Ok – we all know by now that I love pizza. This is a fact. I’m also a fairly social human who likes to go out for meals and dates with the boyfriend, so I frequent restaurants semi-regularly.
BUT I’M ANGRY.
Why, you ask?
(Fasten your seatbelts, this may become a rant veeeery quickly.)
Listen, I understand that restaurants are businesses. To be successful in getting people to buy your food (and keep on buyin’ it), it has to taste good. It has to be an experience that bears repeating. And realistically, the majority of the population doesn’t eat purely for fuel – we’re only human, and we like to enjoy our food! But, as I think I’ve mentioned before, we’ve been entirely let down by our education and our upbringings when it comes to food. Most people are sadly lacking critical information about the importance of proper nutrition, and how to achieve it.
Where is this going, you ask? I’m getting there.
Restaurants have positioned themselves in our society as an option. I know that’s a weird way of phrasing that, but it’s the most accurate way I can think of to describe it. Restaurants and fast food joins market themselves as viable options for people – whether you don’t feel like cooking or don’t have time to cook, it’s totally chill to sub in purchased food.
Well, it’s NOT.
Eating at restaurants is supposed to be a treat. A once-in-a-while occurrence. And this normalization of eating out is quite literally killing us all. (DRAMA!) As mentioned previously, the number one goal of a restaurant is to make it’s food taste amazing. And, as most of us know, amazing-tasting food is often achieved by filling it full of calories, fat, and sugar. And again, this would all be totally FINE if restaurants were positioning themselves as ‘treats’. But instead, we see them as a viable option for ourselves on an every-day basis as we attempt to navigate our busy lives. For example – when I was young, my mom thought very little of feeding my sister and myself fast food once a week or so. We were busy kids and had tons of dance and soccer practices, and we needed something quick. This was back before nutrition information was as readily available as it is now (not that many people really consult it anyway, especially in Canada where we don’t legally have to display it on our menus), and there seemed to be this perception that eating a burger from a fast food restaurant was the same as eating a burger from home. I think this perception still exists.
Those of us who have gone out of our way to inform ourselves about nutrition know the truth. We know that a homemade burger and potato wedges is going to run us about 500 – 600 calories, if we make the appropriate substitutions, whereas a fast food version (or restaurant version, for that matter – restaurants are no better!) is going to be more in the 1200 – 1500 calorie region. In fact, I have STRUGGLED BIG TIME to find a restaurant meal (this is INCLUDING salads, people!) that has less than 500 calories to it. And that’s just icky. Where the hell are they hiding these calories?!
We shouldn’t be in a situation where we go to a restaurant seeking a healthy option and find nothing – or find something that seems healthy but has a million hidden calories/grams of sugar/grams of fat etc. And we also shouldn’t be sitting down to a meal that consists of our ENTIRE calorie budget for the day along with twice the fat. It’s just unethical! It’s no wonder we have a worldwide obesity epidemic. Between the cultural factors (pressure to lead a busy life, socializing over food/drinks, accessibility of restaurant food based on price, etc.) and the lack of wholesome, nutritional food available in restaurants, we’re basically screwed.
For some people, a lot of this doesn’t matter much. It didn’t matter to me, back in the day, when I was young and had a nice, speedy metabolism, and wasn’t working a desk job that kept me immobile in a chair for 8 hours a day. I couldn’t physically SEE the effects of what I was eating, so it didn’t matter – I was free to continue to indulge for the sake of my social life and realistically, for my own enjoyment. I think a lot of people are in this boat – carefree because they don’t physically see the effects of this lifestyle, and are never told that they should be doing anything differently. So many women in my age range can still go out Friday and Saturday nights, drink a bunch, eat fast food on the way home, and maintain their weight. Unluckily (although it’s probably lucky in the long run), I’m not one of those people and I’ve had to face what I’m putting into my body head-on.
I come from the “Lunchable” generation – we ate packaged crap for lunch every day, from Nutri-Grain bars to Fruit Leathers to Gushers to Dunkaroos. Luckily, my mom was both thrifty and somewhat concerned for my health, so she limited my intake of these things. (As a kid, I was SO MAD at my mom for never letting me have Lunchables. But looking back, I’m thanking her! Those things are full of chemicals and sugar and who knows what.) It wasn’t our parents’ fault – they didn’t have access to information that suggested that we should be doing this differently. Now people make fun of millennial parents all the time for sending their kids to school with home-cooked, organic, kale-filled nonsense or for making their own baby food at home, but realistically, they’re doing a much better job of looking out for their kids’ health than previous generations did.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: unfortunately, for now, it’s up to us to stay informed about our nutrition and make healthy choices, even though they aren’t often the ‘fun’ choices. Calling food manufacturers out on their crap helps, but so long as marketing and mass-production exists, we will continue to experience this problem. Avoiding processed/packaged/purchased (meaning restaurant/fast food) items is really the only way to truly know what you’re eating. I’m not saying we should forgo delicious restaurants altogether – we just need to treat them as the ‘treats’ they are, and limit them to once a month or so.
Phew… glad I could get all that off my chest. Sorry for the Wednesday rant!