Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

When I was growing up, we went to Miguel’s restaurant in Reno maybe once every few months as a special treat. Every once in awhile, we’d go to the new-to-town Burger King and rarely – I can only remember once – did we eat at McDonalds. When we traveled to Barstow, California to see my grandparents, we would stop in Bishop at the Jack in the Box to eat, and while in Barstow, we would go to Del Taco as often as I could talk my grandparents into going.

Eating out was a treat, so it didn’t matter that each delicious red burrito from Del Taco, each sopapilla from Miguel’s, each cheeseburger from our favorite fast food was dripping in calories from fat. It was a rare, rare treat.

These days, restaurant food is a staple. The average family eats out FOUR TIMES per WEEK!! More meals per week are prepared outside the home than in. Between grabbing donuts and a latte for breakfast, going out with colleagues at lunch, and ordering pizza for dinner, there are days when some families do not eat a single item that was not prepared in a commercial kitchen.

It’s no wonder America’s waistline is expanding at such a rapid rate!

While I believe our first line of defense is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store and eat healthy meals prepared at home, changing such ingrained habits is going to take time…and in the meantime, we all need to start making better choices when eating in restaurants.

I highly recommend the book Eat This, Not That to help guide you through, but the biggest change you can make is to realize that every restaurant provides portions that are enough for two or three people, not just one, so if you do order a meal, have half of it put in a to go container and save it for tomorrow’s lunch. Better yet, save money and calories by splitting a plate with your lunch or dinner date.

Make healthy choices: grilled over fried, veggies over starch. Skip gravies and sauces, skip alcohol and soda. Enjoy the social atmosphere without blindly grazing on appetizers. And skip dessert!

There’s more to this than just making the right food choices in restaurants; it’s about seeing food as something separate from entertainment. We can be social and enjoy each other’s company without turning everything into a food fest.

Maybe it’s time to put restaurants back into the realm of special treats instead of daily solutions to our busy lives.