Eating out is a wonderful way to bond with your loved ones over a meal. It’s a time to dress smart, push your culinary boundaries, and eat food that makes you feel alive.
It’s little wonder that dining out has fantastic mental and physical benefits. When dining out, it’s easy to choose healthy options that are listed on menus. Likewise, eating out and socializing with friends can help you burn off some stress after a busy day at work or at home.
So, let someone else do the dishes, and reap the rewards of dining out.
Healthy Eating Out
Most people associate eating out with big portions and chefs that use shocking amounts of butter, salt, and sugar in their recipes. However, truly good food doesn’t always need the “bad stuff” to produce flavors that excite.
There are plenty of ways for you to eat healthier while you’re out. For example, you can opt for dishes that rely heavily on vegetables and swap alcohol for teas and coffee. This will keep the calorie count of your favorite dishes relatively low, as tea and greens are less energy dense than meat-based dishes or beer.
Eating healthy food while you’re dining out can carry over into your home life, too. Discovering a healthy dish you love in a restaurant can inspire you to reproduce the dish when you get home. Nothing is stopping you from buying the supplies you need at the grocery store and cooking up fresh thyme salad or fatteh served in eggplant, just as they do in Tarik el Nahel.
Connecting with Loved Ones
The dinner table is a sacred place for many families. But, as we all live busy lives, it may be hard to get everyone around the table to share a meal and catch up with one another.
Opting to eat out can strengthen your familial bonds. Setting a date for a dinner in town may draw family members you haven’t seen in some time to the table, as everyone loves eating good food (especially when they don’t have to do the dishes afterward!)
Before booking dinner for your family, check that the restaurant you plan to visit allows children. The laws concerning banning children from restaurants are a little hazy, but some restaurants are simply not child friendly.
Connecting with loved ones over a shared appreciation of food can also help you overcome social isolation. This is particularly important if you’re experiencing a pandemic-induced slump and need a little extra support to start feeling better.
Meeting New People
The COVID-19 pandemic strained our social bonds and made it difficult to connect with new people. Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Kruti Patel explains that this isolation may have had a knock-on impact on our mental health. Patel says that we all suffered increased “stress around isolation and loneliness as we stayed longer in quarantine.”
Overcoming the stress and anxiety you may have picked up during the pandemic is challenging. However, Dr. Patel recommends that you “reach out to friends, do what you feel you need to do, or seek therapy.” Dining out won’t cure you of anxiety, but it might be a productive step in the right direction.
If you're nervous about meeting new people through a shared love of food, consider joining organizations and online groups in your area. A quick search online for “Pizza lovers in New York” or “Greek food community in L.A.” will yield plenty of results and help you connect with folks who share your passion for food and socialization.
Rediscover Your Roots
Food and identity are integrally tied. The food you choose to put on your plate may say a lot about who you are and your personal journey. It’s easy to feel disconnected from your culture when you’re constantly living on sandwiches and takeout.
By eating out, you can rediscover your roots and find a new appreciation for the food that your family and relations have always enjoyed. Trying new foods can also broaden your horizons and help you live with a greater appreciation for other cultures and their food traditions.
When traveling, eating food that reminds you of home can be a meaningful tonic for homesickness. A spicy Madras or a rich Moussaka might be just what you need to lift your spirits and give you a small mental health boost at the end of the day.
Dining out offers many mental and physical health benefits. It’s easy to reconnect with friends and family over delicious meals that are healthy and nutritious. If you’re feeling a little homesick, visiting a restaurant that serves food from your home may be a good way to lift your spirits and connect with people who share similar cultural bonds to yourself. Just remember, “you are what you eat” so skip the fast food and opt for healthy dishes that help you discover new ideas and reconnect with your roots.