Obtaining your nutrition from restaurants sucks for three critical reasons.
1) It’s frickin’ expensive.
That’s right, and you can try to lie to yourself or justify it however you want but that’s the truth. Not too long ago I compared the cost of eating meals out vs. cooking at home. Now when you attempt to justify one off meals, the gap doesn’t seem that wide or may not even appear to exist. If I went and got the stuff for one meal it might cost $50 from the grocery store and take 2 hours to prepare. When you compare that to going to a restaurant that leaves you with $25 each (assuming I’m talking about dinner for two) and I’d say 60 to 90 minutes; a pretty standard outing. The thing of it is, if I bought $50 of groceries I am probably going to make 10 servings for that. The 2 hours it took me the first time may have resulted in sufficient food prep to make consequent meals in 5-10 minutes. This still held true at lower price point foods. If you think you can get a complete meal at McD’s for less than I can build with a little prep time…I will prove you wrong. This even holds true for recreations of the restaurant dishes. The cheapest meal I buy for lunch typically ends up at $5 (Cermak burrito bowl) although my preference is for meals that are more in the $10 range (Indian or Chinese buffet). I can easily make something at home for $3 or less.
2) Nutritionally, it’s usually garbage.
Do I really need to explain this? Almost everything has salt, sugar, butter, oil…whatever added to it. Now, while I’m a fan of things like salt, butter and oil, they need to be used in moderation and for the most part the restaurant is going to be selling you on flavor not health benefits. Ingredients that can be healthy when prepared properly, like beans (high in fiber and protein) are easily ruined; re-fried beans are terrible for you. Things like a salad (healthy) can become pointless when slathered in dressing or paired with other un-healthy options (Ooooh, salad is sooooo gooood with this pile of breadsticks!). Lettuce is not a fucking antidote. You don’t get a free pass to eat like an asshole just because lettuce was involved.
3)Portion sizes are ridiculous.
You know that $5 burrito bowl I mentioned earlier? It’s probably two portions. Most restaurant meals are two to three servings. If you have the will power to eat half and box the rest, good for you. At one point I was occasionally boxing half of my meal before I started eating. The problem is that I usually forgot or ignored those options and just ate the whole damn thing. I need to be served the exact amount of food that it’s okay for me to eat. I can eat a meager turkey sandwich or a 20 oz porterhouse at about the same speed so portion size is critical for me.
Which brings me to this weeks meals:
- Price – Made at home from ingredients we already had in the cabinet or fridge. Let’s call these “found” ingredients so they were basically free.
- Nutrition – All high fiber and high protein. I focused on vegetables, moderate levels of whole grains and small amounts of meat.
- Serving Size – Servings were split up immediately. One for the wife, one for the hubby, two more in separate containers for lunch. If they don’t go into separate containers immediately, somebody hesitates in the morning and the leftovers stay behind while we’re forced to eat expensive, un-healthy, over sized meals for lunch.
Now, tonight for dinner, we did go out. There was some discussion and deliberation because of the price/nutrition/serving size issues. So we compromised. The final decision was yes, we were going to Kopp’s but we were going to split a meal. 1/2 a cheeseburger, 1/2 order of fries, 1/2 med root beer and 1 scoop of frozen custard. I’m going to guess about 800-900 calories, which is a hell of a lot better than the 1600-1800 we would have normally each consumed. The best part was that by the time we were done eating, I felt satisfied, not hungry. As a bonus our total cost was about 12 bucks instead of the $24 we would have normally spent, which works out to $6 per serving.
Maybe we’re finally starting to learn something.