I’ll be honest: I grew up eating out a lot. And after I got married, and even after we started our switch to real food, I still wanted to eat out. I enjoy the experience of being out, sharing a meal I don’t have to cook or clean up, conversation with family and friends, everyone getting something they like, etc. It’s fun. And I do still go out to eat once or twice a month when my parents come, although I’m more selective about where I’ll eat and what I’ll order now. It’s taken me a long time to let go of the “eating out” thing, and not to want to run to the nearest restaurant every time I was too busy or stressed out to cook.
But I don’t anymore (that is, as an “I’m stressed” resort).
Restaurants are really uncertain territory, and today I’m going to tell you why shouldn’t eat at (most) restaurants.
1. Cooking Oils
Most restaurants, even “better” ones, still use polyunsaturated cooking oils, like soybean, peanut, or canola. A few might use olive oil, which still shouldn’t be heated. Some use vegetable shortening, which is partially hydrogenated (a huge no-no). And don’t think you’re escaping it because you didn’t order anything fried: many restaurants coat meats in oils before grilling them. It’s hard to escape the oils entirely, and they’re not good for you. Sadly, I learned that even Chipotle, which sources many of their ingredients from good sources, uses soybean oil.
2. Food Additives
Most of the food in the average restaurant comes “prepared” — that is, they have to open up a package and heat it up (if needed). Sauces, soups, dips, spices
, etc. all come premixed or premade. (This is not true in upscale restaurants, at least not as often.) Therefore, these things are laden with preservatives and a lot of other junk. They also can’t give you a junk-free version since they don’t make it in-house anyway.
I know this is a food additive, but it’s so heinous it deserves its own category. It’s got some nasty side effects, like migraines. It’s a neurotoxin. It’s also used in a lot of sneaky places, like breading (think KFC), seasonings for meat dishes, and even salad dressings. It’s hard to avoid, and you need to be careful.
4. CAFO Meat
In the vast majority of restaurants, the meat you are served was raised in a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO. They’re fed GMO
corn, soy, and other unnatural foods. This is not healthy meat
. Occasional indulgence isn’t going to hurt, but it’s still not nourishing food that you really want to consume. Not to mention the ethical considerations of consuming meat that was raised in such inhumane conditions.
5. Non-organic produce
Dirty dozen produce
is rampant in restaurants, which can contain lots of pesticides and herbicides. Some of them are genetically modified
. While it’s probably not a huge deal if you eat non-organic produce now and then, it’s certainly another reason to consider avoiding (most) restaurants!
Just try to find real butter
in the restaurants these days. Many average restaurants don’t even have it available. They only carry margarine. This is not something that you want to eat, ever! Fake butter “spreads” are trans fats and very bad for your health
(the ones that aren’t partially hydrogenated are intersified, which some argue is even worse). Better restaurants have butter available, and really nice ones will offer it immediately.
7. Grain Issues
The grains in these restaurants will likely be bleached white grains (usually wheat, but also white rice). The whole grains they do offer won’t be properly soaked
. It depends on how sensitive you are, or how you feel about eating grains/”cheating” with white flour, but it can be a significant issue for some.
8. Special Diets
If you’re on a special diet, like GAPS
, it’ll be almost impossible to find food that suits you. This is true with any allergies
or other requirements. Even if a dish looks safe, it could be prepared with an unsafe spice, sauce, or oil — and you may not even know to ask in some cases!
Restaurants are expensive! Meals at an average restaurant are $5 – $10 per person, and at nicer places, $20 or more. That’s a lot, especially for lower quality food. Why pay for it, especially when you’re on a budget
? (It’s one reason we generally go out when my parents are here and not otherwise!)
10. You Don’t Feel Well!
Frankly, after a meal at most restaurants, you just won’t feel well. Why do you want to waste your time and money to eat out when you’ll pay for it after (and not just with money)?
Are There Good Restaurants?
The short answer? Yes. They’re not always easy to find, and they’re not cheap. There are local restaurants in some areas that actually make everything from scratch. They aren’t cheap, though, so while they’re great for a special date night, they’re not so great for a casual family meal!
Some of the nicer restaurants out there — like Cheesecake Factory — have some good options. We go there from time to time.
The bottom line is to ask questions. Ask your server whether sauces or spices come in pre-mixed packages, or if they’re made in-house. Ask if they make their own stock or have real butter. Preferably, ask in advance via phone or email, but don’t hesitate to ask while you’re there, too. If in doubt, order things plain!
Where can you find good restaurants?
- The Healthy Home Economist (she’s blogged about some restaurants near her in FL that are good)
- Kelly the Kitchen Kop (she’s in Grand Rapids, MI and also blogs about good local options)
- Do a Google search and look for “bistro” — this seems to bring up higher quality restaurants
- If you know of a good restaurant in your area, please share!
Good Restaurants in Central OH:
There are more, but those are ones I’ve tried or know more about.
Do you eat at restaurants? Why or why not? If you do, which ones? (Any good ones to share?)
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