Restaurant Menus: Watch Your Words


It’s hard to know what foods qualify as clean, especially when you don’t do the cooking yourself. It’s even more difficult when you’re reading a food item off a menu at a restaurant. With no ingredients list or nutrition facts, you have almost no idea what you could be purchasing. The one-sentence description of each entrée only hints at what meals contain.

You might think salad is the best way to go, but that’s not always true because of all the added ingredients in salad dressings, sauces, and toppings. You might think chicken and vegetables is a safe bet, but each cook at a restaurant might add different ingredients, some of which may not be clean.

Thinking about completely giving up eating out? Don’t quit just yet! You don’t need a secret decoder or mind-reading device to decipher a menu. Just use this cheat sheet to choose foods described with healthy words.

Words to Avoid:

  • Alfredo
  • Au Gratin
  • Basted
  • Beer Battered
  • Breaded
  • Broasted
  • Buttered
  • Carbonara
  • Casserole
  • Cheesy
  • Coated
  • Country-Style
  • Creamed
  • Creamy
  • Crispy
  • Crunchy
  • Deluxe
  • Fried (deep fried, hand fried, refried, etc.)
  • Gravy
  • Hand-Dipped
  • Hollandaise Sauce
  • Loaded
  • Melted
  • Old-Fashioned
  • Parmigiana
  • Piled (piled on, piled high, etc.)
  • Scalloped
  • Scampi
  • Smothered
  • Stroganoff
  • Stuffed
  • Supreme
  • Ultimate
  • White Sauce

Words to Seek:

  • Baked
  • Balsamic Vinegar (balsamic glaze, balsamic drizzle, etc.)
  • Boiled
  • Broiled
  • Broth
  • Charbroiled
  • Chargrilled
  • Fresh
  • Grilled
  • Herbed
  • Lean
  • Marinated
  • Oil & Vinegar
  • Poached
  • Roasted
  • Rubbed
  • Sautéed
  • Seared
  • Seasoned
  • Skinless
  • Spiced
  • Steamed
  • Toasted
  • Vinaigrette
  • White Meat
  • Whole Wheat/Whole Grain

Now go ahead and print this list in a size 6 font. Then, fold it up, hide it in your pocket, wallet, or purse, and use it as a mini cheat sheet next time you find yourself reading a confusing restaurant menu!


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