When I was young eating at a restaurant was a once in awhile treat in our household. I remember the excitement of ordering a baby burger from A&W (I’m aging myself here, right?) and that occurred maybe 3 times a year. Once a year we’d get dressed up and eat at a nice restaurant. That was about it. We didn’t grab quick lunches out and about and if we ran errands all day my mom would pack us a lunch in a brown paper bag.
Times have changed and I like most Americans find myself grabbing lunch or a meal at least once a week. Others depend on restaurants for at least half of their meals. According to the USDA, Americans spend around 4.3% of their income on eating out. Depending on your yearly salary that could equate to 1 to 3 thousand dollars. By making more meals at home you could save that money for something more exciting than a burger and fries. Sure, you’ll be spending some of that money on groceries but it will cost you much less. On average, a turkey sandwich using deli turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo and let’s throw in an apple as a side, will cost you about $2. At a restaurant you’re looking at about $5 to $8.
Besides money you may also be paying the price with your health. Most restaurant meals are calorie, sodium, fat and sugar bombs. The average restaurant serving is enough to feed three adults and yet we’re compelled to eat most of it because it tastes so darned good. You can also get in trouble when you order what you’re in the mood for, think burger and fries, rather than paying attention to the nutritional makeup of the meal, say poached fish with a salad. If you’re eating out once in awhile, go for it. Order what you want and enjoy. If you’re eating out several times a week considering the nutritional makeup of the meal becomes more important.
If you want a little more cash in your pocket and make strides in improving your health, give yourself a challenge. Try limiting yourself to eating out once a month. Find some simple healthy recipes heavy in plant foods like vegetables, and then make a plan for the week around your schedule. Make enough food for leftovers to bring to work with you. It may be a little more work but once you get the hang of it you’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel during the day.
Your motivation? Feeling your best by not being weighed down by a huge restaurant meal and several thousand dollars to plan your next vacation. Burger at lunch today? Or trip to Hawaii next winter? You decide.
Meri Raffetto is the founder of Real Living Nutrition, triplet mom, dog butler and author of the Glycemic Index Diet for Dummies® and coauthor of Glycemic Index Cookbook for Dummies® and Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Dummies®.