Tag Archives: dining out

The Big Banjo

22 Feb

Eating in restaurants is a much larger part of the american lifestyle in 2015 than when I was young.  Being one of five kids in a big catholic family, it was a feat to not only get us all out, but surely it was a budget buster too.  Good thing we had the Big Banjo just a short car ride away.  When I was little, going out to the Big Banjo for pizza was a big treat.  Families lined up on picnic bench seating while old black and white films showed on the back wall.

When the movies stopped, words to sing-a-long songs appeared on the screen, and we would sing old favorites like Take Me Out to the Ball Game.  Big Banjo was a blast.  The kids got pizza and soda pop, a big treat, and the parents got a pitcher of beer with all of the other parents because, after all, it was Friday night.  The restaurant was always packed.

The Big Banjo.  A Friday night favorite for my family when I was a kid.  This picture does NOT include my parents huge evergreen colored Oldsmobile Delta 88 parked out front...

The Big Banjo. A Friday night favorite for my family when I was a kid. This picture does NOT include my parents huge evergreen colored Oldsmobile Delta 88 parked out front…

(photo Courtesy of Jean Turley)

Family restaurants are a little more sophisticated these days, and it just isn’t the big family event to dine out like it was 15 or twenty years ago.  A generation ago about 25% of the family food budget went toward eating out, and now that number has more than doubled.  Since families dine out more, it isn’t the “splurge” it was years ago.  Today when a family dines out, healthier options are available.   How do we eat healthier when we eat out?  Lets talk about that.

Healthy choices now abound at restaurants.  Here are a few tips to remember when dining out:

  • Order your protein steamed or baked instead of fried.
  • Make water your beverage of choice.
  • Ask for salad dressing on the side.  You tend to use less dressing when you dip.
  • Have tomato sauce over cream sauce.
  • Eat slowly.  Set your fork down between bites and sip your water.
  • Order veggies as a side dish with your meal.  If you are getting pizza, leave the meat off of it.

Even a small change can make a big difference toward healthy lower calorie dining options.  Do it for yourself, and be a good example to others.  At Big Banjo, we splurged with our food.  Now, eating out as a family happens more frequently, so choosing more nutrient dense food is important and getting easier at restaurants.  .

My beloved Big Banjo is long gone.  You can still find restaurants that are a splurge with the food.  But for a family, dining out is a regular event these days.  So make good choices.  What changes can you make with your family?




19 Jun

Nope. Not that one. The CIA, to a foodie like me, always means the Culinary Institute of America. I have been to the CIA in San Francisco, and it is a beautiful facility. A truly magical place to learn, cook, and dine.

As you can imagine, since they train chefs, the CIA supports dining out. I like to dine out in moderation, choosing to eat in most often because of health and budget concerns. I feel that it is usually a healthier option to cook your own food, and there is no way my budget could support eating out multiple times a week. So when I dine out, it needs to count!  I want good fresh “farm to table” meals.

Greg Dreshcer of the CIA recently spoke about the american budget and eating out. He said “Consider these statistics from our annual report: In 1980, only 15% of a family’s food budget went to food from outside the home. Restaurants were primarily for special occasions, and restaurant industry sales were just below $120 billion”.

I can certainly comment on that. In 1980 I was one of 5 kids in my family, but 2 of my brothers were already out of the house. When I went out with my parents and the other kids, it was a special occasion for sure. When we did go out for dinner, my folks could not often  afford to take us out for fine dining. We usually to the local VFW hall for a Friday night fish fry during Lent. (It doesn’t get more midwestern and catholic than that!). I would say that the 15% referred to probably reflected my family at the time.

Mr. Drescher goes on to say “Today, 47% of American food dollars are being spent on restaurants and other food service operations: The industry’s sales have soared to $660 billion”. Wow! That is a huge number! Almost half of our food dollars go out the door. As I said, I enjoy dining out, but for my family, it is, like it was for me as a kid, a special occasion. But the dollar amount wasn’t really the focus of Mr. Drescher. The good news is that restaurants and chefs are now responding to a plea for healthier restaurant meals. Yay!

The consumers can really make a dent in good food choices offered at restaurants. If the consumer becomes a bit of a squeaky wheel, we can really make a difference in healthier food choices while dining out. That is our challenge for today. Start questioning the dining staff at restaurants and gently demanding healthier options. If half of our food dollars are going out the door, then we have a voice. Make it heard!  Encourage and support your local chefs that are featuring healthy food on their menus!  If they are getting 47% of our food dollars, then speak up.