Let’s turn back the clock about 35-40 years ago. How many of you then were eating out in fast food establishments? And how many Glatt Kosher fast food places were there?
In 1970 in the United States, the collective population spent about six billion dollars on fast food. The most recent statistic now has that number at 110 billion dollars. The amount of fast food establishments has doubled in that time.
Right now in America, one out of three children is eating fast food at least once a day and fast food is averaging 12.4 percent of their daily calories.
Think back and let’s try to remember—how many Shabbat takeout stores were there? Most of us cooked for Shabbat and if we did take-away, it was only for an item or two. Most people didn’t “buy” Shabbat!
But times have changed.
There are many more options for eating out and there are many more kosher L’Mehadrin take out stores. This being the case, what’s so bad about eating out and taking out? After all, it saves us from buying the food, cooking the food and cleaning up afterwards!
First, eating food prepared in a restaurant will automatically increase your calories. The average meal in restaurants is between 160 and 310 calories; more than the equivalent meal someone would cook for themselves. They usually use more sugars, salt and fat than we would cook with.
Too much sodium causes your body to retain water. It makes you feel bloated and uncomfortable. But that’s the least of the damage overly salted foods can do. Sodium also can contribute to existing high blood pressure or enlarged heart muscle. If you have congestive heart failure, cirrhosis, or kidney disease, too much salt can contribute to a dangerous buildup of fluid. Excess sodium may also increase your risk for kidney stones, kidney disease, and stomach cancer.
Sugars may add taste but they also add calories, empty calories that have no great nutritional value. We are already consuming about double the amount of sugar that we need to consume.
In addition, keep in mind that the only way equivalent style and quality restaurants can compete with each other is to offer bigger portions. And over the years, those portions have gotten bigger and bigger. A typical regular fast food hamburger today is 250 calories. That is roughly 30 percent more calories than 40 years ago for the same burger.
If you are going out, when you look at the menu, there are definitely things to avoid. Flavor enhancers such as MSG are very common–particularly in Asian cuisine. MSG often leaves a person with a headache and bloating and if there is a strong sensitivity or allergy to it, the effects can be more severe.
Choices that contain the words, “alfredo,” breaded,” “creamy,” “crispy,” “tempura,” or “parmigiana” always indicate a high-fat, high-calorie content. Instead, look for the words, “steamed”, “poached,” “roasted,” “boiled,” “grilled,” and “baked.”
We live in a society today that is more demanding in the workplace. Expectations from work and family can be trying and time consuming. That’s is why takeout food is far more prevalent today. Many people think that cooking and preparing have to take a vast amount of time.
The truth is that it doesn’t have to!
There are many cookbooks today that specialize in simple quick dishes which are all very tasty. You can double your recipes and freeze to save time and doesn’t it add to your Oneg Shabbat knowing that you were the one who prepared most of the food? Think of how meaningful it is when you have in mind that you are cooking L’Kovod Shabbat!
When you prepare food at home, you are in charge. You determine the kind of food you wish to consume and how to keep that balanced. You can also decide on portions. If you serve by filling plates and bring them to the table just like restaurants do, people have to ask for seconds and not just take a serving plate or bowl from the middle of the table.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 76 million people are poisoned by food each year in the United States. This is caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites that can seriously harm or even kill you. People who work in food establishments are not as careful as you are when handling food. When preparing meals at home you control the temperatures when cooking meats, keep hands and countertops clean and properly wash your raw produce.
And finally, when you cook at home, you set the table. Restaurants are using huge plates. They are now usually 12 inches in diameter. Twenty years ago they were 10 inch diameter plates and that’s up from the 8-9 inch plates used in the 1970’s.
Use normal size plates, don’t overfill serving bowls and also, using water for your beverage will go a long way to keeping your weight in check.
There will always be times when we will go out (erev Pesach for example). But it has to be an exception and not the norm.
Cooking and eating at home and staying away from fast food and take out will “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”
Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a BEHAVIORAL CHANGE and WELLNESS COACH with over 19 years of professional experience. Alan is the creator and director of the “10 Weeks to Health” program for weight loss. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs both in his office and by telephone and skype. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at email@example.com Check out the his web site –www.alanfitness.com US Line: 516-568-5027.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.