By John Salak –
Dining out. It’s a recipe for relief if you’re tired or you’re looking to treat your pallet. Not surprisingly, Americans love to eat out. In fact, the average American consumes 20 percent of their calories from restaurants. Unfortunately, what may be a reward for the psyche or taste buds is usually a punishment for the body.
A restaurant visit is almost always a highway to a diet disaster where finding a quality meal as defined by the American Heart Association is nil at best, according to researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Even the growing emphasis on nutrition and healthy eating has done little to move restaurants to upgrade their dishes, Tufts reports.
Fast food restaurants serve up notoriously bad food and little apparently has changed in the last decade. Tufts underscored this point, noting there was only a modest improvement in food quality after studying the dietary selections of 35,000 Americans between 2003 and 2016. In fact, 70 percent of the fast food meals served in 2016 were of poor quality compared to 75 percent in 2003.
Full-service restaurants did fare better but still provided a surprisingly modest nutritional return on their dishes, with Tufts reporting about half of them being poor quality. Perhaps more troubling is that finding a “high-quality meal” at either type of restaurant was virtually impossible with 0.1 percent of meals (think almost none) hitting that mark as defined by the American Heart Association.
The problem is two-fold. Restaurants’ meal choices are limited to what’s on any particular menu and Americans don’t make great food choices even when they have an opportunity.
“Our findings show dining out is a recipe for unhealthy eating most of the time,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School. He warned it is a serious and potentially far-reaching problem. “Our food is the number one cause of poor health in the country,” Mozaffarian added, noting that offering high-quality restaurant meals provides “a tremendous opportunity to reduce diet-related illness and associated healthcare spending.”
Men’s Journal also supports the notion that dining out isn’t a great idea from a nutritional standpoint while acknowledging the potential psychological benefits of socializing that include its ability to lower stress. Dangers, nonetheless, lurk on lots of restaurant plates, usually in the form of higher portions of cholesterol and trans fats than you’d find in homemade meals.
Among the other inherent dangers of eating out, Mens Journal cites that restaurants usually focus on “fattier” meat cuts to enhance taste; use grease or possibly butter to fry foods instead of healthier oils; often pour rich sauces over dishes; and tend to use lots of hidden salt and sugar in their recipes.
thepaliokitchen.com has is own distinct menu of five gripes when it comes to dining out. These include restaurants:
- Using inexpensive “toxic” oils for cooking
- Relying on cheap iodized salt instead of high-quality sea salt
- Tossing in excessive amounts of refined sugar into dishes
- Avoiding higher-end organic fruits and vegetables to save money
- Serving up calorie-heavy meals
Okay, so dining out generally isn’t a great health idea. Take heart, there are ways to still hit a restaurant, have fun, eat well and stay healthy. Eatright.org recommends looking for restaurants that pride themselves on serving up healthy food options (grains, lean meats, low-fat cooking options, etc.); concentrating on what you can eat—not what you can’t; working out before you go to dinner; eating slowly so the brain has time to let you know you’re full; and balance a heavier dinner with a lighter lunch.