It was pretty late that night when I decided to eat somewhere on the way home. Most of the restaurants were shut and the ones that were open had no customers in them. I scanned the road looking for a restaurant and after five minutes I found a small shop near Velachery. The place resembled a cafe with a small outdoor seating and there were two guys, one at the billing counter and another one at the kitchen. They wore orange shirts, black aprons, and caps.
I was hungry and was ready to eat anything that was available. I parked my bike and went to the guy near the billing counter.
I asked, “Is the restaurant open?”
“Yes, sir. We’ll be closing in an hour.”
“What do you have?”
He gave me the menu. It was five pages (front and back), and it had everything right from Greek salad to Chicken Lasagne.
I pushed him back the menu and said “You must not be having everything. So, tell me the ones you have. I’ll order from that”
He smiled back and said “No sir. We have everything”
I was surprised to hear that reply. How a small, two-person restaurant can have all the 100+ items in the menu readily available. That too when they were about to close.
It was never the case when I was a kid. When you go late to a restaurant, the day’s special or the dish you love so much would’ve gotten over. For some reason, that made restaurants appealing. The uncertainty behind whether you would get to eat what you had craved made my days interesting as a kid.
But today, when you think of eating something, you can go and get it or get it delivered to you any time of the day.
You don’t have to pester your mom to make it for you or listen to your wife tell you how unhealthy it is. You don’t have to wait for a particular day when they serve the dish at your favorite restaurant. You can now simply order it from the other restaurant.
Due to the increase in orders and demand for all types of dishes, restaurants started using shortcuts to get your favorite dish to the table. The shortcuts include using ready-made meals, frozen meat, frozen seafood, and adding preservatives for longer shelf life.
They all taste the same
Have you ever had french fries or potato wedges in a restaurant? It tastes great. But, the problem is, it tastes the same in all the restaurants. No difference.
Today, the uniqueness of a restaurant only lies in its ambiance. All their food tastes the same. The french fries, sausages, pasta, fried chicken, milkshakes, burgers…anything! They all taste the same in all the places.
Almost every restaurant out there uses frozen, readymade food to make their dishes. And, most of them are procured from the same vendors. How else can restaurants serve everything on their menu even at 11:30 PM!
And, these frozen foods are slowly killing us.
Today, frozen food is a $306 billion dollar industry and is expected to grow at 4% (CAGR) every year. India alone consumed $78 billion worth of frozen food in 2018 and is expected to reach $188 billion by 2024.
And, a huge portion of these frozen foods is consumed by the restaurant industry.
Restaurants use frozen foods in order to cater to the large customer base (dine-in and online orders) within a short span of time. We can’t just blame it on the restaurant. We’re also partially responsible for this scenario. The idea of ‘instantly’ delivering what we want is making us more arrogant.
Most of us can’t even wait for 20 minutes for the food to come. We don’t worry or think about how a three-member or four-member restaurant crew would work on all orders. If we don’t get our order on time, we cancel the order and walk out. We get pissed off for not being treated properly and unleash the wrath on the restaurant by visiting the social media. So, to make things easy, restaurants use frozen foods and readymade meals to serve your order on time.
The use of frozen foods is not bad. But, some are more dangerous than you think.
What’s In There?
The number one ingredient in frozen foods is Sodium Chloride a.k.a Salt. Salt serves a dual purpose in frozen foods. It adds taste and also acts as a preservative. According to the American Heart Association, the consumption of sodium should not exceed the ideal limit of 1500mg per day.
But, an ideal meal from a fast-food chain (a burger + medium fries) roughly contains 750-800 mg of sodium. If you have more fries or a pack of chips, you would’ve had 1000 mg of sodium from one single meal. With three meals a day, you would easily cross the 1500 mg mark in no time. Result? The excess salt prevents the kidneys from processing the excess water in your body. The extra fluid in your body adds more strain to your blood vessels resulting in hypertension.
You might ask “so what?”
This eventually damages your kidneys, arteries leading up to the heart and deprives the brain of receiving oxygen. This article clearly tells what excess sodium does to your body.
Another important ingredient in frozen food is starch and high fructose corn syrup. Both add excess glucose to your food which is stored as glycogen/fat by your body. This results in increased weight gain, obesity and high risk of getting diabetes.
Apart from the above-mentioned ingredients, there are numerous other additives such as flavor enhancers, emulsifying agents, leavening agents, that find their way into your food. And, nobody – either the restaurant or the consumer know why they add it or what it does to your body. All we expect is for the food to reach our table or the doorstep on time.
Is there a solution?
Being in control is the only solution.
But, control is really hard in today’s world. As a society, we hang out more at restaurants and cafes. Sometimes we make plans to meet a long-forgotten friend at a buffet place and end up talking very little with all the eating. With cities rapidly losing public spaces like parks, people are being forced to hang out in places where they are tempted by all the food and beverage options that are readily available.
When was the last time you hung out in your friend’s place and ate something that was made at home! You either order a pizza or order something from a famous food delivery app. The trend is more prominent in today’s world and has alarming health hazards for the current generation.
The only way to minimize the risk is by being in control. Reduce the number of processed foods you have outside. Try to make your favorite food at home. Do it repeatedly and perfect the art of making that dish. If you’re eating out, eat at restaurants that do not use too much frozen food. A lot of restaurants do it. And, if you’re planning for a meetup at a friend’s place, try cooking together rather than just ordering and eating together. This way it is fun for everyone.
Also, disable notifications for your favorite food delivery app so that you don’t get notifications that tempt you to order outside.
In today’s world, eating right is hard. Let’s put our first step forward by taking control of our eating habits.