LiveWell Northwest Colorado: Value your dinner | SteamboatToday.com

LiveWell Northwest Colorado: Value your dinner

Barb Parnell/For Steamboat Today

Oh, the luxury of eating dinner out after a long day of work and school activities. The past two months I have shared some insights into the cost of eating breakfast and lunch value meals from fast food restaurants compared to preparing the meals yourself.

The conclusion was that eating out costs more than just money; it costs time and nutritional value. This last article in the series will help you understand the costs of eating dinner out.

Dinner is the third most important meal of the day; breakfast is the first and lunch is the second. Eating meals at home is on of the best ways for a healthy lifestyle.

Research shows that about 58 percent of the population eats out for dinner at least once a week. Typically, meals eaten out at restaurants will be at least 200 calories more than those eaten at home. They are also higher in fat, sugar and sodium. There is also that temptation to eat dessert and other foods not typically eaten at home when eating at a restaurant.

Compare for yourself the nutritional and financial costs of a restaurant meal versus one prepared at home.

Fast food restaurant dinner: 2 pieces fried chicken, biscuit, potato wedges, corn on cob; total calories, 1,000; total grams of fat, 45; total cost, $6.50.

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Prepared at home dinner: Baked chicken breast, oven-baked fries, corn on cob; total calories, 495; total grams of fat, 17: total cost, $3.

What if you made a "healthier" selection for your fast food dinner and choose two pieces of grilled chicken. There are about 300 calories and 11 grams of fat in this choice, while the fried option has 460 calories and 22 grams of fat.

The side choices and beverage selection can make a big difference in the amount of calories and fat that is consumed in a fast food restaurant meal.

A common concern about putting a meal on the table is that it takes too much time.

Putting a chicken in the oven to roast takes one minute to season and five seconds to put in the oven. Same with roasting the corn on the cob. Cutting up and seasoning the baked fries takes all of about 10 minutes. That’s less than 15 minutes work time to make a fantastic dinner. You might stand in line that long at a fast food restaurant.

Another nutritional cost of eating a fast food dinner is that the meal usually comes with one serving of vegetables — french fries.

5210 reminds you to eat five servings (i.e., cups/handfuls) of fruit and vegetables each day. So, whether you compare price, time or nutrition, preparing a healthy dinner at home wins hands down.

Barb Parnell is coordinator for LiveWell Northwest Colorado.