Making healthful choices from restaurant menus can be challenging, and online menus can be more difficult since nutrition facts are usually hidden within the site, if available at all. Understanding the menu language will help you make smart food choices.
Here are a few tips to help you decode restaurant menus:
Look for words that describe taste, texture or preparation method. For example:
- Fried foods are described as: crunchy, crispy, battered, fritters, tempura, and breaded.
- Foods high in fat and calories are described as: creamy, cheesy, rich, Au gratin, Béchamel, and Alfredo.
- Instead order foods that are: baked, grilled, roasted, poached, sautéed, or steamed.
Avoid Extra Calories
- When sides are available, consider steamed vegetables, side salads, or fruits as a side option.
- Always ask for sauces and dressings on the side to control how much you actually put on your food.
- Plan to share entrees or sides described as "jumbo," "large," "super," "combo," or "family style."
- It's more fulfilling to eat your calories than to drink your calories. Calories from sugary-sweetened drinks or beverages provide little to no nutritional value and can add a lot of calories. Choose options like water, low-fat or fat-free milk or non-sugary drinks such as coffee or tea.
When ordering for children, select a restaurant with a healthy children's menu or that caters to children with smaller servings. Pasta and pizza are kid's favorites – penne, macaroni or shells are easiest for small children to handle. A slice of Cheese pizza or Margherita pizza are good choices. To prevent choking, cut solid foods, such as meat, poultry, bread, fruits, and veggies into tiny bites.
Keep an Eye Out for Food Allergies
Sometimes ordering foods when you have food allergies is not as obvious since eggs or dairy products may have been added during preparation. The following menu descriptions will help you identify some of these meals:
- Eggs: Aioli, Béarnaise, Carbonara, Hollandaise, Rémoulade.
- Dairy: Scalloped, Stroganoff, White Sauce, Au gratin, Béchamel, Bisque, a la mode.
Include all the Food Groups
When ordering for the family always include servings from each of the 5 food groups:
- Grains: Fill one-quarter of your plate with grains. Choose whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta or quinoa.
- Protein: Make one-quarter of your plate a protein food, such as fish, poultry, lean meats, or beans and peas.
- Fruits: Fill another quarter of your plate with fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, half banana, or orange sections.
- Vegetables: The last quarter is for vegetables such as broccoli, carrots or tossed salad.
- Dairy: Include a serving of fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt, with every meal.
Don't Forget About Food Safety
Food safety when ordering take-out meals is always important. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water when handling food. Transfer food to clean dishes and discard take-out containers immediately.
There are many benefits to eating well, from disease prevention to overall health and wellness. That’s why Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Foundation have partnered with Kohl’s Cares on a program called #GiveMe5 to encourage children and families throughout the community to stay active and eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Our partnership brings healthy eating tips and recipes to kids in local schools and to families at various community events throughout the year. For more information, please visit our #GiveMe5 page.