It sure would be nice if menus came with full food labels like food in the grocery store, wouldn’t it? That would take all the guess work out of what’s in that seemingly innocent chicken pasta or that harmless looking veggie stir fry. Because the sad facts are that even vegan, vegetarian, and organic dishes can all be loaded with unnecessary fat and calories depending on how they’re prepared. But, if you can keep three letters in mind while perusing the menu, you might be able to sidestep the most undercover of diet pitfalls and order healthy while dining out.
ED – look for these letters at the ends of food titles and descriptions. You’ll see it most often in fried, candied, smothered, covered, coated, etc. Sautéed is a gamble at restaurants because you can’t see the amount of fat or oil the kitchen is using in the pan, nor can you tell the type... and there’s a big difference between sautéing in butter and sautéing in canola oil. Proceed with caution.
LED – add one letter to the “sinful” E-D ending and you get preparations like grilled, broiled, and boiled – all significantly more healthful options.
Don’t see the preparation listed on the menu – just ask. Almost all restaurants train their servers to know basics about how foods are prepared in order to limit orders being sent back or exposure to allergies. You can also ask that most meats be prepared a different way as long as you see that method being used elsewhere on the menu. For instance, if you’d rather have grilled chicken than cheese-smothered chicken, and you see grilled chicken as part of another menu selection, then do feel free to go ahead and request it. The worst that can happen is the server will tell you the kitchen does not accept substitutions and you can make a different selection.