…or “How to Eat Out in Tough Economic Times”. As our economy continues to slump, America’s love affair with food and eating out hasn’t disappeared. Amidst so many articles and news blurbs about McDonald’s rising profits during a struggling economy, one thing keeps pulsing through my brain: When we are least able to afford illness, we may just be eating ourselves sick. With little extra money for things like going to the movies, vacations, shopping sprees, and eating out at nicer restaurants, many of us figure we’ll take a few bucks and treat the family to a quick burger and fries. An inexpensive splurge, if you will. But in the long run, Americans are becoming heavier than ever.
Americans already are heavier than ever. In January of 2009, the National Center for Health Statistics reported more than 34% of American adults are obese – that’s more obese people than just simply overweight! In fact, a new study suggests that by the year 2030, 86% of adult Americans may be obese. That’s a lot of fat to wrap your brain around.
While times get tough, eating out is often limited to fast food chains where things like trans fats and cholesterol tend to hang out. So what do we do? Sit home and munch on carrot sticks all evening? Doesn’t sound like much fun unless your name is Bugs. I have a few suggestions that will make eating out fun and affordable, not to mention healthy.
Try going vegetarian. While not every vegetarian dish can be considered healthy (french fries are vegetables, after all), your chances of finding a healthy meal are higher going veggie. Many small independently owned restaurants are not only healthier but more affordable. My family found one of our favorite healthy affordable restaurants through a site called Happy Cow. It helps you locate vegetarian restaurants all over the world, and you can even find out how the prices rate.
Go international! Most cities have a few foreign cultures that seem to prevail. In my neighborhood there are lots of small Thai, Indian, Bosnian, even Ethiopian restaurants. We love to try them out, and we’ve discovered that these restaurants don’t generally nuke an entree kept in the freezer until you arrive. Their food tends to be fresh and prepared on the spot. See if your city offers an online restaurant guide so you can check the restaurant’s rating and prices before you go.
Eat out at home. What??? Yes, that’s right – sometimes it’s actually fun to dig through your favorite cookbooks or search recipes online to come up with a fantastic home cooked meal. Get the kids involved, pick a theme, put on appropriate music (i.e. Bob Marley to go with that Jamaican spread).
With a little ingenuity and mealtime creativity, there are lots of inexpensive, healthy options to reaching for the fast food. While five-star restaurants may not make economic sense right now, you may just discover good eating doesn’t have to break the bank.