Cooking your meals at home (and without the use of packaged/processed foods) will always be the best thing for your waistline, your health, and your wallet. And yet, as much as I cook that way most days, I also enjoy sharing a meal with the people I love where there is no prep work, cooking or clean up!
But is it possible to eat out without compromising health and wellness?
I think the answer is yes…but it’s really, really difficult.
To make wise decisions when dining at a restaurant, it’s important to first know the major culprits that will sabotage your health. In my opinion, here are the top two health saboteurs when eating out:
SABOTEUR # 1: Too Many Calories….Duh.
Thanks to added oils, sugars and restaurant-sized portions, the average restaurant meal is easily two times the amount of calories found in your typical home-cooked meal. Researchers from the University of Toronto analyzed the nutritional information of food ordered at 19 sit-down restaurant chains and discovered the average meal contained a debilitating 1,128 calories¹! That’s 56% of the average daily 2,000-calorie intake recommended for a healthy adult. And think about this: that’s without an appetizer, beverages or dessert!
- Do your research before you go. Most chain restaurants have their calorie counts posted online.
- Ask for a half-order or share an order with someone. Many restaurants offer appetizers that are big enough to be a meal.
- Decide beforehand what you really want: drinks out with friends, a dinner entree, or an indulgent dessert. Pick ONE and shape your outing around that one thing rather than going for all three.
SABOTEUR # 2: Excess Sodium and Cheap Fats Cause Inflammation and Inflammation Causes….EVERYTHING.
The same researchers found that an average restaurant meal (just the entree, remember!), packs 151% of the recommended daily salt intake, 89% of daily fat, and 60% of your daily cholesterol¹. Since most restaurants are using canola oil, corn oil, and other cheap vegetable oils which are extremely high in omega-3’s, these inadequate fats are causing inflammation at a cellular level. With the one-two punch of excess sodium and bad fats, every cell in your body is battling the damning effects of inflammation after just one restaurant meal. Why is inflammation so worrisome? Inflammation wreaks havoc on your overall immunity which can lead to digestive diseases, seasonal allergies, skin conditions, arthritis and joint-related pain, and worse yet, cancer. Research shows that inflammation stimulates a rise in levels of a molecule called microRNA-155 and this increase, in turn, causes a drop in levels of proteins involved in DNA repair, resulting in a higher rate of spontaneous gene mutations². Yes, even cancer can be linked to cellular inflammation. So again, a post-binge-meal bloat isn’t just hurting your tummy that night, it’s hurting you at a cellular level.
- If dining at a chain restaurant, find their nutritional stats on their website, which includes sodium levels. It’s very difficult to spit-ball sodium levels because often times the meals that appear to be “safe” are the highest in sodium so research is key here.
- Omit the sauces and dressings — they are almost always the main source of sodium in a dish. Let’s be honest, no one wants to go out for plain noodles so try to order something that doesn’t rely on heavy sauces for flavor (i.e. chicken satay with peanut sauce instead of Pad Thai).
These are just two of the challenges I face when trying to eat out without compromising my health. Do you have another one to share? Leave a comment!
Natasha Drisdelle (aka Domestica) is a mom of twins, baby-weight survivor, and health & fitness blogger who lives in California’s Silicon Valley. She posted her before-and-after pics on the immortal internet as living proof that morphing into a gelatinous baby-growing-factory doesn’t have to mean your bikini days are over. You can find her on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, cutting through the myths and guilt that keep women from realizing true health.