Here’s How Much Cooking Oil Restaurants Really Use In Your Food

Restaurant meals

Duck confit with vegetables | Milkos/Getty Images

Cooking at home, avoiding fast food, and cutting processed items out of your diet are surefire ways to lose weight and stay on track of eating healthy. But where do your favorite restaurants fall on the scale of terrible dinner choice to healthy option?

It turns out the answer is in the grease. A restaurants’ main goal is to deliver delicious food to you, offer a great dining experience, and make a profit … so they don’t always use the healthiest or more pricey options to cook your food.

Most restaurants cook your food in soybean oil or plain butter

It’s simply the cheapest option. The same way you head to Costco to buy your favorite cereal in bulk, restaurants get bulk shipments of the ingredients they need — including a 35-pound plastic container of soybean or canola oil for cooking.

A former waiter revealed the truth about restaurant cooking, warning readers to ask their waiters what oil was in their food “if you dare.”  The reason they don’t use good oils (even if they’re a locally sourcing restaurant, I checked)?

“… they can’t. It’s just not cost efficient because they use so much of them. They use these oils in all their sauces. They use them in their salad dressings. They use them on their grills, saute pans and sandwich presses to keep food from sticking. They usually coat their meats with them right before they put them on heating surfaces as well. Simply put, they use A LOT of these oils,” the anonymous waiter told Fearless Eating.

Watch out for copious butter use at restaurants as well, even the “gourmet” spots. While they aren’t using the vats of grease a fast food restaurant would, they’re sauteeing, saucing, and creating reductions with plenty of butter. “You definitely get more fat eating out,” John Doherty, executive chef of the Waldorf-Astoria, told the New York Post. “Most people don’t make sauces at home.”

Gray Kunz, a former head chef at Lespinasse, relayed the concerning amount of butter in dishes as healthy as green beans and fat-saturated as a puff pastry. “Julia Child told us years ago that we’d never be able to replace butter,” Kunz conceded, “If you knew how much butter goes into a risotto dish, you’d probably never eat it again.”

Grilled Salmon

Even your healthy fish may be cooked in butter and fats. | Gbh007/iStock/Getty Images

Restaurant foods are unhealthy for other reasons

Like hidden salts and sugars and fatty meat. Ordering a “lean” chicken dish with a side of veggies may seem like a safe option while dining out, but the condiments are often high in sugar and the veggies cooked in butter. Choosing a salad? Think again before deeming that your healthiest option. Salad dressings, dried fruit toppings, and the restaurant meat can make your green dinner as sodium-filled as a side of french fries.

You likely choose a lean blend of ground beef at the grocery store for your hamburgers or meatballs. However, restaurants value flavor over health and a cut of meat high in fat is a surefire way to make your meal tastier, Men’s Health reported. A restaurant burger could have an alarming 30% or higher fat content and is likely served on a white or brioche bun to boot.

Nutritionists want Americans to dine out less and cook more

Research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that restaurant meals, compared to meals prepared and eaten at home, are linked to increased fat, saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol, and calorie consumption. It also discovered that some sit-down restaurants add more sodium and cholesterol than fast food outlets do.

The study found that eating at traditional restaurants added around 58 mg of cholesterol and 412 mg of sodium to a person’s daily intake compared to cooking at home. Switching from home-cooked to fast food meals added only 10 mg of cholesterol and 287 mg of sodium.

The study concluded a “holistic policy intervention is warranted to target the American’s overall dining-out behavior rather than fast-food consumption alone.” If you don’t already, start asking what’s in your meals at restaurants — and be wary of vague answers. If menus offer a “lighter menu,” it’s generally a safer place to find low-sodium options than the regular menu.

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