It's a familiar scene, you walk into a restaurant with the intention of ordering the grilled chicken salad, but find yourself wolfing down a bacon double cheeseburger instead.

Not to worry, it's not just because your willpower suddenly pulled a disappearing could be those cleverly designed menus unfairly enticing you.

So how do you master the menu at your favorite restaurants - and still stick to your diet?

Whether it's quick serve or full service restaurants, the menu or food board is the most important component. It shows you what's being offered, how much it is... and describes each delicious dish!

"The menu is everything." says Larry Hamlin.

Larry Hamlin knows restaurants. He's owned 30 and now consults other restaurant owners from start-up concepts to menu design. He says there's a science - and psychology to developing menus designed to lure you to spend and eat.

"The first couple of items, and the last couple of items is where your eye goes. A smart restauranteur is going to put the highest gross profits in those positions."

Whether it's the use of big, fancy, vivid pictures that look good enough to lick.

"Depending on the size of your menu, whether it's a 3 fold, a single or whatever...there are patterns, to where you put items on the menu.

To the words used to describe the delectable delights.

"It'll say healthy or fresh..."

Knowing what you're up against Larry says can help you watch your waistline while dining out.

"Get acquainted with the menu before you get that you don't get so trapped into the design of the menu to make you buy certain things."

Despite tactics to tempt you...Larry says in the end it's really up to you.

"We'll have a non-fat entree, but we like that desert after...I mean some of these things are personal choices, and if you can find a way not to get trapped, menu placement , then you have a better chance of coming out whole. And if you screw up have another day to start over again."


PICS THAT LOOK GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT - Large, vivid images increase the probability that you'll impulsively order that food. And where the photo is placed also matters: The most profitable items get prime real estate, which in the menu world is the upper corners and the center of the page-hot spots where your eyes naturally travel.

NAMES LIKE BLACK FOREST INDULGENCE-Sound better than plain ol' chocolate cake, right? Sexed-up monikers can boost food sales by up to 27 percent, according to industry research

HEALTHY OPTIONS NEXT TO FATTENING ONES- You'd think this would help us eat better, but the opposite is true: A study at Duke University found that people are actually more likely to choose a higher-calorie dish when healthy fare is offered right beside it. Crazy as it sounds, "just reading about a salad makes you feel like you've satisfied your nutrition goals and are free to go nuts and indulge."

LOTS OF PRODUCE IN PLAIN SIGHT The presence of veggies-even if they're carb-coated, deep-fried, and cheese-slathered- convinces you that you're making the right food choices. Don't fall for it!

SAMPLER PLATTERS THAT SEEM INNOCENT Instead of ordering a few appetizers, you get the sampler, thinking you'll try just a wee bit of everything offered. But research from the University of Pennsylvania reveals that when you're given a wide selection, you'll eat 10 percent more than you would have if there had been only one option. That's because having more variety makes you feel as if you're not eating as much. In other words, when you're given a couple of mozzarella sticks as opposed to the usual six, you feel entitled to gobble those up and then move on to the chicken wings, the potato skins, the poppers, and so on.