"I'll take a house salad and, um, this," I say to my waitress as a point to the rutabaga and lentil soup on the menu.
Thankfully, she looked back at me with kind eyes. I guess I wasn't the first one to play the pointing game to avoid the embarrassment that comes along with totally butchering the pronunciation of a lunch order.
"It's my job to write things, not say them out loud," I explain to my dining companion, who was looking at me with a slightly puzzled expression on her face. "Truthfully, there are a number of foods out there that I'm not one hundred percent sure how to say."
She seemed a bit surprised, but it didn't bother me. I've been working in health and food media long enough to know that I'm not alone. I've also been dining out and grocery shopping long enough to know that it's actually a very widespread issue. And clearly you can relate, or you wouldn't be here reading this story! With that said, to help you avoid the self-conscious feeling synonymous with fudging the name of a dish or recipe ingredient, we've gathered some of the most commonly mispronounced foods and paired them with their correct pronunciation. As a bonus, we've also provided links to sound clips so you can actually hear each word said out loud (something that helps me a lot!). Finally, we've thrown in some need-to-know nutrition facts about each food, because, well, we are Eat This, Not That!, after all. And speaking of information everyone should know, don't miss our special report, 40 Flat-Belly Truths You Must Know by 40.
Proper pronunciation: skee-er (hear it here)
Skyr, the traditional yogurt of Iceland, is made by incubating milk with live active cultures, then skimming away the watery whey that floats to the top. The resulting dish is one that's far creamier than other yogurts. Siggi's 4% milkfat varieties (one of these 25 Best Yogurts for Weight Loss) deliver 10 grams of protein for a mere 8 grams of sugar, making their ratio among the healthiest on the market.
Proper pronunciation: ah-sah-EE (hear it here)
Fun fact: Acai is an Amazonian berry that has more antioxidants than the blueberry. It's a favorite superfood among dieters because it's naturally lower in sugar than other fruits and has a taste that's reminiscent of red wine mixed with notes of chocolate. There's one thing you should know about the superfruit, though. When blended into a store bought or restaurant smoothie bowl, it'll likely do more harm than good. That's because shops typically use sweetened acai and overload the bowl with calorie- and sugar-laden toppings to boost the flavor. Official recommendation? Make a portion-controlled acai smoothie or bowl at home. While you may struggle to find fresh fruit, it can easily be found in the frozen section sold in small, pre-portioned packets, which are easy to tear open and toss in the blender along with all of your other go-to smoothie ingredients.
Proper pronunciation: keen-wah (hear it here)
"Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and provides a solid hit of fiber and magnesium, two nutrients many Americans don't get enough of," says Lori Zanini, RD, CDE, Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "These nutrients regulate blood sugar levels, which is helpful for diabetics and those trying to lose weight." Next time you make a batch of the stuff, try making some of these 15 Delicious Ideas for Leftover Quinoa. From yogurt parfaits to chicken nuggets, there are tons of creative ways to eat more of the superfood.
Proper pronunciation: po-kay (audio not available)
Poké is a bold and savory chopped raw fish salad that was first created in the late 1970's by Hawaiian fishermen. It was originally eaten as a quick snack while the workers were still on their boats. They'd fillet a recent catch and top it with a variety of Asian seasonings for a quick mini-meal, Jack Liang of the New York City-based restaurant PokéSpot told us. Since then, Hawaiian poké bowls—which are served on dry land and filled with things like roasted seaweed, rice, mango, and vegetables—have become a popular and trendy dish across the U.S. Now that you know how to pronounce the dish, it will be far easier to track down an eatery that serves up the dish in your area.
Proper pronunciation: ed-a-ma-may (hear it here)
If you only eat edamame when you're at a sushi joint, you might want to reconsider adding it to your weekly shopping list. Aside from its high fiber content, edamame is rich in energy-boosting B vitamins, essential amino acids, and protein—a trifecta of nutrients that your body craves. Experts say the best time to munch on lightly salted edamame is after a tough workout. Its unique nutrient profile helps replenish energy stores and the sodium will help to replace lost electrolytes. For even more post-sweat session snack ideas, check out these 20 Trainers Reveal What They Eat After a Workout.
Proper pronunciation: ka-cow (hear it here)
Cacao, the flavonol-filled seeds from which chocolate is made, not only tastes great (hello, chocolate milk!), it increases levels of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin, which can lower stress levels and increase focus. In one study, scientists gave participants a cocoa-based drink and then monitored blood flow to their noggins. The result: Just two hours after people polished off their beverage, blood flow to the areas of their brains responsible for memory and attention had increased by more than 50 percent! Sounds like the perfect excuse to try some of these 20 Secretly Healthy Chocolate Recipes!
Proper pronunciation: roy-biss (hear it here)
A steaming cup of tea is the perfect drink for soothing a sore throat or warming up on a cold winter's night. But certain teas, like rooibos, are also perfect for doing something else: helping you lose weight. Made from the leaves of the "red bush" plant, rooibos tea is grown exclusively in the small Cederberg region of South Africa. What makes it a powerful waist-whittler? It's a potent source of something called aspalathin, a flavonoid that's been shown to reduce stress hormones that trigger hunger and fat storage. Yup, sometimes the kettle can be as effective as the kettlebell.
Proper pronunciation: hum-us (hear it here)
Whether you dip veggies into it or spread it on a sandwich in lieu of mayo, one thing is for certain: this Mediterranean spread is good for your waistline. And that's because studies show that eating legumes like chickpeas four times a week is correlated to increased fat loss. Just be sure to stick to two tablespoons per day; otherwise, it may have the opposite effect because the dip tends to be on the caloric side.
Proper pronunciation: keh-fear (hear it here)
Kefir, AKA "the champagne of dairy," is a tart and tangy cultured milk drink. This smoothie-like concoction contains lactase–an enzyme that breaks down lactose, the sugar in milk that causes stomach issues for some people. For this reason, drinking kefir is one of the best ways to get rid of bloating and gas brought on by lactose consumption, according to Ohio State University experts. Interested in giving this tough-to-say grocery item a try? We like Lifeway's Veggie Kefir line. Each bottle has 110 calories, 15 grams of sugar (some of which is the naturally occurring kind) and a full serving of veggies.
Proper pronunciation: com-boo-cha (hear it here)
Kombucha is a fizzy unpasteurized drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast that's all the rage among the health nuts. Learn more about the pros and cons of this trendy beverage in our piece that answers Is Kombucha Really Good for You?
Proper pronunciation: banh-mee (hear it here)
If you find pronouncing this popular Vietnamese sandwich (which is made with bread, chilies, cilantro, veggies, pickles, meat and various condiments and sauces) to be a tongue twister, you're not alone. I, for one, have only heard a few people talk about the sweet and savory sandwich with ease.
Proper pronunciation: fuh—like fun, without the "n" (hear it here)
While the word may seem a bit unfinished as it rolls off your tongue, we assure you that it's a dish worth trying. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese street food made of broth, rice noodles, and meat. Its popularity is arguably due in part to the interchangeability of these ingredients. Like Chipotle and fro-yo joints, Pho restaurants allow customers to tailor their meals exactly to their tastes by mix and matching broths, noodles, meats, veggies, spices, and garnishes. If you're not careful about what you ask for, though, you could wind up with a dish that will derail your diet efforts. To ensure a healthy meal, follow these 15 Pho Tips for a Flat Belly.
Proper pronunciation: yeer-o (hear it here)
Not only is this Greek dish difficult to say, it's a doozy for your waistline, too. These beef, lamb, or chicken sandwiches contain a ton of carbs, as well as a substantial amount of sauces like hummus or tahini. You're better off ordering a platter that contains all the same ingredients but that allows you to control how much you eat. For more easy ways to slash calories from your meals, check out these 36 Easy Ways to Cut 50+ Calories.
Proper pronunciation: sam-uhn (hear it here)
Yes, that's right, the 'L' is silent! Don't worry if you've been saying salmon wrong all of this time; according to a 2016 Dictionary.com report, it's one of the 30 most frequently mispronounced words among English speakers.
Proper pronunciation: lee-chee (hear it here)
You'd be hard pressed to find this slightly sweet Chinese fruit outside of a cocktail menu (lychee martini, anyone?!), but if you do, we suggest giving it a taste. Not only is it delicious and grape-like, a single lychee has just 6 calories and 11 percent of the day's vitamin C, a nutrient that can ward off belly fat storage related to stress.
Proper pronunciation: roo-ta-bay-ga (hear it here)
Rutabagas are sweet-tasting root veggies that are part of the turnip family. One medium veggie has 145 calories, 9 grams of fiber and 160 percent of the day's vitamin C! Now that's impressive!
Proper pronunciation: ah-roo-gu-la (hear it here)
If you have trouble saying the name of the leafy green, don't even sweat it. It's hardly worth your time to perfect it. "When it comes to the percentage of daily values, arugula barely makes a dent with respect to key vitamins and minerals," says Peggy Kotsopoulos, RHN. One cup of arugula has only about 4 percent of your recommended daily value of Vitamin C. Swap in kale, a more nutrient-dense green, which packs 134 percent of your recommended daily value in a single cup. "Kale is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, magnesium, and absorbable calcium—all of which significantly trump arugula," says Kotsopoulos.
Proper pronunciation: broo-sket-a or broo-sheh-ta (hear it here)
There's nothing not to love about bruschetta (except maybe its odd pronunciation). Toasted Italian bread, topped with olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes, is a classic crowd-pleasing Italian dish even celebs love. Maria Menounos, for example, always keeps ingredients to whip up her special Greek-inspired version of the dish stocked in her kitchen—just in case a celeb friend drops by with a rumbling stomach. "It's so fast, and people really appreciate when you can give them fresh, wholesome ingredients instead of standard chips and dips," she says of her Greek bruschetta recipes.
Proper pronunciation: star an-iss (hear it here)
Star anise. We've all heard of it—and try our best to properly say it—but few people know exactly what it is. If that sounds like you, here's what you need to know: It's a fruit from an evergreen plant called Illicium verum and it's widely used as a flavoring agent in Asian cuisine, candies, and alcoholic drinks. Look for it in the bulk food sections of stores like Whole Foods so you can purchase only what you need. Buying an entire container of the stuff can be pretty pricey. For even more money-saving grocery hacks, check out these 17 Simple Swaps That Save Money on Groceries.
Proper pronunciation: boo-yawn cube (hear it here)
Monosodium glutamate (better known as MSG), Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 are just three of the unsettling ingredients found in a typical bouillon cube.The former has been shown to stimulate appetite while the latter two, both artificial coloring agents, may have adverse effects on activity and attention in children. You're better off using an organic, low-sodium broth instead. Not only is it healthier, it's far easier to pronounce, too.
Proper pronunciation: too-mer-ic (hear it here)
Turmeric—one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory foods in nature's arsenal—is another word that topped Dictionary.com's most commonly mispronounced list. So, if it doesn't quite roll off your tongue, don't worry. What makes turmeric so healthy? It's the only edible source of curcumin, a plant-based chemical that's been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticarcinogenic properties. Try some of these 21 Winning Turmeric Recipes to reap the benefits.
Proper pronunciation: sel-air-ee-ack (hear it here)
What it lacks in aesthetics, this lumpy winter root vegetable makes up for with a pleasant, celery-like flavor. It's loaded with bone-building vitamin K and is also a good source of vitamin C and potassium, a mineral that knocks out bloat. It goes well with other root vegetables in soup and stews and can also be shredded raw into coleslaws.