Eating Clean While Eating OUT?

Eating out and eating clean can be QUITE a dilemma.  It seems safer to stay home!  (And sadly, it may be!)  Restaurants have studied what keeps consumers coming back and it is their mission to load up each morsel of food their with a “time tested” trifecta:  sugar, fat, and salt.  These 3 things little ingredients have addictive qualities…they are RARELY found in nature and yet, we as Americans are obsessed.  Our diets (often unknowingly) are filled with them!    The book entitled, “The End of Over-Eating” pulls the curtain back and interviews a top food industry executive who shared, “Sugar, fat, and salt make a food compelling, they make it indulgent.  They make it high in hedonic value, which gives us pleasure.”  When asked if they design food specifically to be “highly hedonic” the answer was “absolutely, we try to bring as much of that into the equation as possible.”  (Kessler, 18) The exec goes on to describe the ways that they “layer” or “load” each dish with as much sugar, fat, and salt as possible.  This brings their customers back for more.  Why???  Scientifically speaking, fat, sugar and salt are strong reinforcers, especially when combined together!  UNC Chapel Hill has done a ton of research on this subject and Sara Ward found that the breaking point for animals who would no longer “work” for a fat and sugar combination was just slightly lower than the breaking point for cocaine.   (Kessler, 31)  Yep, you read that right…when you say, that is so “addictive” you are actually correct…it is…and it was designed to be! 
Knowing that it is the job of the restaurant to lure you in and keep you coming back for you more it is OUR job to be great detectives on what we are putting in our bodies.  It is okay to ask for ingredient lists and nutritional fact sheets.  Even better I would encourage you to go in and “create your own meal”.  In other words…GET CREATIVE…BE HIGH MAINTENANCE!  Don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want and how you want it prepared. 
  • Ask for WHOLE WHEAT options for bread, pasta and tortillas.   (Even if you know they don’t have it…it raises the awareness of management that this is something patrons WANT)

  • Ask for your veggies to be steamed and cooked without butter
  • Ask for things without a bun or in a “bowl”
  • Ask for the chips to be left off the table
  • Ask how things are prepared…ask for meat to be grilled instead of fried
  • Order several SIDES instead of a main dish…(i.e. black beans, veggies, sweet potato, side salad, etc.) 
  • Box ½ of your meal before it is brought to you…portion sizes are OUTRAGEOUS
  • For a kids meal…create your own…ask for grilled chicken instead of nuggets and veggies instead of fries, more often than not they will do it. 
  • Create your OWN meal.  Don’t feel confined to the menu…often you can clean up something by just requesting it the way you would prepare it at home.
Let me be clear…I am not trying to start a WAR with big business and food industries.  I understand that they are dealing with the “bottom line” and their job is to bring customers through the door.   I am not saying all restaurants (or restaurant owners) are evil!  I am trying to raise awareness.   I believe that it is all about supply and demand and if customers start to demand healthier, nutrient rich options then businesses will respond.  I was thrilled to hear one of my pod girls who works for CFA share that they are now offering steel cut oats as a breakfast menu option!    It is our job as a consumer to be informed as to what we are putting in our bodies; and then by choices and where we spend our money, positively effect change.  
Here are a few restaurants locally that are Janine, LeAnne, and I frequent.  They are NOT perfect and at each one you could eat a nutrient rich meal or a meal filled with fat, sugar, and salt.  These particular places have MORE clean options than many, and for that reason they made the “list”.   
Quick Bites…
Doc Greens
(coupons in citipass)
Greek Fiesta
(coupons in citipass)
(kids eat free on Tuesday night)
(coupons in citipass)
Sweet Tomatos
(coupons in citipass)
Urban Turban
(awesome weekday buffet)
Whole Foods
(such a great salad bar and buffet…they also have yummy made to order sushi!) 
Z Pizza
(lots of options:  whole wheat crust, gluten free, tons of veggies and even soy cheese)
(coupons in citipass)
Date Night
La Shish
Irregardless Cafe
Shopping Around Town
Farmers Market (Western Wake and Raleigh)
Fresh Market
Great Harvest
(coupons in citipass)
Trader Joes
Whole Foods
Good options can be found and it is worth the search.  YOU are worth the search.  

Happy hunting!  

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