Take-out food can be a quick and easy alternative to cooking at home after a stressful day or when pressed for time. Though convenient, take-out has several drawbacks that could make you opt to cook at home instead of order out.
Food-borne illness. Because you have no way of knowing when food was cooked if ordering online or by phone, you can’t be sure how long it’s been sitting under heated lamps or in a take-out bag on the counter. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends avoiding food-borne illnesses by abiding by the two-hour rule. Food should be eaten within two hours of being cooked. If food is not able to be eaten before then, refrigerate or freeze to prevent germs from growing and making you sick. After factoring in travel time to and from the restaurant and not knowing for sure when your food was cooked, your window of safe consumption is very small when getting take-out.
Hidden ingredients. Restaurants aren’t required by law to disclose what ingredients they use in their dishes. If you don’t explicitly ask what’s in the food you’re bringing home, and even when you do, you may not get the full picture of what you’re eating. Foods that can be billed as “healthy” can actually be cooked in oils with saturated fats or contain hidden ingredients, like extra sodium or processed chemicals, that can be detrimental to your health.
Portion control. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average meal’s portion size has increased significantly since the 1970s. Studies published in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet indicate that increased portion sizes at restaurants not only promote the consumption of more calories, but also that the 75 percent increase in number of restaurants and food establishments in the United States since 1977 leads to far more Americans eating take-out. These habits can lead to weight gain and a general deterioration of good health if eating take-out is a frequent habit.
Environmental effects. The gas spent going to and from the restaurant, the Styrofoam and non-recyclable packaging, and the styrene that could potentially contaminate your food all have unseen environmental and health consequences. Styrene, used in Styrofoam packaging and some plastics and resins, has been labeled by the National Toxicology Program as possibly carcinogenic in humans, and exposure to things containing it should be minimized. Cooking at home is by far the best way to not only get a healthy meal, but also to protect the environment.