Fast Food and Chain Restaurants- Can’t Afford Them

This Sunday in the New York Times, Sept 25,2011, Mark Bittman showed that it was not cheaper for a family to eat out at Fast Food places. And it also costs them in terms of calories, sodium, and the quality of food.  We want to expand that to not only fast food restaurants, but common chain restaurants.

Cooking at home is less expensive – less for food costs, less for calories, less for sodium.  Eating out at chain restaurants often have more calories than even fast food places – for example:

Most salads at TGIF’s are 1200 to 1500 calories.  That is as many calories as most individuals should have for an entire day!  One of the least calorie items there is their burger – at 800 calories, and can be split between two people.  Thankfully TGIF’s puts calories on their menu.  Not meaning to pick on TGIF’s – we have found the same looking through the menus of Applebees, Red Lobster, Rubios, Village Inn, and other chain restaurants.

Santa Fe Salad 1500 calories

Eating out at most chain restaurants is not avoiding calories, or getting better food quality than at Fast Food- in fact, the calories are more.

The bottom line: home economics – it is cheaper and healthier to learn to cook, and to learn to cook at home. We have lots of recipes, and techniques to help you (cook book coming soon).

If you do want to eat out- there are some great restaurants that we highly recommend: not only does the food taste great, but it is prepared from fresh ingredients – and have fewer calories.  In Phoenix, Tarbell’s, in New York any of the restaurants by Gordon Ramsay, Thomas Keller, Bobby Flay, or Morimoto.

Food made fresh is great. Like Ramsay demands

For many the issue comes down to cooking. Cooking at home is daunting for some individuals – they never learned it, they think it is difficult, and we have lost an entire generation of people who cook. There are now five fast food places for every supermarket. So what causes people to not eat at home:

(a) Time – hard to imagine this one. As a busy surgeon I have the time to cook for myself and my family. It is a lovely hobby, and when I go home I like to get into shorts, flip-flops, and relax cooking making a great meal.

(b) Cooking skill – this is not a difficult but it is thought of as difficult. We spend a great deal of time teaching our patients to cook (we do weight loss surgery). Our recipes, videos are all designed to show that it takes less effort to cook than one can imagine.

(c) Perceived food costs – we have fixed that myth. It really costs more to eat out, than eat at home

Some blame the effective job of marketing that chain restaurants and fast food places have done. But, we are not robots- and those who wish to improve their health, will learn to cook. Most simply need to know that cooking is a great hobby. For the single men, let me quote you from my favorite dating expert, “If you cook dinner for your date, be careful, you will probably end up cooking breakfast.”

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit

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