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How ‘dining in’ proves much healthier than ‘dining out’

Published on Sunday, March 1, 2020

By: Ruth Cummins

When you’ve had a big day at work or at home, choosing to grab a quick bite out for supper or to prepare dinner at home might be your biggest decision.

There are plenty of good reasons to eat home cooking instead of filling up at a restaurant, researchers and nutrition experts say. A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition indicated that 70 percent of fast-food meals and about 50 percent of full-service restaurant meals in the U.S. offer poor nutritional value.

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"On any given day, nearly one-third of American adults eat at a full-service restaurant, and nearly half at a fast-food restaurant,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, senior study author and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, in a story published in HealthDay. “The nutritional quality of most of these meals is poor and almost none are ideal, and this is true for both quick-serve and full-service restaurants."

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And don’t forget to add the cost of eating out, said Fiona Lewis, a dietitian in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. She said less than 20 percent of adults are getting the quality diet recommended through guidelines of the Healthy Eating Index.

The Healthy Eating Index is a measure of diet quality used to assess how well a set of foods aligns with key recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“People need to eat more plant foods, fruits and veggies, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and pulses such as beans, lentils and peas,” said Lewis, who studies obesity prevention and weight management in children and women of child-bearing age, plant-based cooking interventions for preventing and managing lifestyle diseases, religion/spirituality and health, and multi-sectoral public health partnerships. “They need to eat less overall calories, sodium and sugar, soda and saturated fat.”

Doing so will lower a person’s risk of chronic lifestyle-related illnesses, such as obesity, and comorbid conditions, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, stroke, sleep apnea, gall bladder disease, hyperuricemia and gout, and osteoarthritis, Lewis said.

Her suggestions for successful eating in and less eating out include:

     •  Cooking doesn’t have to be from scratch.

“Use frozen or low-sodium versions, or meal kits,” Lewis said. And don’t forget warming leftovers from healthy meals.

     •  Save time by using kitchen appliances.

“Use food processors for chopping, making pie crusts and pastries,” Lewis suggested. Also handy: mandolins for slicing, air fryers, crockpots, rice cookers and pressure cookers.

Although it can be difficult to resist restaurant menu items packed with calories, sodium and unhealthy fat, menu selections touted as healthy choices can make a difference. The study’s researchers suggested restaurants should “beef up” their menus with more whole grains, nuts, legumes, vegetables and fruits, and fish. Reducing salt in menu items also would boost nutritional values, they said.

For more tips to eat healthy at restaurants, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.

The above article appears in CONSULT, UMMC’s monthly e-newsletter sharing news about cutting-edge clinical and health science education advances and innovative biomedical research at the Medical Center and giving you tips and suggestions on how you and the people you love can live a healthier life. Click here and enter your email address to receive CONSULT free of charge. You may cancel at any time.