Dining Out After COVID-19

If you’re like most Americans, then you're probably itching to get out again and eat at your favorite restaurants. Cooking all your meals at home can be a lot of work! Before COVID-19, the typical American adult was getting 1 of every 5 calories from a restaurant! The quality of those calories were not good. 

A new study by researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University published in The Journal of Nutrition looked at the dietary selections of more than 35,000 adults from 2003 to 2016 who dined at full-service or fast-food restaurants.

The team of researchers found the nutritional quality eating out at fast food and full-service restaurants (i.e. those with a wait staff) were EXTREMELY POOR.  A whopping 70-75% of the meals Americans consumed from fast food restaurants, and 50% of the meals consumed at sit-down restaurants are of poor dietary quality. Most notably, they found that less than 0.1% – almost none – of all the restaurant meals consumed over the study period were of “ideal” quality.

What does this tell us? Dining out is a recipe for unhealthy eating all of the time. The nutritional quality of both full-service and fast-food restaurant meals hasn’t changed much in the past few decades. 

The onus to improve the nutritional quality should be a priority for consumers since clearly, lawmakers, full-service and fast-food restaurants are not going to be leading the way nor are incentivized to do so. 

Reducing disparities so that all Americans can enjoy the pleasure and convenience of a meal out that is good for them is critical. The average quality of fast-food meals consumed by non-Hispanic whites and Mexican-Americans have slightly improved. There has been no change in the average quality of fast-food meals consumed by non-Hispanic blacks. At the same time, the proportion of poor-quality fast-food meals decreased from 74 to 60% from 2003 to 2016 for college graduates, but remained at 76% for people without a high school diploma.

Americans’ reliance on restaurants during the 2003-2016 study period also demonstrated the following: 

Consuming empty calories with an abundance of salt, sugar, and little to no nutrition at most meals is setting the stage for chronic disease starting early in life since children adapt similar eating habits as their parents. It also sets the stage for a compromised immune system and increased risk of catching recurrent infections. This correlates with what I see clinically. 


Doctor's Advice:

The largest opportunity we have to enhance the nutritional quality of our food and overall health is taking back control of what we choose to eat and how we prepare our meals.  Embracing cooking as not a chore, but finding easy ways to have a mix of raw vs. cooked veggies is a game changer to being nutritionally balanced.  Add a mix of whole ancient grains (i.e. oats, millet, amaranth, quinoa), small beans, and mushrooms into your daily diet. 

Dr. Bhandari and the Advanced Health Team Are Here to Support Your Health.

Our expert team of integrative holistic practitioners work with patients suffering from chronic health concerns.  We take the extra step to understand the root cause and how to optimize every organ’s functioning.  By better understanding how your environment directly fits into your overall well-being, we create personalized treatment plans which drive away sickness. To learn more and book an appointment, contact Advanced Health or call 1-415-506-9393.


Liu, J., Rehm, C.D., Micha, R., & Mozaffarian, D. (2020). Quality of meals consumed by US adults at full-service and fast-food restaurants, 2003-2016: Persistent low quality and widening disparities. The Journal of Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxz299


Payal Bhandari M.D. Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is one of U.S.'s top leading integrative functional medical physicians and the founder of San Francisco' top ranked medical center, SF Advanced Health. Her well-experienced holistic healthcare team collaborates together to deliver whole-person personalized care and combines the best in Western and Eastern medicine. By being an expert of cell function, Dr. Bhandari defines the root cause of illness and is able to subside any disease within weeks to months. She specializes in cancer prevention and reversal, digestive & autoimmune disorders. Dr. Bhandari received her Bachelor of Arts degree in biology in 1997 and Doctor of Medicine degree in 2001 from West Virginia University. She the completed her Family Medicine residency in 2004 from the University of Massachusetts and joined a family medicine practice in 2005 which was eventually nationally recognized as San Francisco’s 1st patient-centered medical home. To learn more, go to www.sfadvancedhealth.com.

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