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Even Five-Star Restaurants Can't Be Trusted for Healthy Food

August 23, 2008 | 45,253 views
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restaurant, eating outWhat do a hot dog from Yankee Stadium, potato latkes from the Four Seasons in Manhattan, and a sirloin steak at Applebee's have in common? They all came from Sysco, a Houston-based food wholesaler.

This food supplier serves nearly 400,000 American eating establishments, from fast-food joints to five-star restaurants.

While some of Sysco’s products are relatively wholesome (regionally grown greens, potatoes, beef), others are filled with additives. The breaded cheese chicken breast, for instance, contains monocalcium phosphates, sorbic acid preservatives, and oleoresin in turmeric. The Serve Smart Chicken consists of parts of other chicken breasts mashed together into a single, chicken-breastlike block.

Restaurants make a good deal of money serving these pre-prepped foods, since the meals can be purchased in bulk and stored in a freezer for months. It comes as little surprise that hospitals, universities, and military bases use Sysco's pre-cooked foods. But well-regarded restaurants have also begun to offer such items to save time and money.

Edgar's restaurant at Belhurst Castle, which has won numerous awards of excellence from Wine Spectator magazine, serves Sysco's Imperial Towering Chocolate Cake. For just taking it out of the box, letting it defrost, and then sprinkling it with fresh raspberries, they charge $8.95 a slice.

Some quality restaurants do not use Sysco’s pre-made items, but only their grocery store-like ingredient selections. But at many restaurants, diners are essentially paying a chef to defrost and heat food -- or, more accurately, defrost and heat various ready-to-eat processed foods.

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Dr. Mercola's Comments:

I am not a fan of regularly eating out because of the major unknowns at most restaurants, and this article really confirms my suspicions.

I’ve often wondered how restaurants can offer so many different menu options and in about 15 minutes, sometimes less, have it sitting in front of you ready to eat.

This just isn’t possible if you’re cooking something from scratch.

So it turns out that many restaurants are simply buying processed frozen foods, popping them in the microwave, and passing them off as “homemade cooking.” This is something you’d expect from a cafeteria, fast-food joint or chain restaurant, but five-star eateries?

This is all the more reason to start spending more time in your own kitchen, and less time eating out. I have long said that if you want to stay healthy you, one of your relatives or friends, spouse, or someone you pay, needs to spend some time in the kitchen.

The Only Way to Know What’s in Your Food is to Make it Yourself

In 2006 the average U.S. household spent close to HALF of its food budget on meals eaten away from home, according to The Survey of Consumer Expenditures for 2006, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is far too much to be healthy.

Aside from relying on frozen processed foods from a wholesaler, here are some of the other unsavory practices going on at many restaurants:
  • Daily specials are not always “the chef‘s inspiration of the day.” Instead, daily specials are often dishes prepared specifically to get rid of ingredients nearing the end of their shelf life. To spot these iffy "specials," look out for expensive items used in a way that minimizes their flavor, such as cut and braised lamb chops playing second fiddle in a dish.
  • Even the healthiest meals are loaded with calories. According to a registered dietician and representative for the American Dietetic Association, restaurant meals average between 1,000 to 1,500 calories.
  • Menus are rigged. The dishes that earn the restaurant the most profit are always located in the most eye-catching spot.
  • You might not be getting what you think if you order seafood. Often inexpensive fish, such as pollack, gets passed off as something more expensive, like cod. Or, Maryland-style crab cakes may be made from crab that came from Vietnam. Most fish in restaurants is also farm-raised, which you definitely want to avoid.
I do understand that sometimes eating out is your only option, and that it can be enjoyable to go out to eat for a special occasion. But for the majority of your meals, sticking to home-cooking will greatly improve your health (not to mention save you lots of money).

[+] Sources and References

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