The Perils of Dining Out Too Often

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Morgan Gard, a 23-year-old graduate student from Indiana University admits to spending half of her weekly budget on dining out at restaurants. She confesses to buying lunch and dinner three to four times a week. According to the Food Institute analysis of data, millennials spend $50.75 weekly on food away from home. Although this may seem like a low number, these expenses add up and could be avoided.

Millennials are certainly not the only contributor to the increase in sales restaurants have seen each year. More than half Americans’ food expenditures are spent on food prepared away from home, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). For the first time in history, Americans are spending more money on restaurants than on groceries. Although there are valid reasons as to why this is happening, there are reasons to reconsider spending habits.

Current Lifestyle Trends

As shocking as it is, it’s easy to see why this is occurring. People spend too much time at work. Grabbing dinners from restaurants or ordering takeout saves a lot of time. Cooking is time consuming and is a lost skill in the millennial age group. “If I knew how to cook really well, I would eat at home all the time. But I’m not the best cook, unless it’s grilled cheese,” Gard said.

Dining out is also a form of social gatherings. Meeting with friends, coworkers, classmates or going on dates is a big reason to go out to restaurants. Journalists, reporters and bloggers who cover stories about food are required to eat at restaurants for a living. Laura Reiley, who has been a food critic for 27 years and works at Tampa Bay Times, eats out more than 200 days a year for her job. She believes the rise in dining out is a terrible development.

It might be hard and unrealistic for everyone to give up restaurants, but here are a few observations to help sway people away from eating away from home so often.

1. Excessive Calories and Additives

As a restaurant critic, Reiley said when eating out, people eat nearly twice as many calories as they would at home. People have less control over their food quality and portion size at restaurants. They consume more calories, create more food waste and spend more money than they intend to. One could go to a high-end restaurant and order food prepared from scratch by a seasoned chef, but this comes at a higher price.

Most of the produce, meats and dairy distributed to restaurants are designed to last for a long time in a refrigerator. This holds true especially for fast-food restaurants where they have to preserve products for extended times.

Appetizers and desserts are a huge temptation when dining out. These options are seen as necessities in restaurants, but are not consumed often when eating at home. Ordering these dishes with dinner increase the bill and caloric intake for the day.

2. Less Transparency

The preparation process at a restaurant is opaque. Guests do not know how the staff is preparing and cooking each meal, nor the cleanliness of the kitchen. Even with industry regulations, there is little oversight for the guest. When cooking at home, there is a greater connection in each step of preparing the meal, Reiley said. By cooking at home, each ingredient added is known and specific to the individual’s preference. 

3. Restaurants Aid in Environmental Damage

Restaurants are largely to blame for leaving a carbon footprint, promoting more food waste and generating more trash. Ordering takeout means food is packaged and delivered, which creates more trash and pollution. Transportation and the extra miles travelled in the delivery and pick up process add to a larger carbon footprint.  

Restaurants also throw out an extraordinarily large amount of food. According to the USDA, of the food supply in the United States, food waste is estimated to be between 30 to 40 percent. Most restaurants serve large portions and even if food has not been touched, it must be thrown out. Anything that comes out of the kitchen cannot be repurposed. However at home, people save and repurpose leftovers. Portions at home are smaller because people know their appetite and cook accordingly. 

Dining Out With Purpose

Eating at restaurants has its pros and cons. It is nice for the ease and convenience, and as a meeting place for work and hanging out. The downfall is spending more money and consuming more calories than needed. Consider dining out as a reserve for important circumstances rather than an everyday occurrence.

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Luna Sun

Luna Sun

Contributor

Yue Sun is a 23-year-old graduate student at Indiana University majoring in Journalism. Yue, mostly referred by friends as Luna, is originally from Beijing, China, and wants to pursue a career in journalism. She enjoys stories, movies, new experiences and adventures. Follow her on Instagram @LunaSunnn

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