Deciphering words on a menu may help you cut calories -

Deciphering words on a menu may help you cut calories

Ever seen the words confit, compote, creme fraiche or caramelized on a menu and wondered -- what do they mean?

Eating out when you're dieting or a diabetic can be a meal-time minefield.

The words on a restaurant menu are meant to sound as appealing as the food tastes, but when you're trying to stay healthy and fit, there are a few words you need to know to keep from sabotaging your weight-loss goals.

When most people read a menu, they pick out their entree by looking at the main ingredient.

"Then, they move from there thinking they're ok," says Chef Robert Brener, an associate professor at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, N. C.

That's how things like tempura end up on the forks of the figure-conscious. It may be a vegetable, but don't be fooled. It is a battered and deep-fried vegetable!

"Often, food is marketed by terms that make it sound like something it's not," Brener said.

This is why America Now headed to Johnson & Wales University to brush up on our menu lingo.

Brener said even seemingly innocent words like saute can be sinful to your diet. 

"Saute is using moderate heat and fat," Brener explained.

No doubt, you have heard of saute's cousins, seared or pan-seared, which Brener pointed out is just a fancier way of saying frying.  

Instead, you may opt for a baked or grilled entree, but hold on -- if sauce is smeared on your food, it could be bearnaise or hollandaise sauce, which contains lots of butter and egg yolk.

If you are ordering a sandwich accompanied by aioli, that's the same thing as asking for flavored mayonnaise.

You may as well raise the white flag over trimming your waistline if you're eating a white sauce, because its probably a mixture of milk, flour and butter -- all of which are loaded with fat and calories.

If you skip the sauce and opt for an item that is stuffed, some stuffings are made with grains that are good for you, but most are bursting with white bread or breadcrumbs, which is a villain to the calorie-conscious and carbohydrate counters. 

"It's just imperative that you know what that stuffing is," Brener said.

Another tricky word you'll often find on a menu is poached. It usually means a meat or fish was cooked in water, wine or broth. Keep in mind, lean meats are often poached in a hot bath of butter or cream to give them flavor.

The best thing for a dieter or diabetic to do is to ask your wait staff what's inside the food.

"Know why that food is tasting good, know what is being done to it," Brener said.

Your waiter or waitress should know how the food is prepared or who to ask to find the answers to your questions.

Make sure you tell them what diet you're on or if you have diabetes.

Also, be sure to ask if they have any good selections and substitutes.

Inquiring about the menu lingo and asking specific questions about how the food is prepared doesn't make you a problem patron. Most restaurants will happily help you count your calories and carbs because they want to keep you as a customer!

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

Additional Information:

  • Sauteed items are usually coated in flour to form a crust, whereas, seared items are not coated.
  • The leaner the meat or fish, the more likely it needs to be bathed in some type of fat for flavor when poaching.
  • Most vegetables and meats are finished with a little butter or oil for flavoring before the meal is presented.
  • Many salad dressings and sauces use corn starch or flour as a thickening agent.
  • Click here for a list of more words you need to know that will help you make healthier choices when looking at a restaurant menu.
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