As a family, we don’t go out to eat very often. One reason (and usually the main reason) is the cost. The last time we went out to eat as a family we paid $23.13 and it was not money well spent. We could have eaten the same meal at home for a fraction of the cost, our portions would have been more than enough (instead of meager) and the quality would have been superb.
So it naturally makes sense that we also don’t go out to eat often because of the food itself. Every day there seems to be a new way to improve our diets and eat healthier, and there is usually a slight cost (whether money or time) associated with each step.
Are restaurants interested in our well-being, or their pocketbooks?
Most restaurants are looking to make a profit, but there are a few restaurants out there who are swimming upstream and against the current of unhealthy standards of processed food.
Enter: The Burrito
From the start, Chipotle has put quality first and it is one of our family’s go-to restaurants.
- Family of four for under $20? Check.
- Kid-friendly (meaning high-chairs available and spilled rice on the floor is ok)? Check.
- Good food? Check.
Chipotle prides themselves in choosing food with integrity. What exactly does that mean for us?
100% of pork & beef is naturally raised
100% of chicken is from farms that don’t use antibiotics or additives in their feed
- 100% sour cream comes from pasture-raised cows
- 65% of cheese is produced using pasture-raised dairy (they’re working to increase this number)
- Do not use any dairy product from cows treated with rBGH
- 40% of beans are organically grown
- 80% of cilantro is organically grown
- 100% recycled napkins
- 93% recycled burrito bowls
- 95% recycled aluminum lids
This company is also committed to sourcing their food from local sources. The USDA defines local as within 400 miles of the point of interest, yet Chipotle takes it a step further and keep their food within 350 miles of each restaurant. In fact, more naturally raised meat and local produce is served at Chipotle than any other restaurant company in the US.
Do I sound like I’m being paid to say this?
I assure you, I’m not – we just enjoy Chipotle that much! There aren’t many restaurants that put thought behind where their food comes from and locating one is like finding a gem among a rock bed.
Many families operate on the 80/20 rule – eat real, unprocessed food 80% of the time and you can relax on the other 20%. That’s not a bad rule of thumb per se, but why stop at 80% if we can go further?
What I’m feeding my family is often on my mind. As head chef, there is thought and purpose behind my shopping and cooking. Does that same process extend to beyond my kitchen? Will the restaurants we dine at give as much thought to our health as they do their profit margins?
Here are a few things to consider when it comes to spending your hard-earned money on dining out.
- Research the restaurant, if you can. Many larger restaurants have websites. Look them up and see if they have any mission statements regarding the sourcing or quality of their food.
- Look at the menu. It’s easy to hide the quality of something underneath deep-fried golden batter. If the menu is more than 50% fried food, avoid it.
- Get opinions. Talk to your friends and family to see if anyone has eaten there and what they thought. Ask about the type of dishes, the vegetables served and portion sizes. “Typical” dishes are easy to prepare using canned and jarred ingredients, but restaurants serving unconventional dishes using in-season vegetables are likely buying fresh and making from scratch.
- Eat local. Most local restaurants don’t have the ability to get their food from anywhere other than local sources. Many local farms can’t afford the “certified organic” label, but practice traditional and sustainable farming methods because that’s what they believe in.
- Talk to the owner/manager. Owners who take pride in what they serve will gladly tell you. While you’re at it, talk to the employees. Do they eat there? Do their families eat there?
At the end of your meal, ask yourself if the bill was worth it. Are you happy to support this restaurant in their business endeavors? Do you believe in what they’re striving for? Would you be disappointed if this restaurant went out of business?
Or would it just be easier (and better) to replicate the dinner at home?