Friday, July 8, 2011


Eating out is a phenomenon associated with economic development which in turn influences the life styles of population. With women increasingly seeking work to augment family income, time spent in the kitchen is coming down dramatically and eating out is an inevitable choice. Of course food industry is also benefited by this socio-economic transformation as more and more consumers fall back on processed foods with high convenience factor. The catering industry world over is growing at a frenetic pace thanks to this trend. Under such circumstances very little attention is focused on the impact of such changes on the health of the population. Unfortunately the quality of foods served by eateries is not consumer-friendly, especially with regard to their impact on their health and many experts are attributing the cause of the emerging obesity epidemic among the population to eating out practices. Here is a take on this issue.

Obesity-promoting foods include sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, processed grains and trans fats — all cheap ways that restaurants add flavor. These foods lead to changes in blood sugar that cause cells to store food energy rather than burn it, said Buffington. Fat-fighting foods, she said, include good-quality proteins — such as unprocessed meat, chicken, fish, cheese, eggs, milk and beans — as well as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and essential fatty acids. On average, breakfast eaten away from home has fewer whole grains, while dinners away from home include fewer servings of vegetables, according to the USDA economic researchers. Mancino and her colleagues also noted that restaurant diners eat less well. "One meal out typically lowers diet quality enough to shift the average adult's diet from fair to poor on the Healthy Eating Index," she said. The index is the tool the USDA uses to measure diet quality. "When people eat out they tend to make poorer nutritional choices," said Mancino, "partly because people often associate eating out as a special occasion, or a time to splurge — even if eating out has become a routine."

It is true that policy makers are aware of this disturbing trend and efforts are made continuously to improve the health promoting value of restaurant foods through voluntary action by the industry. Believing that consumer is a responsible person with adequate awareness about ill effects of bad foods, restaurant sector is being persuaded to offer nutrition information to its customers who can pick and choose good foods. Such transparent practices hopefully will shift progressively the the quality of food preparations offered by the eateries to more healthy ones due to consumer pressure. It may be a Utopian dream but may be worth the effort. Blaming food industry or the catering sector does not take the Society any where and ultimately individual responsibility will have to come to the fore in eating balanced food whether at home or outside.

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