What can you gain from taking a no-restaurant challenge? That may seem pretty obvious in the age of COVID-19 and the coronavirus, but one day the current lockdown will end, restaurants will re-open for dine-in visits, and the age of all-carryout / all-delivery restrictions will end.
In the meantime, plenty of people are relying heavily on delivery and take-out orders. When you think about going restaurant-free to take this challenge, it’s easy to forget about delivery and carry out, but these are also part of the game.
What are the benefits of a no-restaurant challenge? The basic idea behind this “game” is to simply pick a span of time–a week, a month, 90 days, or even longer, and take control of your own food prep, cut your spending on restaurant food to nothing, and observe your financial and physical well-being as a result.
A lot of people focus on the economics of eating out, getting delivery, etc. But that’s the most obvious factor. Yes, the money you spend on delivery including tips, processing fees, and the inevitable food markup (compare how much it costs to make a pizza at home compared to having one delivered) can be used in other areas of your budget.
But what about the factor that doesn’t get such attention? Yes, I am talking about all that added butter, sodium, and cooking grease you get from restaurant food. How much are you getting each serving? Do you know? Do you WANT to know? You might not want to look, but if you care about your health it is important to find out.
The hidden sugars, cholesterol, and saturated fat in your food doesn’t get listed on a label somewhere; you’re on your own to determine whether or not the carry-out meal you are eating is heart-healthy, or if you’re working against your own dietary goals.
And that doesn’t even take into consideration the calorie counts and portion sizes of restaurant food. The average fast-food meal has increased in size steadily over the years, some sources report Americans consuming “twice as many calories from restaurants than we did 30 years ago”.
The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics issued a report in 2019 that included observations of “…broadly detrimental changes in fast-food restaurant offerings over a 30-year span including increasing variety, portion size, energy, and sodium content.”
What can you gain from a no-restaurant challenge? That depends on how long you take the challenge for. The week-long challenge will show some gains for your budget if you play the game right, but if you want to get a really GOOD idea of how cutting out restaurant food will save you money and improve your overall health, you need to take a month or longer to settle into the habits and lifestyle that the challenge is designed to promote.
Remember that making big dietary changes in your life may require the help of your primary care provider; cutting out the restaurants is only half the job in this challenge.
You will need to replace your old food choices with healthier fare; the best way to do this is to get your doctor’s advice about how to make the jump and what to substitute that food with in the meantime.
It does no good to take a no-restaurant challenge if you don’t replace the food you were eating previously with healthier options. Talk to a nutritionist or your doctor before adding major exercise and dietary changes to your routine.
Joe Wallace specializes in personal finance, military affairs, and consumer protection topics. Since 1995, his work has appeared on Air Force Television News, The Pentagon Channel, ABC and a variety of print and online publications. He is a 13-year Air Force veteran and collects unusual vinyl records, which gives him an excuse to write the vinyl blog Turntabling.net.