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We've all been there. You see a salad on a restaurant menu, jazzed up in all of its strategically marketed glory, and it's easy to assume that that's the healthiest option out of the pack. The reality? Often times salads and other "healthy" options can pack a calorie wallop when we least expect it. Now, a recent Cornell study reveals why we order the way we do. According to the study, published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, the things diners order may have less to do with what they really want and more to do with a menu's layout and descriptions.

After analyzing 217 menus and the selections of over 300 diners, researchers concluded that two things matter most when it comes to ordering: what diners see on the menu and how they imagine it will taste.

While we can't look over every restaurant menu and tell you which gimmicks to avoid, we can give you the right tips you need to navigate dining out in a way that's beneficial to your waistline. Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN and CPT of the New York Nutrition Group has a 3 key strategies for making your dining out experience, a healthy experience.

1. Eat Before You Go

"A lot of time a 7 p.m. reservation will not have you actually eating at that time," Moskovitz says, adding that the longer we go without food, the harder it will be to make smarter food choices. "Prepare a small snack with protein and fiber one to two hours before your reservation time, to avoid going in hungry."

2. Have A Plan

Having a game plan for dining out is crucial. Moskovitz suggests checking out the menu ahead of time so you know what to expect. The two things you can't account for? What your dining companions choose and what the specials are.

"People tend to be influenced by who they're dining with, and will often mimic what they're eating," says Moskovitz. "The best way to avoid this is to already know what you're ordering and stick to it."

3. Start With The Right Appetizer

"Anything from the raw bar, a salad, or a soup with a broth base are your best bets. Another great option is to share your plate," she says. By sharing an appetizer, you can avoid two pitfalls -- overeating before the main meal, and staying away from the bread plate.

"It's not that the bread plate is bad," says Moskovitz "but people tend to attack it and then add butter or oil and start piling on calories before the real meal even begins."

4. Know the Lingo

When it comes to "good" vs "bad" items in terms of descriptive menu language, there are words that signify high-calorie. According to Moskovitz, "crispy, golden, creamy, or white," could mean you're in for a caloric heavy hitter. Words usually associated with healthier options? "Baked, broiled, steamed, roasted, and tomato sauce-[based]."

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