By Mike Pomranz
Updated November 06, 2014
Credit: © Blend Images / Alamy

Generally, people think of eating out as being less healthful than eating in. It’s not necessarily because we consciously choose to cook healthier at home, but because we know what’s going into our meals. The sadistic truth is, nothing prevents a restaurant chef from spiking your meal with a stick of butter to make it taste amazing. (Not that we’re complaining!) Additionally, simply seeing a dish written on paper doesn’t always completely convey what will end up on your plate.

Thankfully, Ronda Elsenbrook, a registered dietitian at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, wrote an awesome piece for CNN’s Eatocracy that helps decode what certain words imply on restaurant menus. Here are the highlights:

“Crunchy, tempura, battered, crispy, breaded, crusted, golden [and] sizzling” are all fancy words for “fried,” an option that can ruin any diet. Elsenbrook points out, “Some of these options are a double-whammy on your caloric intake because the item is fried with an additional carb-based coating.”

Sugar is also an obvious no-no for dieters. “Teriyaki, BBQ, glazed, sticky, honey-dipped” are all telltales signs that a dish has been sweetened.

Elsenbrook also warns against the harbingers of high-calorie comfort food. “Loaded, stuffed, creamy, cheesy, gooey, smothered, melted, rich [and] velvety” all sound delicious, but as she puts it, “Don’t fall into the trap!” Though let’s be honest: If you’re thinking “loaded” is a good option for your diet, dieting may not be your thing.

So, what kind of words should health-conscious diners look for? “Roasted, baked, braised, broiled, poached, rubbed, seared, grilled, steamed, sautéed, spiced [and] seasoned” all bespeak healthier preparations.

But that being said, as previously mentioned, you can never be 100 percent sure. Possibly Elsenbrook’s best piece of advice for those with concerns while eating out: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the menu.”