Eating out can be a very fun and novel way to spend time with loved ones, celebrate a special occasion or try a type of exotic food you wouldn’t be able to easily make at home. If you’re interested in the health benefits of eating paleo, eating out really does need to be a once-in-a-while thing, not something you do everyday or even several times a week.
Even if you’re choosing paleo-friendly options when eating out, unless you’re eating at the cleanest of clean restaurants (and paying a hefty price tag for it), eating out regularly is harming your health. Here are the 7 hidden dangers of eating out that you may not have previously though about.
- Toxic Cooking Oils
Unless a menu explicit states that they cook in grassfed butter, ghee or coconut oil, they don’t because these oils are much more expensive and most customers don’t know to demand them. One of the hallmarks of the paleo diet is using healthy saturated fats that aren’t degraded when cooking and eliminating industrial seed oils like corn, soy and vegetable oils. These oils are extremely inflammatory and wreak havoc on your digestive system.
It is now widely understood that most disease is a combination of inflammation and digestive illness, so the importance of drastically reducing these in your diet cannot be overstated. The problem is that nearly ALL restaurants cook and fry in these cheap oils, so even if you’re opting for a meat and veggie dish, it’s still going to be loaded with them.
- Cheap Iodized Salt
I am not personally of the belief that salt should be avoided by most people, but there is a big difference in iodized salt and a good quality Himalayan or Celtic sea salt. Iodized salt is a manufactured type of sodium called sodium chloride with added iodide but no other minerals, while the others are rich in trace minerals that your body needs for good health.
- Hidden Added Sugar
When I was in college, I worked at a high-end Italian restaurant and will never forget the day I learned that they added 2 tablespoons on refined sugar to every serving of marinara sauce! Restaurants add salt, sugar and cheap oils to many things like sauces and salad dressings to enhance flavor without adding cost that you would never put in your meals at home. The server usually isn’t aware of this, so even if you ask, chances are you won’t get a straight answer.
- Lower quality ingredients than you would buy on you own
Unless you’re eating at a high end restaurant that explicitly states that they use locally sourced or organic meats and veggies, they don’t. Most get their ingredients from the same distributors which means grain fed feedlot meats and sprayed produce.
- You eat much more and each meal is higher in calories
While calorie counting isn’t something I care to do, if you’re trying to lose weight eating less can be part of the equation. The average restaurant dish has 200 calories more than what you’d make at home, and you are much more tempted to get an appetizer, dessert and a couple cocktails that you wouldn’t have when eating at home, which can effectively double or triple the calorie intake for the meal.
- You don’t really know what’s in the food or how old the ingredients are
As mentioned above, it is VERY hard to know exactly what goes into each meal you eat out. Even when you explicitly ask, the server doesn’t often know so even if you’re trying to be completely dairy, gluten, grain and sugar-free, it is very likely things you don’t want to eat are sneaking in. In addition, while restaurants have protocols on food safety, you never REALLY know how old the ingredients are. That always makes me feel a little weird.
- Toxic plastic exposure
Ever since I began learning how easily toxins can leach from plastic into foods, I never store hot or high-water food in plastic containers and NEVER microwave food in plastic. I remember being at a Mexican restaurant last year and watching them reheat meat in small plastic bags in the microwave. Gross! Most restaurants use microwaves in some capacity and I doubt they are thinking about plastic leaching into foods, but I sure am.
In addition to the health risks attached with eating out too much, it should be said that it is FAR more expensive, especially when you eat at places with high-quality ingredients. Anytime I hear that eating paleo is too expensive, I always ask how much someone is eating out. Our family is able to choose high-quality ingredients at the store simply because we limit the amount we eat out.
Though it can be tempting to eat out when you’re short on time, I will also note that eating at home is faster, too, especially when you incorporate the tips and tricks I teach in Paleo Cooking School. Always consider driving to and from the restaurant, waiting in line, waiting for your food and waiting for your bill. It usually ads up to a couple hours time and I can teach you how to get a healthy meal on the table in under 30 minutes!