Nutrition Articles

Do You Know Your Menu Watch Words?

Throw the Flag at Unhealthy Cooking

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They are small words. They can be easy to miss. They slip off your tongue as you order your food, without even knowing what you are saying. Yet they mean the difference between a healthy or unhealthy meal. What are these unassuming potential land mines? These are your "Menu Watch Words"—and it pays to keep your eye on them.

Going out to eat is a lot of fun. You’re having a good time and you might not always think about what’s best for you. You can avoid the next morning's "Why did I eat that?" hangover by planting a few gentle reminders, well-placed whispers in your ear.

Did you know that consultants travel the country helping restaurants say just the right things on their food menus? Unless you ask the server about the preparation of each item, it’s hard to know for sure what’s really healthy and unhealthy. For example, the word "breaded" can add five times as much fat to your meal as the word "grilled." You can fight back by translating the consultants’ word crafting into something useful. 

Use the watch words below as a guide to finding the right meal to order and knowing which options to skip. Keep in mind, though, that food items can be very healthy or unhealthy regardless of the use of any of these words. For example, "fat-free" food is often packed with sugar and calories to make it taste better. There are times when these words are used to mislead you, which is why we call them "watch words" and not guarantees. It's best to pair this guide along with your good judgment to steer clear of the bad stuff. More often than not, you’ll end up making a smart decision.

Good luck and keep your eyes open.


This article was updated August 2017.

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About The Author

Zach Van Hart Zach Van Hart
Zach is a journalist who regularly covers health and exercise topics.