Tag Archives: restaurants

Healthy Living Real Food

Do Restaurants Serve Healthy Oils?


When you go out to eat and read the dinner menu, do you think about cooking oils used by the restaurant where you are eating your food? Many people don’t, but the reality is, most of the oils used by restaurants, unless otherwise noted, are highly-processed, industrially-produced, genetically modified, rancid vegetable oils that are unhealthy to consume.

In my teens and twenties, I remember having conversations with people about eating low-fat dressings on salads that were supposedly “healthier” choices than the full-fat choices. The idea was that fat was unhealthy to consume, and therefore low-fat was better (not unlike the mentality about fat now).

This idea has persisted for some years, and really, this notion is false. Because medical and health communities have mislead the public about health information for so long, everyone believes the issue lies in fat. But real, whole fats are good for you. What’s more, the oils contained in 99 percent of the salad dressings and condiments you eat in restaurants are not good for you… and why? Because they are usually soybean, canola, cottonseed, or safflower oil. Just ask your server, and it may take some digging to find this out, but what you will learn is that your salad is covered in a toxic substance that has no place on the dinner table.

Case in point: one night some years ago I went to the Olive Garden with my husband and son who was still a baby at the time. This was during the years when we used to eat out a lot. For some reason it occurred to me to ask the server about the dressing. I asked her what type of oil they used in their famous salad that everyone believes to be so healthy to eat. She replied that she would have to ask in the kitchen and would let me know. Upon her return she confirmed my suspicion: the oil they use is soybean oil. All those years I had been eating that same salad and thinking how good it was for me…only to find out all that time I was eating rancid, toxic oil! I felt duped and lied to, and began to realize that probably every restaurant I ate at did the same thing.

Even when you see olive oil on the menu at a restaurant – which is usually served on some type of meat or fish (and it is called out specifically on the menu; the restaurant won’t just sneak it in somewhere because olive oil is too expensive), you have no idea what kind of olive oil they are using and whether it is good quality. For all you know, it could be rancid as well. Olive oil can become rancid easily if stored improperly, for too long, or is subjected to high-temperature heat.  So unless noted, anything cooked in oil in a restaurant, is most likely prepared in vegetable oil of some type.

Now there may be some exceptions, such as when the server brings out a bowl for dipping your bread with vinegar and a bottle of oil – in those cases, the oil is often olive oil. Still, the quality is probably not up to standard. The name of the game in the business of restaurants is making money, after all. Their margins are razor-thin and they have to make every expense count. And let’s not even get started on the bread…it MAY be fresh baked, in some cases, but the flour is most likely not organic and the flour used to make the bread is also probably rancid (and likely from a genetically-modified source). Best to avoid the bread and the dipping oil altogether.

What’s wrong with vegetable oils? Other than the fact that they are trans-fats, rancid and industrially-produced, and originate from genetically-modified sources, their main fat content comes from polyunsaturated sources. According to Rat Peat, PhD, a physiologist who has studied dietary fats and hormones since 1968, polyunsaturated fats are not healthy and cause heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, and various auto-immune disorders. They are so unhealthy, he believes their only place is in industrial uses such as for painting. Read the following two excerpts from ‘Unhealthy Vegetable Oils‘ by C.J. Puotinen:

“The main problem is that polyunsaturated oils contain long-chain fatty acids, which are extremely fragile and unstable. The unsaturated oils in some cooked foods become rancid in just  a few hours even when refrigerated,” says Peat, “and that’s responsible for the stale taste of leftover foods. Eating slightly stale food with polyunsaturated oils isn’t more harmful than eating the same oils when fresh, since the oils will oxidize at a much higher rate once they are in the body. As soon as polyunsaturated vegetable oil enters the body, it is exposed to temperatures high enough to cause its toxic decomposition, especially when combined with a continuous supply of oxygen and catalysts such as iron.”

“Senate hearings on the health implications of tropical oils brought testimony from Harvard Medical School researcher George Blackburn, Ph.D., University of Maryland research associate Mary G. Enig, Ph.D., and U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D., all of whom defended coconut oil. They pointed out that coconut oil has been a mainstay in the diets of millions of people for thousands of years, and those who still follow their traditional diet, such as Pacific Islanders, enjoy long, healthy lives with none of the heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses that plague America. The media paid little attention and instead promoted the anti-saturated-fat hysteria with headlines (“The Oil from Hell!”) that sold newspapers. In the end, fiction triumphed over fact, and restaurant chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King replaced the saturated fats they had been using with more “healthful” vegetable oils. The switch, according to FDA tests, increased or even doubled the fat content of fried foods.”

What’s the solution? For one, don’t make eating out regularly a habit. Most food is sure to be bathed in these toxic oils. Prepare most of your meals at home and from scratch. Pay attention to the types of oils you purchase and from where they originate.

What are healthy oils and fats to consume?

  • Organic, extra virgin olive oil, stored in dark glass bottles or metal cans.
  • Organic, extra virgin coconut oil
  • Organic palm oils
  • Other cold-pressed, organic oils eaten uncooked such as pumpkin seed, avocado, flax (Omega 3), borage, evening primrose, blackcurrant, sesame, walnut, grapeseed, hazelnut, or almond.
  • Real, organic butter from grass-fed cows
  • Tallow from grass-fed cattle
  • Lard from pasture-raised hogs

As much as it does take a bit of time and effort, researching the source of the oils you eat will provide the maximum nutritional benefit out of your food. Just do a quick Internet search and read about the products you buy before you buy.

For more information about healthy and unhealthy oils, read The Oiling of America from the Weston A. Price Foundation.

This article is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please visit her site and check out all the other real food posts there.

Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food

Meals For Children – Restaurants And School Lunches Are Lacking In Nutrition

What’s for lunch? We ask this question every day, and it becomes challenging at each and every meal to come up with something nutritious and interesting to eat. Think about what it must be like to serve meals to kids every day of the week and how difficult to come up with foods that help young bodies grow and appeal to their typical finicky tastes.

Children have become finicky eaters over the years because their diets have been reduced to junk foods in all their menu choices – s0 it is simply because they are not exposed to a wide variety of nutritious foods. Instead, they are offered the same things over and over again; and much of the choices for children’s meals in schools and restaurants alike is processed, chemically-loaded, nutritionally devoid items.

The only saving grace with restaurants is (hopefully) they are used more few-and-far between as people generally don’t eat out each day. School lunches present a much bigger problem since many children eat them daily or several times a week in their schedule of meals.

I’ve noticed that many parents and others assume children won’t eat vegetables. When children are not expected to eat healthy foods, they seldom ask for them and/or refuse to eat them if they are offered. A good example is restaurant menus. If you go into an eating establishment, you can see that mostly children’s menus are separate from everyone else’s, and the choices are less than nutritious: hot dogs/corn dogs, hamburgers and french fries, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti noodles with marinara sauce are common selections. Children are given a variety of deep-fried and processed foods with little to no vegetables or whole grains.

The only whole food I’ve consistently seen on menus is the occasional fruit or carrots, but kids are already getting so much sugar in the main course items, it’s just more of the same with a little fiber. Any type of bread or bread food served is often the processed, white variety and no real whole grains. Whole grains are those that are not ground up and are actually “whole”, something you will rarely see in most stores or restaurants that sell bread and bread products.

The school lunch program available in public schools is another example of poor choices offered to children. Kids can only eat what is available, and generally won’t make good choices for themselves if other unhealthy items are repeatedly served in the lunch line. Here is a sample lunch menu for one school week:

Monday – Corn dog or macaroni and cheese, breakfast pocket, build a salad, fruit

Tuesday – Pepperoni cheese bread or teriyaki chicken and rice or half bagel and yogurt, fortune cookie, build a salad, fruit, vegetable blend

Wednesday – Soft shell taco or fruit and yogurt plate or deli turkey sandwich, snickerdoodle, tortilla chips, lettuce, tomato, cheese, fruit

Thursday - Toasty cheese sandwich or Chef Boyardee Ravioli or deli ham and cheese sandwich, vegetable barley soup, fruit, variety crackers

Friday - New York Style Pretzel or burrito or baked potato, cheese sauce, chili beans, vegetable toss, fruit, flour tortilla

At a glance, many of these meals may seem fine. These do contain some vegetables and fruit. Aside from those few whole foods, the rest of the selections are processed and unnatural as can be. Foods like Chef Boyardee Raviolis are one of the most processed products you can find, and are enriched with synthetic vitamins and minerals to make up for their gross deficiency in nutrient content. The meat and dairy selections (which are pasteurized) are undoubtedly from factory farms, and there is nothing good to say about the quality of factory-farmed meats and dairy products which are laden with chemicals, steroids, antibiotics, hormones – without even mentioning the types of feed given to the animals who are slaughtered for food. Grain products (corn on corn dogs, bread on which pepperoni cheese sits, crackers, pretzels, tortillas, bagels, etc.) are also highly processed and enriched to make up for lack of nutrition. It is virtually impossible to take a food that is nutritionally empty and “enrich” it with vitamins and minerals it otherwise wouldn’t contain, and then label it as “healthy”. School lunches contain exorbitantly high amount of carbohydrates, so adding desserts is completely unnecessary.

Here are the ingredients for breaded popcorn chicken, a popular meal item served on  school lunch menus across the country:

Chicken Breast with Rib Meat CONTAINING: Up to 20% of a Solution of Water, Salt and Sodium


BREADED WITH: Bleached Wheat Flour, Yellow Corn flour, Salt, Spices, Leavening

(Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate),

Nonfat Dry Milk, Dried Whey, Soy Flour, Dried Whole Eggs, Sodium Alginate, Partially Hydrogenated

Soybean Oil, Dextrose, Garlic Powder, Mono and Diglycerides and Dried Yeast.

BATTERED WITH: Water, Wheat Flour, Yellow Corn Flour, Dried Whey, Dextrose, Spices, Salt, Leavening (Sodium

Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate), Sodium Alginate, Soy Flour, Oleoresin Paprika, Nonfat Dry

Milk, Dried Whole Eggs. Breading set in vegetable oil.


Do you really want your children eating this garbage?

One of the biggest problems with sources of food for school lunches is that the supplies for feeding children come from government subsidies which purchase mostly lowest quality foods from wherever they can be found. Foods are packaged and shipped all over the country, and little to no consideration is given to natural, organic, or local selections for children’s meals. The recent massive meat recall in February of this year, 2008, should be a wake-up call to parents and other consumers alike who believe this type of food is safe to consume. I hear a lot of rhetoric about how to reform school lunches, and most call for changes falls under one of the following:

  • To reduce fats and calories – low and non fat foods like reduced fat dairy and meats are not going to help children’s health because they are not whole foods and will only contribute to the rise in health issues our nation is currently experiencing such as obesity and Diabetes. Consumption of pasteurized and low or non-fat dairy causes malabsorption of nutrients and actually leeches calcium from the bones. Proteins and fats are denatured and rendered toxic for the human body. For more information, see Why The Consumption of Milk is Harmful to Your Health on this site.
  • To offer non-dairy solutions (I can only assume they mean soy, rice, or almond products which are no better than their chemical-filled counterparts because they are processed, and not whole foods)
  • Because everyone just wants to lie down and accept that “children won’t eat vegetables”, I have seen proposals that school lunches start to include more fruit, but don’t bother so much with vegetables. This is not a solution, it is just adding to the problem that children are not getting the nutrients in vegetables they desperately need, many of which cannot be provided in just fruits.
  • To replace menu items like hamburgers, pizza, and hot dogs with so-called “healthier alternatives” such as grilled cheese sandwiches (with processed, enriched bread), peanut butter and jam on “whole grain” breads (which couldn’t be farther from whole grain), and bagels with low-fat cream cheese. These foods are just as processed and empty of nutrients as the ones that have been on school lunch menus for 50 or more years. And they include NO vegetables. Come on people, wake up! Generally speaking these items contain not more than a little protein that can actually be absorbed, processed carbohydrates, and chemicals.

Why should our children be eating differently? Overwhelming amounts of research tell us that nutrition is the foundation of our children’s health, including brain function and cognitive abilities. Children need calories, protein, good carbohydrates, and fats — wholesome, unprocessed fats with which to perform in school and be physically active. But what they are getting in school lunches, and a great deal of other eating environments, is processed foods. How can a child be expected to behave and be successful in school when the food he or she eats is not wholesome or nutritious? Children who are ill-mannered, hyperactive, depressed, moody, or lethargic could well benefit from changes in diet.

In an ideal world, our children would be given the best available. So, here is my proposal for changes to the school lunch menu for a one week period:
Monday -Grass-fed beef stew with organic potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, peas, and celery
Organic salad bar with at least seven different types of vegetables which could include the following: spinach and/or romaine lettuce, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, bell peppers,snow peas, and beets.
Two or three selections of seasonal fresh fruit such as organic apples, bananas, and pears
Whole-grain, sprouted (live grains) from Ezekiel bread with raw butter.
Tuesday - Free-range roasted organic chicken, organic mashed potatoes, squash, zucchini, onions, and carrots.
Organic salad bar as listed on Monday’s menu.
Two or three selections of seasonal fresh fruit such as berries, melon, or bananas
Whole grain, sprouted grain rolls
Wednesday – Spaghetti and meatballs (from grassfed animals) with meatsauce and sprouted whole-grain Ezekiel pasta. Alternatives provided for those with wheat allergies.
Organic salad bar
Two or three selections of seasonal fresh fruit such as organic grapefruit, pears, and apples
Thursday – Grass-fed, organic hot dogs on sprouted grain buns
Boiled pasture-raised chicken eggs
Hearty vegetable soup with organic vegetables and
Organic salad bar
Two or three selections of seasonal fresh fruit such as raspberries or blackberries and grapes
Friday – Fancy fried rice with brown rice, choice of free-range organic chicken or pork, organic carrots, peas, mushrooms, onions, organic free-range eggs, bell peppers, and bok choy.
Organic salad bar
Two or three selections of seasonal fresh fruit such as organic pineapple, oranges, and kiwi

What’s that, you say…we’d have to raise taxes substantially to accommodate this? Perhaps, perhaps not. It would really depend on how the program was set up. Local foods should cost less than those shipped all over the country. But if taxes were raised, I cannot think of a better cause than investing in the health of the people who will be running the world someday. This is an extreme problem contributing to the downfall of our health, and an extreme problem requires extreme action. A return to truly healthy, slow foods is at the epicenter of answers to our health crisis.

What could be better than reducing the amount spent on pharmaceuticals, hospital fees, and doctor bills in this country – especially by starting at the ground level which is in our schools where the children are? Think of the savings in health and insurance costs alone due to a regularly consumed, healthy lunch. It may seem insignificant, but the effect would actually be enormous given the amount of children who eat school lunches and the frequency of which these meals are served.

Compare the first school lunch menu in this article to the one shown above with local, organic, and chemical-free alternatives. When you live a healthier lifestyle, you are not burdening health care and insurance systems as heavily, and therefore are not contributing to those rising costs. It is also very important to place children in an environment where they are offered and educated about real choices in health and healthy food. If everyone made the effort, we could institute healthier lunches for our children, a sound investment for the future.

For more information on how you can change the future of school lunches, visit the following sites:
The Food Museum – great discussions on slow food and school lunch reform
Lunch Lessons with Chef Ann Cooper – an activist who is definitely on the right track in altering the face of school lunch environments, one school at a time. Get on the bandwagon!
Suggested reading on this topic: The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children by Carol Simmontachi, CCN (Certified Clinical Nutritionist)