Dining Out - Menus Decoded
Knowing Cooking Terms - A Helpful Tool
The struggle has never been more real than when you find yourself eating out while trying to follow a new healthy lifestyle. What’s worse is when you just finish patting yourself on the back for making a healthy choice only to find, when your meal arrives, it’s breaded or covered in cream sauce. Boo!
Most of us can define food preparation terms like grilled, baked, and sautéed, but what about more complicated terms like al dente or hollandaise? The point isn’t to avoid delicious, well prepared food, but to be aware when something may be cooked in oil or include an ingredient you don’t eat. That knowledge can help you plan your macros, avoid disappointment if you’re following special dietary restrictions, and get the most out of your meal.
This blog isn’t anything fancy. The goal is to serve as a reference so you can familiarize yourself with a few common cooking terms you may encounter when dining out. That way, you can order like a champ and enjoy every bite WITHOUT having to scrape sauce to the side or peel your shrimp out of a coat of batter (unless those crispy little guys are part of your meal plan that day).
A Blanc - reference to white cream sauces. *Be mindful of cream based sauces when counting fat macros.*
Al Dente - pasta cooked in a more firm manner, not overdone.
Al Forno - Italian baked or roasted foods.
Au Gratin - covered with a layer of cheese or bread crumbs mixed with butter and baked or broiled. *Could wreak havoc on your fat macros, but could also impact carbs.*
Blackened - meat/fish that is covered with spices and then cooked in a skillet with a little fat (like butter or olive oil).
Bolognaise - beef and vegetable based sauces or dishes.
Braise - cooked in a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan over low heat.
Charcuterie - typically a platter or sampler of pork based meats.
Fricassee - to cook pieces of meat or poultry in butter and then in seasoned liquid until tender.
Fry (Fried) - cooked in hot fat.
Grill - broil over hot coals or fry on a griddle.
Hash - finely chopped meats and vegetables combined with seasonings and sautéed.
Hollandaise Sauce - mixture of fat and egg yolks. *Vegans, beware!*
Julienne - cut food into thin, stick sized strips.
Marinate - soak meat in an acidic solution, like tomato juice or vinegar, that helps tenderize the connective tissue.
Niçoise - French preparation that may include any of the following: garlic, tomatoes, anchovies, olives and French green beans. *May want to ask your server which food items are included in the dish.*
Pan-Fried - cooked in a skillet with a small amount of fat.
Poach - cooking by simmering food in liquid.
Queso - Spanish word for cheese.
Rissole - food is fried until crispy and a golden brown.
Sauté - cooking food quickly in oil or butter over direct heat.
Smothered - just how it sounds; dish covered in an item like gravy, cheese, tomato sauce, etc. *It could be difficult to account for the macros in smothered foods, as you don’t necessarily to know count a few teaspoons, ¼ cup, etc of the product.*
Stew - cook one or many foods together in a flavored liquid for a long period of time.
Tempura - Japanese method of deep frying foods. Product is typically lightly fried and crispy.
Whipped - incorporate air into a dish.Final thoughts - food is here to enjoy! If you know you want to indulge in a comfort food smothered in gravy or you want to try a new dish at a restaurant, that’s ok. If you know you want stick closer to your plan, avoid dishes with terms that are high in fat or oils and request something a little different. Either way, plan that treat into your macros ahead of time, and enjoy.
This blog was created by Xplore Nutrition coach & registered dietitian, Cat Holly.