By Moira McCarthy
- Researchers say eating at restaurants is generally bad for our overall health.
- They note that 50 percent of full-service restaurant meals and 70 percent of fast-food meals are of poor dietary quality.
- Experts say you can avoid unhealthy eating habits at restaurants by checking the menu beforehand and saving a portion of your meal for lunch the next day.
There was a time not so long ago when dining out was a rare treat and most of our meals were prepared at home.
Making Quality Food Available<p>The study results come as no surprise to food entrepreneur <a href="https://www.specialtyfood.com/news/article/sfa-news-live-innovator-series-shannon-allen-grown/" target="_blank">Shannon Allen</a> and her husband, former NBA star <a href="https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/a/allenra02.html" target="_blank">Ray Allen</a>.</p><p>Eight years ago, while driving along a suburban Boston highway and realizing her young son with type 1 diabetes needed to eat quickly, Shannon Allen was faced with the realization that not one of the many restaurants she passed — fast food or otherwise — came close to offering the kind of meals she chooses to feed her children.</p><p>In reaction, Allen took action. She formed <a href="https://www.grown.org/our-story/" target="_blank">Grown</a>, a group of organically certified restaurants.</p><p>Her goal is to place a healthy spot to eat quickly close enough for anyone to access.</p><p>So far, Grown has four locations, including one in the Florida stadium that will host <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/super-bowl" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Super Bowl</a> 2020.</p><p>Allen agrees personal choice plays a role in ordering, but she places the responsibility squarely on the restaurants themselves.</p><p>"I think that for the most part, the food industry is broken," Allen told Healthline. "For some families, it's cost prohibitive to eat real food. Delicious, fresh, nutrient dense, organic ingredients are about three times more expensive than conventional grown ingredients, and it only costs pennies to eat traditional fast food, like burgers, tacos, and fries."</p><p>Allen says those choices aren't necessarily a bad thing if they're an occasional meal. However, if that's the only kind of food a person can afford, it will affect their health over time.</p><p>"If we lead with what's right, what is real, and what is obvious — that real food made with fresh, organic ingredients should be the right of every family," she said, "now we are really doing something to change busy people's lives for the better."</p>
Getting the Government to Act<p>Mozaffarian agrees that restaurants must take action, but he adds this problem should be attacked with a societal and governmental effort as well.</p><p>He says federal, state, and local governments should reward restaurants that are doing the right thing.</p><p>Those officials, for example, can link the <a href="https://www.eda.gov/opportunity-zones/" target="_blank">Opportunity Zones</a> legislation to healthier menu items, or provide tax or regulatory policy that encourages and lowers the cost of healthier options and eating.</p><p>He adds that more messaging is needed to consumers about how critical their food choices are for health and healthcare costs.</p><p>"Many chefs are showing that healthier options can taste even better than unhealthy ones. We need more of this innovation," Mozaffarian said.</p>
What You Can Do<p>So, what's a busy diner to do?</p><p><a href="https://susanweinernutrition.com/" target="_blank">Susan Weiner</a>, MS, RDN, CDE, FAADE, owner of Susan Weiner Nutrition, suggests diners take time to think ahead, study menus, and not fall prey to special "value deals."</p><p>"If you're with other people, it's always best to order first," she told Healthline. "You are less likely to be peer influenced."</p><p>She also suggests the following:</p><ul><li>Review the menu before you go to the restaurant so you have a heads-up on the offerings. You can also call in advance to see if food can be prepared in a way that's satisfactory to you.</li><li>Try to avoid the "upsell" meal deals. Stick to the basics.</li><li>Your server is your friend. Be kind, and ask for recommendations that would fit your needs.</li><li>Put some away for lunch tomorrow. Think about how much you would eat at home. Chances are restaurant portions are much larger. Or, share a meal.</li></ul><p>Mozaffarian would also like to see the presidential candidates not just take this up as a talking point, but take action on the campaign trail.</p><p>"With the 2020 elections in full swing, everyone is talking about healthcare and healthcare costs, but no one is addressing a leading driver: poor food," he said.</p><p>"In fact, it sometimes seems like the candidates are trying to outdo each other on the campaign trail by eating the worst food possible. We will never get healthcare costs under control until we fix our food system. This is a leading opportunity for innovation and better health," Mozaffarian said.</p>
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By Lindsay Campbell
The San Francisco chef has a new project in the works. In January, Myint hopes to formally launch Restore California, a joint initiative with the State of California that will enlist the golden state's restaurant industry to support climate-beneficial farming practices.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Dining out in California may offer an opportunity to fight climate change, thanks to a new initiative.
By Melinda McKee
Select Carl's Jr. locations now serve the delicious Beyond Burger!
By Anna Ben Yehuda
There has, arguably, never been a better time to be a vegan in America. As chefs across the country create menus reliant on fruits and vegetables in an effort to embrace health, eaters are getting used to the idea of entrées made entirely of vegetables (albeit souffléd, stirred and brined ones). In short: nobody will give you a dirty look if you ask to "hold the cheese."
Food, as we know, is a terrible thing to waste. Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption gets lost or wasted every year. But what if we could use food waste to create more food?
That's the elegantly full-circle idea behind Indie Ecology, a West Sussex food waste farm that collects leftovers from some of London's best restaurants and turns it into compost. The nutrient-rich matter is then used to grow high quality produce for the chefs to cook with. Call it table-to-farm-to-table—and again and again.
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- Study Uncovers Surprising New Reason to Go Local ›
Small-scale, local food producers can look forward to stronger markets this year, if the National Restaurant Association’s predictions prove accurate. According to the association’s What’s Hot in 2012 survey of nearly 1,800 professional chefs, children’s nutrition and local sourcing will be the hottest trends on restaurant menus this coming year.
1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
2. Locally grown produce
3. Healthful kids’ meals
4. Hyper-local items
5. Sustainability as a culinary theme
6. Children’s nutrition as a culinary theme
7. Gluten-free/food allergy-conscious items
8. Locally produced wine and beer
9. Sustainable seafood
10. Whole grain items in kids’ meals
“The top menu trends we’re seeing in our What’s Hot in 2012 survey reflect the macro-trends we have seen grow over the last several years,” said Joy Dubost, Ph.D, R.D., director of Nutrition & Healthy Living for the National Restaurant Association. “Nutrition—especially when it comes to children—is becoming a major focus for the nation’s nearly one million restaurants, in tune with consumers’ increasing interest in healthful eating.”
“Local sourcing of everything—from meat and fish, to produce, to alcoholic beverages—is another big trend for 2012. Local farms and food producers have become an important source of ingredients for chefs and restaurateurs wishing to support the members of their business community and highlight seasonal ingredients on menus,” Dubost added.
“The American Culinary Federation has a long history of working with families to ensure that children receive adequate nutrition, so we are delighted that chefs have chosen to include healthful kids meals in the top 10 menu trends for 2012,” said Michael Ty, American Culinary Federation national president. “We are also pleased to see an emphasis on local sourcing across major ingredient categories, including produce, a vital component of children’s diets.”
If you’ve not already pursued area restaurants as a market for your locally grown products, this could be an opportune time to do so. Chefs are often willing to pay a premium for healthy, fresh, local products, and with an anticipated increase in demand, they could be looking for additional suppliers.
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