajun Red Beans and Rice.” Sales increased by 28 percent and the foods were rated as tastier, even though the recipe was identical. Look past the bells and whistles and stick with the dish you know is best for you.
Ask, and Then Ask Some More
If you aren’t sure if the side of mixed veggies is slathered in butter, ask. And if it is doused in fat or cream, ask for it to be prepared more simply, such as sautéed in a dash of olive oil. You should also feel free to ask to “hold the cheese or bacon,” “what’s in the sauce,” and “can I substitute a little mustard instead of mayo?”
Scrutinize the Salads
Before you assume it’s the safest choice, check what’s topping your bed of greens. Croutons, shredded cheese and wonton strips are high in fat and calories; sunflower seeds, nuts and dried fruit are healthier, but calories can add up quick. And for dressings, get them on the side and use only a little.
For more tips on how to enjoy dinners out without falling off track, visit here.