Saturday, May 24, 2008

Eating Out vs. Eating at Home; Which is the Winner?

Eating out vs. eating at home has been on my mind as a topic I could write about and share on my blog. I finally got a chance to write about this after coming back from a trip where I had to consume restaurant food for a few days in a row. Anytime I come back from a vacation/trip, I feel unhealthy and less energetic. I always relate this to the food I eat.

In today’s society, eating out at a restaurant is very quick and convenient. Let’s be honest, the food also tastes really good. If it is a sit down restaurant, a server waits on you and all you do is select your meal and eat. You do not have to worry about cooking or washing dishes. However, many people overlook the disadvantages of eating out. Eating out everyday can be very unhealthy even if the consumed food is not fast food. Restaurants use good amounts of butter and bad quality oil in food. We consumers do not have much control over the ingredients used in the meal at a restaurant. Remember, restaurants exist for business, so they will do everything they can to increase their profit which means spending less while making more money. This is just a fact.

My husband and I used to eat out very often. We do not go to fast food restaurants; as a matter of fact, it has been years since we’ve been to a McDonald’s or a Pizza Hut or any other similar fast food places. Even though we try to go to “healthy” and “good” restaurants, still, we have no control of what is in the food and we tend to eat more since the portions are so big. I believe that is one of the biggest contributors of obesity in the U.S. For health reasons, about six months ago, we decided to reduce eating out. Even though we were not trying to lose weight, we both had some noticeable weight loss as a result of this decision. No matter how much we eat at home and I do have a good appetite, we do not gain weight. We still eat out now and then, not to deprive ourselves of the pleasure of different ethnic foods and the convenience, however within limit.

In addition, one really should be very cautious about restaurant cleanliness, i.e. employees’ hand washing habits (or not washing habits!). Many of us prefer to ignore this even though we all know many restaurants do not handle food properly. When I grab lunch from somewhere and the food is prepared in front of me, I try not to watch the person who is preparing my food. You know those supposed to be white rags used in restaurants that are literally covered in dirt and thus do not look white anymore… well, they are used to wipe off dirty surfaces, hands, plates and knives that are used to cut your sandwich. No wonder why the rags do not maintain their original white color. I am just disgusted with that and the first time I saw it I almost got sick.

After seeing and hearing stuff about some restaurants (presence of cockroaches, mice and etc.), I developed the habit of looking at the local health department restaurant inspection reports. If you go to your local health department website, you will see the violations of all restaurants in your area posted. The first time I looked at the local health department inspection report, it was very disappointing to see some of my favorite restaurants were cited for violations. Even high end restaurants are not excluded from violations. Of course, the health department only cites what it sees during its visit; who knows what else occurs during times when no one is present.

When I was in college, one summer I worked as a server at a country club restaurant where members paid tens of thousands of dollars per year to play golf and dine. That was the first eye opening experience that I had with restaurants where I witnessed some yucky stuff going on in the kitchen. I was naïve to think that just because the members paid so much money, they would get cleaner food. I vividly remember my observation of the head waitress one day. The chef prepared a sensational looking fried calamari plate and set it on the shelf ready to be served to a customer. The head waitress was passing by, so she reached the plate of calamari, grabbed a few with her hands, shoved them in her mouth, licked her fingers and on her way back, she repeated the same process; grabbed some more calamari, threw them in her mouth and licked her fingers again before she took the calamari plate to the customer (I was also wondering if the customer was going to have enough calamari left on the plate!). I have seen and heard worse things, but I will not elaborate anymore on this topic, but I am sure you got my point.

Cooking at home can be time consuming; however, it allows you to select and use the freshest ingredients. Especially, if you select good quality ingredients, the food will be delicious. Most restaurants do not serve good quality meat, poultry and vegetables. If you don’t seem to find time and/or you don’t feel like cooking during the week, it may pay off to prepare a few dishes over the weekend and eat them during the week. Although, I am not a fan of leftovers, it is much cleaner and healthier than eating out.

As a conclusion, I believe that eating at home wins in every aspect when you compare to eating out.


Sandradb said...

Great article and great review about something we really don't pay attention about in our everyday life.

pixen said...

Great article and sad to say that's the truth... It's really hard to believe that posh restaurants is not really hygienic as we all thought.

My youngest sister used to work as part-time waitress in a well-known Asian hotel. She was aghast at one of the senior colleague who spat into a bowl of dessert to be served to a diner while other staffs looked and cheered- reason was she was rude to him and also to kitchen crew!

Imagined you paid so much for meals in such place and some restaurants you had to book months ahead advance!

I prefer (if possible) the open kitchen concept. You get to see the chefs & staffs prepared your meals!

I do feel the management should enforced higher hygiene & etiquette standards on their staffs. Because their behaviour also tells about their lifestyle...

That aside, of course I totally agreed with you that Eating @ Home is the best choice!

I must admit that I'm a fanatic when comes to clean kitchen. I don't want my family to get sick form my cooking. I must have hot water and lots of kitchen paper... :-D I can't stand of using table cloth to clean up mess-not much anyway unless is a throw-away after several usage. Expensive but I know I don't leave dirty cloth around (being a forgetful person I am..:-| ) I think it must be the training I received in Home Science class in my school years..hmmm...

PS. Buzz me regarding Thai cuisine ok?:-) Sorry to reply late to your Questions. I'm glad to help you out...

kahliyalogue said...

this is weird..I tried to comment twice on this great post youve written..and you dont seem to recive it..?

Mediterranean Turkish Cook said...

Mia, no, I haven't received any comments from you for this post. That is strange! I got this one though!

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Hi, I agree with the article having had an experience in working "in the kitchen",However I do believe that eating out in Turkey is safe? or Iam wrong about it? In the European country I live in, I stopped eating tasty in the restaurant, I just choose the dishes that are somewhat safe to eat. I want to believe in some countries people still are higenic with the food they give to others. And for example in Arab countries or Turkey I want to believe it's still safe to eat out, but unfortunatey I don't eat out there... How is eating out Turkiyede :) ?

Mediterranean Turkish Cook said...

Anonymous, in Turkey it is pretty safe to eat out. I wouldn't probably eat street food although many Turks do and they are fine! I've never gotten sick in Turkey from food and haven't known anyone who has although in general, Turks eat home cooked meals rather than eating out. When I eat out in any country, I try not to think what's going on in the kitchen :)