By Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist
It’s the end of summer and as we hang on to the last few days of relaxation it’s easy to eat out more often then usual. Eating outside the home can be a nice change of pace every now and then – someone else shops, preps, cooks and cleans it all up- nice! But for health and economic reasons, sticking close to home-base for most of our meals can make everyone feel good.
It’s estimated that 44 million Americans eat lunch out each day of the week and other sources report that Americans consume just about 5 meals per week outside the home, including lunches, dinners and breakfasts.
There are many reasons why our culture has shifted to eating more meals outside of the home. Sometimes it’s for convenience, saving time, a change of pace, lack of experience or desire to cook and other times it can comes from necessity. We recently moved and it took a few days to get the kitchen unpacked. Luckily I really enjoy cooking and do it often; it’s one of my zen-like flow moments and something I look forward too. I grew up in a family where my mom cooked from scratch a lot (and still does), we had a garden in the backyard and everyone sat together for dinner most nights of the week.
Moving to a new town and working while caring for 2 young boys can be exhausting and without a kitchen up and running we hit the phone book (since it’s not 1990, it wasn’t an actual phone book but my iphone!). My younger son has dairy and soy allergies so I’m really picky about where we eat out. Despite asking numerous questions on the phone about the ingredients used in their cooking, it was a leap of faith to try a new restaurant. So far in our new town we are 0 for 2; he had a terrible reaction to both meals so I’ve committed to cook all nights of the week, at least for now.
Besides saving money and avoiding unwanted allergens, just from a nutritional standpoint there can be a drastic difference between a home cooked meal and a restaurant meal. The magazine, Clean Eating, lists a yummy recipe for homemade fish and chips (being a Kennedy, fish and chips with local, wild fish is a classic treat we love every now and again!). At only $1.58 per serving and 300 calories it is a much healthier option over the usual restaurant version of an often high fat meal. Check out Applebees version at 1930 calories, 138 gm of fat and 3180 mg of sodium – that’s twice the daily recommendation! Plus it’s fun to look up recipes and adjust or modify them, like swapping out eggs for ground flax seed and water.
We are fortunate to live just outside of a major metropolitan city so finding healthy restaurants is possible, although it can be pricy and not always kid friendly. But in many parts of the US restaurant choices are limited to big chains that have a heavy hand when it comes to added fats and sodium.
The past few years I’ve making even more items from scratch. Here’s a short list of some items I no longer buy
• Salad Dressing
• Pesto (kale + basil, no cheese, yum!)
• Tomato sauce (try starting with crushed or strained tomatoes that come in a box and only has tomato listed in the ingredients) then add your own seasonings, herbs and veggies for when you don’t have fresh tomatoes to make sauce 100% from scratch)
Has the Reboot influenced you to eat out less often? What are your favorite foods, staples and meals to make from scratch?