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10 Common Menu Words That Are Secretly Red Flags

These are the sneaky signs that a dish is simply not the healthiest.

When you're sifting through the menu at a restaurant trying to decide what to order, there are a few things that come to mind. You want to choose a meal that simply tastes good, will leave you feeling full and satisfied, and not cost you an entire day's calorie allotment in just one sitting. But what you might not be aware of is that there are certain sneaky words that pop up on restaurant menus that are sabotaging these goals.

Yep, there are plenty of secret signs that a dish is most likely packing more calories, fat, and sodium than you be consuming in one meal.

Here, we break down the menu words you'll want to keep an eye out for next time you're choosing a meal.

Crispy or Crunchy

crispy chicken sandwich

If a chicken is described as "crispy" or "crunchy," this is just a sneakier way of saying fried. Anything that is breaded and golden-fried automatically gets demerits. Stick with a grilled option instead. There are plenty of foods that are delicious when grilled, too.


battered fish and chips

If you thought "battered" was a better choice, sorry! Battered typically means that the food is dipped in a flour-based batter before being—you most likely guessed it—fried. Those beer-batter fish and chips? Yeah, a total no-go. If you want to know exactly why fried foods are always something you should skip, check out This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Deep-Fried Foods.


smothered burrito

Whether it's a steak smothered in sauce or a burrito smothered in sauce and cheese, "smothered" is a nicer way of saying drowning. This is a way to add tons of unnecessary calories, and who wants a dish that is swimming around in extra calories anyway?

Your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here!

Stuffed or Loaded

Stuffed french toast

If you see a French toast, pancake, or chicken dish menu option that says "stuffed," it's a sign of trouble. See, stuffed means each bite is filled—and it's not like a topping, which you can easily scrape off. Whether that's Nutella and fruits in a berry sauce in each layer of your sugar-filled breakfast or breaded chicken that is stuffed with bacon or veggies, it's simply just over-the-top. The same can be said for something that is "loaded," such as potatoes or nachos.


creamy shrimp pasta

Seeing a pasta dish on a menu described as "creamy" sounds delicious, yes. But that typically means the sauce the pasta is served with isn't the best for you, as it's most likely loaded with butter, heavy creams, and even cheese. (Think Alfredo sauce, for example.) Instead, look for a pasta dish that features a vegetable-based sauce.


monster cheeseburger

If a burger, sandwich, or even dessert is described as "monster," steer clear. Please. While this rather fun phrasing might make you laugh, there is nothing cute here. No, monster meals are downright scary, as they are typically way too large in size.

A la mode

pie a la mode

It's fine to end your meal with a slice of pie, a decadent brownie, or a warm cookie every once in a while, especially if you're sharing the dessert. But "a la mode" means that the treat is served with ice cream, and that is just sugar overload. Need proof?

Applebee's Blue Ribbon Brownie that is served with two scoops of vanilla ice cream packs 131 grams of sugar and Chili's Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie which is topped with one scoop of vanilla ice cream has 104 grams of the sweet stuff. Big yikes!


breakfast platter

Whether it's a breakfast plate or appetizer, you'll want to watch out for "platters." Think about it—eating eggs, bacon, or sausage, along with pancakes, waffles, or French toast, and even with a biscuit or some potatoes on the side is way too many calories, along with sodium, salt, and fat to be consuming in one meal. An appetizer platter is often a large sampler filled with the worst options too—leave those mozzarella sticks, chips, dips, and fried bite-sized foods alone. It's harder to resist when it's in front of you so it's best to just avoid these big dishes.


glazed ribs

In the mood for some ribs? Well, make sure you're not going for the "glazed" option, as this means it's lathered up in a glistening sauce that is often packed with sugar. Avoid it, along with any of these truly unhealthy menu items in America.

Au gratin

au gratin

Whether it's potatoes or pasta even, feasting on something that is "au gratin" means the dish is covered with breadcrumbs and cheese that is browned. It might taste great, but again, there is nothing remotely healthy about it. Skip!

Jennifer Maldonado
Jennifer Maldonado is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and health content. Read more about Jennifer
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