Healthy, tasty, affordable, and sustainable
Eating out at a restaurant can be a real challenge for people trying to be conscious of what they are consuming. If your only criteria when choosing a place to eat are tasty and affordable then there are endless options available to you in most US cities. Cheap, fast, sugary foods are everywhere you look, but if you add healthy to the list of criteria, suddenly your options are greatly reduced. If you take it one step further and seek a place that sources local, organic and environmentally friendly ingredients as much as possible then I wish you the best of luck. Even if you do find such a place then you are likely to trade health or sustainability for affordability.
Food as Medicine
I am a big advocate of the concept of Food as Medicine, and am also very interested in the connections between food, health, agriculture, and environment. As a result, when I go out to eat it can be difficult to find meals prepared with these concepts in mind. Here in the Pacific Northwest we are fortunate to have access to chefs and restaurant owners that are aware of these concepts, and who are passionate about raising their standards above typical restaurant food. Regardless, a restaurant that includes healthy, tasty and sustainable in all their meals is more often a novelty; a place perhaps where you go on a first date, rather than a place you go for lunch three times a week. So, what should you do?
The #1 place in town
Now is the time when I’m supposed to introduce you to the newest smartphone app that guides you to the closest healthy, tasty and sustainable restaurant in town. Sorry, but that’s not going to happen today. The purpose of this post is to remind you that the #1 place in town is…your kitchen. I know that may not seem very profound, but at a time when some people are eating out for a majority of their meals I think this is a message that needs to be said. Have you ever seen the episode of Portlandia where the foodies ask a thousand questions about where the chicken comes from? It’s very funny, but the reason they have to ask so many questions is because they have very little control over what they are eating. Sure, you know what chicken, tortillas, and vegetables are, but you rarely know if the chicken came from a factory farm, if the tortillas are made of genetically modified corn, or if the vegetables were sprayed with pesticides.
Take the power back!
I know that eating out is inevitable for various social occasions, and when you do I encourage you to have fun and do the best you can do while ordering from the menu. However, in our busy lives we often eat out even when it is unnecessary simply for the convenience. We don’t have the energy to cook, we don’t feel like doing the dishes after, or maybe we don’t really know how to cook. If you understand the concept of Food as Medicine then you know how important it is to decide what you put in your mouth. Some people have allergies and sensitivities, others are experiencing weight gain, and many are suffering from various diseases. The only real way to control for allergens, pesticides, GMOs, sugar, gluten, dairy, price, and quality is to cook at home. We can’t blame the restaurants; they are simply trying to survive, and are using the rules of supply and demand to do so. We demand affordable, so they supply it, often at the expense of health and sustainability. Instead, I think we need to rearrange our priorities and prepare our meals more often. If you don’t know how, there are endless resources available online now, including this one.