Menu Secrets for Slimmer Choices

HealthGal Health Guide
  • It's so much easier to lose weight when you are in control of the ingredients and the portion sizes.  That’s why most nutritionists prefer when you can eat most of your meal choices prepared at home so you are in full control of the recipe, preparation, and portion sizes.  That means you decide how much salt, oil, sugar is used, and you determine the cooking process i.e. baking, roasting, steaming, as opposed to frying, and you plate the food  But we all need time off from home-cooking, and frankly, most of us are eating out more than we're preparing food or eating in.  If you’re trying to lose weight or trying to maintain your goal weight you need to be a master operator when it comes to deciphering a menu.  I can tell you that what may seem to be the healthiest choice is often times the worst choice.  A new study suggests that what you want and what you choose may be nudged by some cues that the menu sends you visually.

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    The study


    The Cornell study examined 217 menus and over 300 diner selections, and the results showed that when it comes to ordering food off a menu, two things matter: what you read on the menu (and specifically how it is presented verbally) and how you then imagine something will taste.  The individuals who script the menu actually use bold type, highlighting, colored font or a specific “separation” in the presentation of a description, in order to prompt you to choose that item.  Not surprisingly, these choices may be the least healthful on the menu.  If the items have distinctive descriptive words associated with the explanation of a dish, these dishes will sell better, and you will be convinced that they taste better.  Succulent duck or crispy duck sounds a lot more interesting than baked duck.  Spicy and hot red beans and rice sounds a lot more tempting than red beans and rice – even if you are getting the same exact recipe in both cases.  So what’s a healthy diner to do?


    Tips to slimmer choices

    Ask your server questions.  Don’t be afraid to take a bit of time to understand exactly what’s in the dish.  You want to know if they use butter or oil, the method of preparation(fried or baked), if you can get sauces or dressing on the side, and if the server can recommend two or three dishes that are “lighter or healthier.”  You may even want to consider asking how large some of the appetizers are, and then possibly choose a salad with dressing “light” or on the side,and an appetizer.  You may even find out that some of the main dishes are large enough for two people to share, if each of you has a salad or cup of soup (remember soups are notoriously high in sodium and oil). 


    Using the study results to effect change

    The co-authors of the study, Brian Wansink and Katie Love, suggest that it’s a good time for restaurants to begin thinking about using the same visual tactics to highlight healthier or lighter fare, so consumers are more attracted to those lighter and healthier dishes.  Terms like "serves two" could also help with portion control.  Wansink and Love suggest these are just some of the ways a menu could influence consumers to “eat slim.”


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Published On: August 05, 2014