I recently decided to count the number of restaurants in a one-mile radius from where I work. Specifically, I wanted to know the number of restaurants that I can place an order for lunch or dinner and receive it within fifteen minutes. Having worked in the area for over twenty years, I guessed there are 25 restaurants or so within this distance. To my surprise, there are actually 49 places to take-out food!
While this exercise could be used to check the accuracy of Siri or Google Maps, its real purpose is to highlight the ease of ordering dinner out. Unfortunately, over the last couple of decades our priorities as a nation of eaters have shifted, forgoing supermarkets and home cooking in favor of convenient, unhealthy and expensive take-out. But is this a wise choice? Does this choice create habits that will lead to a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes or diabetes? Does this choice help us lose weight?
Let’s look at the calorie content of some typical take-out options. Jersey Mike’s is a popular sub shop in our city. A standard turkey wrap with honey mustard has 539 calories. If you add in a small bag of potato chips and sweet tea (I live in the South so this is a must), the total calorie count is over 900 calories. Imagine if you were to make a turkey sandwich at home instead with whole wheat bread, tomato, lettuce and mustard. With a piece of fruit and a bottle of water, the calorie count would be less than 300 calories.
Now on some days, a turkey sandwich simply won’t do and you need comfort food to combat the stressful day. Chinese food would be that comfort food for me. Well, according to PF Chang’s nutritional information, sesame chicken with fried rice would have 1,198 calories. We won’t even discuss adding egg rolls or dumplings!
Here’s the fundamental point you will never hear recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). If you want to lose weight and be healthy, stop eating out frequently.
So what am I suggesting? I recognize that stopping at the supermarket every night after a long day of work, then coming home to cook, is an unreasonable plan. However, here’s an example of how to get from Sunday to Thursday eating dinners at home with minimal effort. To begin with, on Sunday cook dinner with the purpose of having enough leftovers for Monday night. Whatever you wish to cook is fine, as long as it includes a protein source such as chicken, fish or meat. On Tuesday, stop at the supermarket on the way home from work and pick up a rotisserie chicken already cooked. Don’t pick up the sides–only the chicken! At home, microwave 90 second rice which all the main brands now have–whole grain or brown rice would be nice–while making a quick salad with lettuce and toppings such as tomatoes and cucumbers. You will have leftover chicken for Wednesday to have a chicken sandwich with a side salad. Finally, make Thursday a “breakfast for dinner” night with an omelet or different form of eggs, whole wheat toast and a piece of fruit for dessert. The key to this plan is going to the supermarket on Sunday to buy everything ahead of time with the exception of the rotisserie chicken which you will get on Tuesday. Try this for one week and I bet on Friday you will say: “This week I ate delicious healthy food! This week I saved money! This week I lost weight!”
Next Week’s Post: “Today My Doctor Said…”, a poem reflecting on living with obesity.
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