What to eat when you go to restaurants and food chains can be more difficult than ever.
Going out to eat while trying to watch your diet or health in general can be a lot more difficult than some would think. Yes, most restaurants and chains are offering nutrition information on the menu or on their company website. I like knowing that delicious sounding salad is actually a healthy choice or if the dessert I’m eyeing will blow my calorie budget. Knowing what to eat can help you feel better and keep you healthy
According to a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the average meal at an independent or small chain restaurant is 1,300 calories. (At least in Boston, where the study was conducted.) Some restaurants don’t offer nutrition information, which scares me a little because some of the meals can be OVER 2000 calories and have a seemingly harmless name. Knowing what to eat can be the difference to keeping healthy!
So how can we avoid eating one meal that loads us up with a whole day of calories? One of the easiest ways is to steer clear of items described using words that indicate ingredients or cooking techniques that are high in calories, saturated fat or added sodium or sugar. You’re probably familiar with some of the biggest offenders: fried, creamy, buttery, cheesy, loaded. But others may be hidden in some pretty fancy and inviting verbiage. Of course, every restaurant is different and knowing what to eat is not always clear. If you have any questions about how an item is cooked, ask your server to explain the preparation.
Here is a list of words and what they really mean. If you are wondering what to eat or better yet, what to avoid eating, you may want to keep this list for a reference.
- A la mode: In the U.S. this is code for topped with ice cream.
- Aioli: A fancy word for a flavored mayonnaise.
- Au gratin: Means cooked with butter and/or cream and topped with cheese or breadcrumbs.
- Battered: Coated in batter and then typically deep-fried.
- Béchamel: The base of most white sauces, made by stirring milk into a butter-flour roux.
- Beurre Blanc: Or white butter; this is a sauce made of a wine, vinegar and shallot reduction and butter.
- Béarnaise: Another butter-based sauce, thickened with egg yolks and flavored with white wine and tarragon.
- Bisque: A thick, rich soup usually made with cream.
- Breaded: Like battered, breaded means the food is coated in breadcrumbs and fried.
- Confit: When this word is used to describe a meat, it means the meat was salted and cooked in its own fat.
- Carbonara: A sauce that includes cream, eggs, Parmesan cheese and bits of bacon.
- Crispy: This is a nice-sounding way to describe something fried in oil.
- Crunchy: Like crispy, this usually means fried, unless it’s describing vegetables, in which case the vegetables are typically raw.
- Deep-fried: The food is cooked in hot fat and submerged deep enough to completely cover the item. Shortening, lard or most oils are used for deep-frying, but not butter and margarine.
- En croûte: This means wrapped in pastry dough and baked.
- Fritters: A synonym for battered and deep-fried.
- Golden: This usually means fried unless used as an adjective (e.g., golden beets).
- Hollandaise: A sauce made of butter, egg yolks and lemon juice.
- Pan-fried: Like sautéed, this seems like a healthier choice, but depending on what your food is pan-fried in (ahem, a generous pat or two of butter) it could easily be loaded with calories.
- Refried: This typically is used to describe beans, in which case the beans (red or pinto) are mashed, then fried (usually in melted lard).
- Rémoulade: A sauce made of mayonnaise and mustard, capers, gherkins, herbs and anchovies.
- Roux: A mixture of flour and fat (butter, drippings or pork or beef fat) that’s used to thicken mixtures, such as soups and sauces.
- Sautéed: This sounds like a healthy choice (sauté means to cook food quickly in a little bit of oil or fat over direct heat), and it may be, but it depends on what (oil, butter) and how much your food is cooked in.
- Scalloped: Mostly used to describe potatoes. Scalloped potatoes are thinly sliced potatoes cooked in cream and butter and topped with cheese.
- Scampi: In the U.S. this is shrimp cooked in a garlic and butter sauce.
- Smothered: Usually this means covered in a heavy sauce or cheese.
- Stroganoff: Beef, onions and mushrooms are sautéed in butter and covered in a sour cream sauce.
- Tempura: A Japanese version of batter-dipped and deep-fried.
- Terrine: A terrine is made of small pieces of cooked meat, fish or vegetables pressed together into a type of cooking dish also called a terrine. When a terrine is made with meat, it is also known as a pâté, which is traditionally made with pork fat.
- White sauce: A synonym for cream sauce.
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