There’s a reason we now consume 300 calories a day more than we did in 1985. And it’s because food manufacturers have gotten really good at scientifically engineering our food with the right combination of salt, fat and sugar. It makes our tongue sing, lights up our brain, and turns on our cravings. As a result, we feel compelled to keep eating. But you can stop that cycle – here’s how:

  • Start by ordering a la carte. That’s according to Dave Zinczenko, the author of Eat This, Not That. He says, don’t order an entrée that comes with a couple of pre-determined side dishes. Because the restaurant has specifically combined them to hit that sweet spot that makes you eat more. Like a steak, topped with onion rings and side of mashed potatoes – because the potatoes turn to sugar in your system. At a place like Chili’s, for example, you can create your own combo, and get something like grilled shrimp – then choose your own side dishes, like black beans and mixed vegetables.

  • At a sub shop – skip the oil. At a lot of places, slathering your sandwich with oil is standard practice. But every half-ounce is 120 calories. So make sure you say, “no oil.”

  • Never order a pot pie. Because under that buttery pastry crust are vegetables and meat sitting in a pool of creamy calories. And at most restaurants, you’re looking at an entire day’s worth of saturated fat – in one meal.

  • Keep it simple. The longer the name of the menu item – and the more adjectives it has – the more fat, sugar and sodium it contains. For example, at one chain restaurant, if you order a “hamburger” it’s 800 calories. If you order the Bourbon Black and Blue Burger, it’s 1,300 calories. So, stick to the basics.

  • Slow down! The journal Psychological Science discovered that just the sight of a fast food sign can make us feel rushed. And that can lead to impulsive decisions and bad nutritional choices. So if you know you’re going for fast food – plan ahead. Try an app like Restaurant Nutrition, which gives info on 250 different chains.