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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 should avoid most restaurants.
10 Reasons to Avoid 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. **Update: Chipotle, as of 2014, no longer uses any GMO ingredients and no soybean oil, except in their tortillas.**
2. Food Additives
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
5. Non-Organic Produce
7. Grain Issues
8. Special Diets
10. You Don’t Feel Well!
Image by Calgary Review
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!