English food and diet vocabulary

Here are some words and phrases to help you talk about food, methods of cooking and diets in English.

Types of food

meat (or “red meat”) = lamb, pork or beef

poultry (or “white meat”) = chicken, turkey, goose, duck

game (“wild” meat) = rabbit, hare, partridge, pheasant

fish = salt water fish / sea fish or fresh water fish

seafood = prawns, shrimps, lobster, scallops, mussels, crab

vegetables = leafy vegetables (such as broccoli or spinach), root vegetables (such as carrots and onions) etc

fruit = soft fruit (such as plums and peaches); berry fruit (such as strawberries or raspberries) etc

You can also talk about the different food groups: fats and oils (such as olive oil, butter etc); fruit; vegetables; protein (such as meat); dairy (such as milk, cheese, and yoghurt); grains (such as wheat, or corn); and sugar.

How food is cooked

boiled – cooked in boiling water

steamed – cooked over a saucepan of boiling water

fried / sauteed – cooked in oil in a frying pan

stir-fried – fried fast in hot oil

pan-fried – fried in a frying pan

roasted – cooked in oil in the oven

grilled – cooked under a grill or on a ridged pan

baked – cooked in the oven

stewed – cooked for a long time on a low heat

casseroled – cooked slowly in juices


Here are some of the names of dishes you can see in restaurant menus:

starter / hors d’oeuvre / appetiser = the first thing you eat as part of a more formal meal

main course = often a meat, fish or vegetarian dish

dessert / pudding = a sweet course at the end of the meal. You might also see cheese or fruit offered.


If you are overweight or obese, your doctor will probably recommend that you “go on a diet”. Here are some words and phrases that we use to talk about dieting, body size and putting on weight.

watch what you eat = be careful about what you eat, and the quantities you eat

watch your figure = refuse certain food because you want to stay slim

go on a crash diet = start a radical diet to lose weight quickly

count the calories / a calorie-controlled diet = a diet where you measure the calories of each item of food you eat

snack between meals = to eat between meals (avoid doing this if you are on a diet!)

cut out certain foods altogether (i.e. stop eating bread or pasta, for example)

cut down on = reduce the amount of (fatty or sugary foods, for example)

Body size and putting on weight

“You are what you eat!” = a common expression meaning that your body shape is directly related to what or how much you eat.

middle-age spread = where you put on weight especially around your waist and hips.

put on / gain weight = become heavier

pinch an inch = where you can measure at least an inch worth of fat around your middle (an inch is approximately 2.5 cm)

pile on the pounds = gain a lot of weight (a pound is approximately half a kilo)

lose / shed weight = become lighter

go up a size = become one size larger (the opposite is to drop a size = become one size smaller)

Other expressions

have a sweet tooth = like eating sweet or sugary things like cakes, sweets or chocolate

eat sensibly = eat moderate quantities of food, and not over-indulging in unhealthy food

five a day = five portions of fruit or vegetables every day