Eating out can be a diet minefield—and menus don't always help, says a recent study.

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Eating out can be a diet minefield—and menus don’t always help, says a recent study. After analyzing diners’ choices, researchers found that people were most likely to order items that were boxed off or listed in a snazzy font.

“Restaurants want you to buy, so they highlight popular items, which usually aren’t the healthiest,” says study author Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Slim by Design ($17,

Here's how to order smart:

Ask to be seated in the right place

“Previous research has shown that people who sit in a back booth are 80% more likely to get dessert,” Wansink says. “Those who sit near windows are 80% more likely to order salad.”

Hit up the waiter for advice

“Don’t waste time trying to decode the menu, because the effects are subconscious,” Wansink says. “Just ask the server to tell you about the lighter menu options that people really like.”

Follow the rule of two

Drinks, appetizers, and bread add up fast. “Stay on track by choosing just two extras; say, a chunk of bread and a glass of wine,” Wansink says. “People who do this eat less and still feel satisfied.”