It’s no secret that our society is addicted to a fast-paced lifestyle. Most of us have multiple demands on our time. Work, family and social activities all contribute to an often over-loaded schedule. It’s no wonder then that many people turn to restaurants when it’s time for dinner. A restaurant meal means no food preparation or cooking done at home and no dishes to wash or mess to clean up. This is a great solution on days when you simply don’t have the time or energy to deal with making dinner. But what about the nutritional value of restaurant meals? Are they on par with home-cooked meals?
Everyone knows that healing foods such as healthy fruits and vegetables are key ingredients in a disease-prevention diet. But when a meal is prepared at a restaurant, fruits and vegetables may not have much nutritional value by the time they reach their plate. Boiling, overcooking, added salt, and even the length of time a vegetable or fruit is left on the counter can affect its nutritional value. Is it even possible to get high-nutrient content in your restaurant meals?
First of all, it depends very much on which restaurant you go to. Paying a little more for an establishment that uses fresh, local produce is probably worth the extra money. The second thing to consider is the ingredients themselves. Does your meal actually come with vegetables? Can you find a way to have dessert but include a fresh fruit as well? Next, you might want to give some thought about the way the kitchen is run. How is the food prepared? How long does it sit around before it gets to your table?
In one interesting study, researchers took a look at the stability of vitamin C and carotenoids in papaya, mango, and guava after cleaning, peeling, and slicing in a commercial restaurant. The researchers noted that, before preparation, these three fruits are considered excellent sources of vitamin C.
(For more info on papaya and its ability to boost brain function, read the article, This Tropical Fruit Could Protect Your Brain.)
The researchers found that there were no significant differences in the vitamin C and carotenoid content during the different fruit handling stages at the restaurant. This is something to consider the next time you head to your favorite restaurant and scan the menu: how many fruits and vegetables are there are on the menu that are good at retaining their vitamin, mineral and nutrient content while being processed? You now know that selecting a mango, chicken salad should at least give you a healthy dose of vitamin C.