Restaurant menus are written with the intent of making each dish sound enticing—it's just as much of a marketing tool as the restaurant's logo or branding. As a result, this fluffy language often leaves consumers confused as to what they're actually eating. With the exception of outwardly unhealthy dishes like a heaping plate of fettuccine alfredo or cheese fries, many customers are unknowingly consuming excess fat, calories, and carbohydrates when they go out to eat.
"We all eat unhealthy food on occasion—but it's good to know when you're doing it so that it doesn't become part of your routine," writes Insider, which went on to outline seven simple ways to identify unhealthy restaurant dishes. In the spirit of transparency, read up on the tips before going out to eat, and shop our healthy eating essentials.
1. Start with the calorie count
As a rule of thumb, avoid dishes that are 1000 calories or more. Considering the average adult is only supposed to consume 2000 calories a day, it stands to reason that you shouldn't eat half of your recommended calories for the day in one meal. If the restaurant doesn't include calorie information on the menu, consider asking the server for their nutritional information.
2. Be aware of the words "crispy" or "breaded."
They're usually just code for "deep fried" and by extension, "unhealthy." "If someone isn't frying a thing that is crispy and breaded, they'll almost always explicitly state that it's baked—because that can be a selling point for health-conscious customers," explains Insider.
3. Pay attention to portion sizes
American restaurant meals are notoriously huge, and as a result, our idea of what a "normal" portion size looks like is distorted. "Cutting an entree in half or even thirds is a great way to control potentially problematic portion sizes—and you'll also have lunch covered for at least one other day this week," Insider adds. Considering boxing up your restaurant leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.
4. Take note of sodium content
High-sodium foods often leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable, and restaurants don't skimp on the salt. "The American Heart Association currently recommends that most Americans eat no more than 2300 milligrams of sodium per day—or 1500 milligrams if you already have high blood pressure," adds the publication. "Keep those numbers in mind when you're idly scanning menu items and picking what to order."
Head over to Insider for more.