The problem with dining out

The problem with dining out

One of the casualties of modern-day life is home cooking.  It takes time and patience and skill.  Not surprisingly, 90% of us don’t like to do it. No wonder more and more people eat out or purchase pre-made meals.

An article I read recently likened preparing home-cooked food to sewing. The article stated that "as recently as the early 20th century, many people sewed their own clothing. Today the vast majority of Americans buy clothing made by someone else; the tiny minority who still buy fabric and raw materials do it mainly as a hobby."

Unfortunately, turning cooking over to restaurants has not only turned out to be expensive, with the average household spending over $3000 per year dining out, it has also emerged as a health hazard.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest recently published its annual list of Xtreme Eating Awards, highlighting some of the worst restaurant foods in the marketplace today.

To understand how truly Xtreme these items are, it’s important to know what is recommended as upper limits of healthy intakes for the average person. For calories, it’s about 2000 per day. For sodium, it’s 2,300 mg per day. For saturated fat, it’s 20 grams.

The Xtreme “winner” for 2018?

The Breakfast Burrito at Cheesecake Factory.  On the company’s website, it’s described as “A Warm Tortilla Filled with Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Chicken Chorizo, Cheese, Crispy Potatoes, Avocado, Peppers and Onions, Over Spicy Ranchero Sauce. Served with Sour Cream, Salsa and Black Beans”. 

No question, the item does sound like it might fill you up.  But that’s why you’re spending money on it. And it also boasts loads of things that are actually pretty good for us – like eggs, avocado, peppers, onions, salsa and black beans. And frankly, it looks appealing in the photo – with all that vegetable-y stuff on top and around the tortilla.

The nutrition details?

  • 2,730 calories: More than a day’s worth
  • 4,630 milligrams of sodium: Two days’ worth
  • 73 grams of saturated fat: More than three days’ worth

If you want to look at it a different way, it’s the nutritional equivalent of 7 Sausage McMuffins from McDonald’s.

And, to remind us all – this is just for breakfast.  And before you have a piece of toast or a glass of juice. 

Why am I writing about the Breakfast Burrito?  It’s not to purposely pick on Cheesecake Factory.  It’s simply to point out – in dramatic terms – how ceding control of our food can lead us astray.  

Which is why it’s so important to get educated about what we’re eating.  

Chain restaurants post nutrition facts online. We would all do well to look at that information ahead of time to help make our choices better ones. Not necessarily perfect, but perhaps ones that deliver fewer of the nutrients we’re actively trying to limit.

One of the things you will discover once you start doing this is that the healthier-sounding options are not necessarily healthier. 

For example, Cheesecake Factory’s Eggs Benedict with Canadian Bacon and Hollandaise (which sounds much worse than a Breakfast Burrito with avocado and black beans) delivers “only”:

  • 1,340 calories
  • 2,026 milligrams of sodium
  • 59 grams of saturated fat

Certainly NOT ideal – but at half the calories and sodium of the item you might have gravitated to in your attempt to eat healthier, it’s actually the winner. 

But how could you possibly know that if you don’t dig deep and do the research?

In next week’s blog, I’ll go over additional strategies you can use when eating out to help reduce your chances of committing inadvertent nutrition self-sabotage.

Though, in all honesty, we shouldn’t need “strategies” - we should just be able to trust that any food that is being served to us is actually health promoting.

Like Step One Foods. 

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