Dining Out: How to Survive The Experience

My favorite pasttime used to be going out to dinner.  However, I wasn’t into health and nutrition as I am today.  I never gave a thought to the qualitity of the food or its nutritional value.  I was just like most folks who eat for the gastronomical pleasure.  I loved dining out, because it gave me a reprieve from standing over a hot stove – and the usual daily clean-up process after the meal.  Any chance I got, I took the opportunity to dine out.

A change in my consciousness took many years, before I realized there was a very strong correlation between the foods I was ingesting and my poor health.  When we dined out, I seemed to lose control of my appetite.  I finally learned, if foods have little nutritional value, the appestate keeps telling you to eat more, as cooked foods have little nutrient value.  Every time I ate out, the scale went up. I didn’t know restaurants don’t always buy the highest quality fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, fish or chicken. Many restaurants economize in order to make a profit. They depend on their chefs to doctor up the foods and flavor-enhance them with spices and other ingredients.

Years ago, people didn’t worry about hormones, antibiotics, or genetically-engineered food. Today it is a whole different ballgame. It is a veritable mine-field; the experience of dining out. You could be getting far more than you bargained for, when you go to just any restaurant. Yes, you can still dine out, but you better be aware of the pitfalls or you could pay dearly for the experience.

One of the things which really opened my eyes was the slow death of a beloved uncle. His last seven years were spent in a chair or bed being fed through a tube in his stomach. I had been into the study of nutrition for 21 years, when he first got ill, about the time I opened my holistic center in 1982. I was a total vegetarian at the time and my extended family were traditional eaters. Of course, they weren’t interested in changing their diets. As the years moved along with my uncle getting worse and worse, I suggested ways to feed him that would improve his health, but it fell on deaf ears. The food that he was being given by his doctor was jarred processed baby food. It had no enzymes and very little nutrient value.  His condition, became worse and worse…and I was not permitted to change his diet. It gave me a great deal of food for thought, because it brought me to the realization that his former lifestyle had created this health disaster.

My uncle had traveled all over the world dining in the finest restaurants. This wasn’t just occasionally…it was regularly. He rarely ate at home, as he loved the social aspect of dining out.   He had no realization that the warming tables in restaurants robbed the food of nutrients as it sat there. He ate all kinds of meat, fish , poultry, dairy and eggs abundantly. He happened to be a Taurus who loved to eat…and it was one of his joys in life. He had no idea that his lifestyle would ruin his future health. He wasn’t overweight, so he didn’t give a thought to his diet. Now his wife, my aunt, was far different. In order to stay slender, she went by the adage, “A moment on the lips; an eternity on the hips.” She did not eat the same way her husband did. She ate out as often, but she didn’t touch the bread, butter or desserts. Salads, skin-less chicken and lean fish were her mainstay. She avoided starchy foods, like potatoes. Her husband died at 80 and she lived until she was 97-½; ballroom-dancing and playing golf to the end.

Fifty years ago, hormones started being used to increase the weight of cattle These hormones did something unexpected, they threw the human body out of balance. McDonald’s and others use millions of tons of beef.    These synthetic hormones are prevalent in the beef that is going into all those hamburgers worldwide. Hormones are causing weight problems to spring up – where they have never existed before. When my son was young back in the late eighties, I let him eat at McDonalds and I let him eat at other restaurants. I knew he would resent me, if I didn’t let him eat there; as all his friends ate there. However, he would get devastating headaches, after eating out. Some were so bad, he said that he wanted to die. Of his own accord, he came to a parting of the way with McDonalds and Pizza restaurants. He totally gave up dairy, because of his deadly headaches from eating pizza. Hormones aren’t the only deadly substances in the meat and cheese; they are loaded with fat and sodium. They cause headaches and other health problems, too.

Fast food restaurants are notorious for their low quality foods. In order to survive they buy the cheapest foods available. They are doctored up with many unhealthy ingredients to hook consumers. Our whole society would change, if these restaurants were given ratings for the quality of their foods. It isn’t just a matter of cleanliness; the rating should be given on the nutrient value of the foods that are being offered. There is little nutrient value in fatty hamburgers (mainly calories). There is no value in iceberg lettuce, a sliver of GE tomato, a sodium-rich pickle and cheese coming from a cow which has been fed GE food. This is a disaster, waiting to happen, when people eat in fast food restaurants.

High priced restaurants are often supplied by the same distributors that sell their foods to medium priced restaurants. Ambience more than food value creates the vast difference in price.  I find it very difficult to eat in most vegetarian restaurants; and it is worse in vegan. These restaurants think that all foods that are non-animal were designed for human consumption. If I had not done seventeen years of guided-consultations in order to learn – I would have thought the same thing. I have all of Dr. Walker’s books on nutrition. He was a vegetarian, but he didn’t know that many of the foods he recommended were not designed for human consumption. Not all fruits and all vegetables are for humans. People seem to forget that there are other species that need to eat, too. Each species has its own particular food(s). For one example, dates. I had thought of calling my book Dates are for Camels! Dates come from the Middle East and are the food of the camel, which went from oasis to oasis with the high calorie fuel in dates. Dates happen to be loaded with sugar; far too high for human consumption,

Eating out also exposes you to more than unhealthy food. Pathogens in some foods can cause a temporary upset stomach or even put you into the hospital with a serious illness; like a friend experienced. He ordered egg whites and they happened to be infected with a pathogen. They had not been cooked enough and he wound up in the hospital; nearly losing his life. It has taken him several years to recover. I would suggest reading A Practical Guide to avoiding and Surviving Food Borne Illness: It was probably Something you ate written by Nicols Fox. She has also written Spoiled: Why Our Food is Making Us Sick & What We Can Do About It. Both of these books were published by Penguin Books. Food handlers who are not healthy or those who fail to wash their hands can contaminate food, too. I do judge a restaurant by its bathroom facility. If it is not meticulous, I will not go back.

Many people are unaware that foods are coming into our country from all over the world and our food inspection facilities aren’t capable of inspecting all the imported food. Be aware, when ordering.
I used to love to try exotic foods, when I was young. I was fortunate that I didn’t dine out too often. Today with a far different level of awareness, I stick with the foods I have been guided to eat…and I stay healthy.

I’d love to dine out more, if there were restaurants serving the kind of organic food I eat.  I eat eggs, but vegan restaurants don’t serve them; and most vegetarian restaurants don’t serve organic eggs. I love spinach salads and don’t go for the trendy lettuces most restaurants serve. They don’t have nearly the nutritional value spinach has; even romaine is not close to the value of spinach. I don’t want candied walnuts or sliced apples in my vegetable salad. Years ago, there was a great restaurant near Valley College in North Hollywood called Our Contribution. It was owned by one of the cast members of the TV show Mash. Many of the cast dined there frequently. I ate there several times a week. It had the greatest salads which came in quart sized bowls. I was devastated, when it closed.

There was another wonderful restaurant called The Golden Temple, which was located just a block away from the world famous Farmer’s Market at Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. The Golden Temple was managed by Sikhs who prayed over the food as they prepared ir. They had a nice salad bar with all kinds of healthy vegetables. I believe they grew them, too. I went there frequently in the early eighties. It too eventually closed. It is very difficult to find high caliber restaurants with decent prices. I never experienced any kind of a problem eating at these restaurants, even though all their produce was raw.

Today raw food can carry salmonella, so one has to avoid going to just any restaurant. It is very important to know the reputation of the restaurant or ask people who have eaten there.
One of my sons loves raw sushi…and he was fortunate to find a restaurant that had a sterling reputation. He took me there once…and I had some salmon…no rice. I do like raw salmon occasionally, as this is the way bears eat it…and they don’t get sick.

Last week I went to a very special Bat Mitzvah dinner for a cousin’s daughter who was celebrating her thirteen birthday. It was held at a lovely restaurant with windows that overlooked the Pacific Ocean in Malibu. I started with some raw sushi…and avocado. I don’t usually eat breaded shrimp, but someone said, “Try one.“ I did, as I didn‘t want to refuse, but I don’t like breaded food. I didn’t try any other hors d’oeuvres. By the time dinner came I was ravenous…and ate things that weren’t on my food program like breaded fish, mashed potatoes and vegetables such as red peppers, etc. I also ate the green salad which had dressing on it. When the dessert came, I kept on going. I not only finished my dessert, I finished my daughters. She had eaten a dessert while visiting at another table. It was enjoyable visiting with relatives and friends I had not seen in years, but I paid afterwards for throwing caution to the wind as far as my diet was concerned,

The following morning, when I woke up, I did not feel like my usual self.  My energy was almost non-existent. I felt lethargic and under the weather. My nose started to run and my eyes were very bleary.  My morning routine involves getting weighed as it keeps me on the straight and narrow. I was shocked, when I got on the scale, because I had gained 3-1/2 pounds. How was this possible?, I didn’t think I ate that much.. When I saw this weight gain, I made a vow to stick with my Perfect Foods from now on. Now it is five days later and I am still not back down to the weight I was, before the dinner. I did take off 2-½ lbs in the past five days, but it is far easier to gain weight than to take it off. I finally had achieved a weight, where I have always wanted to be…and I am determined not to regain one pound. This is the other bad part about eating out. It isn’t easy resisting food, when everybody else is sitting there enjoying it.

For thirty five years I have belonged to The Book Publicists, a group, which holds dinner meetings at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City.  For years, I paid for the dinner, but didn’t eat it as it wasn’t food I normally ate. When the price jumped to almost $30…I started joining the other diners at the buffet. I avoided the salads, because they had too many questionable ingredients in them. I don’t eat pasta and many other foods. I usually just eat some fish, but the dessert table drew me with its yummy concoctions. I also drank coffee with half and half. The morning after the meetings, I would get on the scale and had gained a pound and a half, so I stopped indulging after this happened a few times. Now, I stick to the fish, bring my own hemp milk and stevia for the coffee…and manage to keep my weight stable. I just pretend the dessert table doesn’t exist. I also put the thought in my mind of a scull and crossbones. Who knows how many GMO ingredients are in those desserts? Genetically modified ingredients can cause major gastronomical problems in the human body. They are in most foods in this country and are difficult to avoid.

For awhile I was going to Starbucks fairly regularly to socialize with friends. However, I noticed that after I drank a chai latte my nose started running and my sinuses really started acting up  It is a shame Starbucks can’t use Hemp Milk (without carrageenan) instead of dairy, because dairy cattle are also fed GE foods – and this along with all the animal hormones in dairy; throws the human body out of balance and creates mucous. I don’t enjoy black coffee, but I do love coffee with hemp milk in it…and have one cup daily made with I large teaspoon of instant coffee and 14 ounces of water. It is a very satisfying drink and helps me keep hydrated.

I am always looking for restaurants that would be on a par with or better than Our Contribution or the Golden Temple. In the past I had thought about opening a restaurant, but it would not be very good for my health
 am a Pisces with Taurus rising and love to eat. The only way I can control my appetite is by avoiding the wrong foods. . My granddaughter loves the foods I prepare for her and many others have told me over the years I should open a restaurant, but I don’t want  the temptation of being around food too much. . If you know of any restaurants that serves organic spinach salads with organic vegetables or possibly certified organic eggs in the Los Angeles area, please let me know. It would be fun to eat out more often.

Healthfully Yours,

Barbara Charis

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