I have a theory that fine dining may actually be a healthy way to eat out. Considering that you eat slower and have smaller portions, the meal contains a variety of food groups, the meal is often paired with wine, and you unwind with friends which releases dopamine, it seems to be a healthy night out. I could not find an article that describes health benefits of fine dining itself, however, I could find articles to support my points individually.
Eating slower, smaller portions: When I go out to a Casey’s or an Eastside Mario’s, I often leave the restaurant wanting to roll to my car. I am stuffed to the point of being uncomfortable and the meal was usually not fantastic by any means. Whenever I leave a finely dined dinner I feel comfortable full. This is ironic considering these meals tend to be at least three courses.
The trick is in the portion sizes.
It is no secret that portion sizes these days are far too large. A study by the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention showed that people will eat more of their meal if the portion size is bigger (7). Eating too much can cause people to consume excess calories which can lead to weight gain.
There is also often a pause between courses, allowing some digestion to begin and as well as the feeling of satiety to kick in as you’re full as opposed to when you’re past full.
Variety: It is reiterated over and over again in the media as well as all my nutrition classes: eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is very important in maintaining a healthy diet and obtaining all the essential nutrients. Fine dining courses have a variety of different coloured vegetables and often different or rarer vegetable choices.
Wine. Need I say more? There has been so much research done on the antioxidant properties of wine. The polyphenols found in the skins of the grapes can help to raise HDL (good cholesterol) and lower LDL (bad cholesterol). They also “inhibit endothelial adhesion…” (De Caterina, et al, 2003)(8), which leads to heart health and decreased atherosclerosis (the hardening of artery walls). A study in Denmark also suggested that wine drinking was “a general indication of high social, cognitive, and personality development.” (9). (yay for vino enthusiasts! 😀 )
Being With Friends: Serotonin and dopamine are the ‘happy’ neurotransmitters released when you experience a feeling of joy; for example, when you have dinner with friends. Increased serotonin can also lead to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (10).
The Mediterranean diet is said to be the healthiest diet in the world, indicating some of the lowest rates of heart disease. Food choices aside, the style of eating in the Mediterranean is similar to that of fine dining. A meal is enjoyed over a long period of time and is filled with an abundance of food groups and a glass of wine. Friends of mine who used to live in Italy described the Italian lunch ‘hour’ as the city shutting down from about 1-4pm. People go home, have a lovely meal, and then head back and work until 7.