Inc.com is a business site not a food one, but there's a good reason we occasionally cover healthy eating. What you eat affects your stress levels, your energy, and your productivity. Studies show healthy food helps you get more done, and anyone who has suffered through a post-donut sugar crash probably doesn't research to convince them of this truth.
Which is why a massive new study that examined the eating habits of more than 35,000 Americans over a 13-year period is worth pointing out to business owners. The research, which was recently published in The Journal of Nutrition, came to a startling conclusion: your chances of eating a healthy meal at a restaurant are just about zero.
How many times a week do you eat out?
When you're busy at work, rushing out to grab a burrito or slice of pizza can be a tempting way to jam a little more productivity into your day. But when Tufts University researchers sifted through mountains of data on from the 2003-2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which asks a representative sample of Americans to recall what they ate in the last 24 hours, they found eating out almost never means eating healthy.
The research team used a method of measuring a meal's healthfulness developed by the the American Heart Association (AHA) to examine the data. They discovered that a full 70 percent of fast food meals are of downright poor nutritional quality (no huge shock there). Half of the meals at fancier full-service restaurants are equally bad for you.
How many meals out were ideal, meeting all the AHA's guidelines? Basically zero, or 0.1 percent if you want to be exact.
"Our findings show dining out is a recipe for unhealthy eating most of the time," commented Dariush Mozaffarian, the study's senior author. But despite the drawbacks of restaurant meals, 21 percent of American's calories come from eating out.
Maybe it's time to learn to cook.
Those statistics should probably cause some soul searching in the restaurant industry, especially given that one-in-three American adults is obese. The main thrust of the paper seems to be encouraging restaurants to do better when it comes to nutrition. But even if you don't work at a restaurant this startling finding should light a fire under your butt.
Eating out is great for convenience, but it's almost always lousy for your body. Which means while dining out in a nice treat or stopgap measure in particularly chaotic periods, it's not something most of us should indulge in routinely.
With my apologies to the kitchen-phobes reading, that means if you want to eat healthy, you or someone you live with is going to have to learn at least some basic cooking. Because whatever you turn out at home is far more likely to be good for your health and your productivity than whatever you order from your favorite local eatery.