Cooking at Home Vs. Eating Out
Dr. Keith Kantor
Eating out for the most part is a fantastic way to delay your weight goals and if you chronically eat out at mainstream restaurants it can take a major toll on your health and finances. Most Americans know that if they cook at home more they will lose weight and save money, despite that knowledge we still are eating less at home. Americans are spending more at bars and restaurants ($54.857 billion) than they are on groceries ($52.503 billion). There are many reasons for this shift including more women in the work force, therefore less homemakers and energy put forth preparing home cooked meals.
We tend to view restaurants as convenient and entertainment (which is kind of sad if you think about it). Simply changing your mindset and thinking about eating in the comfort of your own home wearing your sweats on your couch is a lot more convenient and comfortable. Eating out does not really save much time either, next time you are going to grab a breakfast sandwich time the drive through wait, compared to how long it takes your to make your own at home. Not to mention the cost of a homemade breakfast sandwich is probably a quarter of the amount you pay in a restaurant.
Nutrition and Eating Out
Here are the major offenders when it comes to restaurants.
Portion Size– We all know that restaurants serve double if not triple the amount of food that we should actually consume. If you order fajitas at a Mexican restaurant you get 5-6 flour tortillas to stuff, it is highly unlikely that you would eat 5-6 flour tortillas if you made them at home. Even the healthy menus offering lighter options like chicken, beans, rice and vegetable still have huge portions. You have to remember that restaurants do not have your health in mind; they want to make a good impression on your pleasure, which are your taste buds and your overall satisfaction. This way if you feel the food was good and you got your money’s worth you will continue to come back and spend your hard earned money on their marked up food.
Sodium- Salt will bring out the flavor in foods with out much expense. Some restaurants get really heavy on the saltshaker. Excessive amounts of sodium (more then 3000mg per day) can be dangerous for your heart and blood pressure. Most mainstream restaurants and fast food chains have at least 1000mg or more in every meal. Some types of foods like Chinese food also have MSG and even more sodium. Cheaper cuts of meat or cheeses are to blame in sub and pizza shops. These are why you may put on some water weight after you eat out and feel your fingers swell up. The processed chemicals restaurants use to enhance flavor are dangerous to your health especially if you consume them regularly.
Calories– Counting calories is not fun and I don’t recommend getting caught up in it, but when you think you have an idea of how many calories are in a burger and then you find out it was double that can be a blow to your healthy eating plan. All meals prepared at home are at least 30% (most of the time 50%) less in calories than those prepared in a restaurant. We do not add as much salt, butter, oil or sugar to the foods that we prepare at our home therefore the calorie content stays lower.
Nutrient analysis of prepared foods that are homemade compared to restaurant options in the chart below.
|Homemade Burger||Restaurant Burger||Homemade
Cheese Pizza (2 slice)
|Restaurant Double Cheese Hand Tossed Pizza (2 slice)||Homemade Oven Fried Chicken (1 piece)||Restaurant Fried Chicken (1 piece)||Homemade Cobb Salad||Restaurant Cobb Salad|
Fat is another flavor enhancer that will keep dining guest coming back for more savory foods. Rumor has it that most gourmet high-end restaurants use almost a stick of butter in all of their dishes. A stick of butter has 810 calories, 92 grams of fat and 58 grams of saturated fat, not to mention the actual meat and other food on the plate. They also use oils and lard for fat flavoring depending on the type of food and restaurant.
Sugar is also a flavor enhancer that will keep people addicted to treats. Experts agree that our brain goes through a similar addictive process with sugar as it does with illicit drugs. We should have less then 10 grams of added sugar per day; this does not include the natural sugar from fruit.
A coffee shop slice of banana bread has 30 grams, a latte’ from that same coffee shop has 40 grams of sugar; a “healthy bowl of granola” has 24 grams of sugar.
Some people do not drink mixed drinks, sodas or juice unless they are eating out. These drinks can also pack on the pounds due to excessive amounts of sugar, and calories.
- 12 oz coke- 39 grams of sugar and 140 calories
- 32 oz margarita 1110 calories and 32 grams of sugar
The above nutrition is only for one serving, it can be easy to get refills and be unaware of how much you are actually consuming. Where at home you can make healthier cocktails and keep better track of consumption.
Tips for cooking at home
- Use fresh herbs and spices for flavor instead of salt.
- Plate a healthy portion so you can avoid over eating.
- Use the plate method, ½ plate vegetables, ¼ starch and ¼ protein
- Use high quality foods like all natural meats instead of conventional options found at restaurants.
- Use high quality heart healthy oils and vinegars for flavor instead of butter.