Dining In vs. Dining Out from a Health Perspective



Ben Guo, Gabelli School of Business at Lincoln Center ’21 usually eats out about twice a day four to five times a week.


It’s Friday night. You’re planning to stay in, and you’re about to choose a movie to watch when your phone dings. It’s a text from your best friend: “Want to grab food?”

You recognize that this is a loaded question. From a health standpoint to the cost and everything in between, there are so many factors to consider. What do you do?

According to nutrition writer Rachel Gussin via livestrong.com, one area in which home-cooked eating beats dining out is portion control. Many restaurants tend to dish out portions way larger than needed, and if one cooks at home, it’s much easier to lay out exactly how much one plans to eat in order to avoid overeating.

Additionally, the same is true in terms of what goes in one’s food: if you’re the one making the food, you know what’s in it — and what’s not. This can be a bit more difficult to determine when you dine at a restaurant, and unexpected ingredients like added sugar are often snuck into dishes without the diner ever knowing.

Beyond just physical health, dining out frequently can hit your wallet hard, wrote trainer Joseph McAllister. He stated that “few restaurant dishes are cheaper to buy rather than to make at home,” even when it comes to fast food. As such, cooking food at home may be a better option for those trying to save money.

Many experts such as health writer Paula Martinac point to the convenience factor of dining out as to where it becomes less healthy. When looking for a quick and easy meal, diners are “17 percent more likely to purchase unhealthy fast food.” This is particularly relevant for busy students trying to maximize their productivity and efficiency.

Fordham student Ben Guo, Gabelli School of Business at Lincoln Center ’21,  says that he eats out often, about twice a day, 4-5 days a week, and cites the speed of ordering takeout as the reason for this. “I usually have long days at work,” Guo says, “and if you add the time of making food, prepping, and cooking, it’s way more time than I’m willing to spend.” Most restaurants offer a variety of healthier menu items, but when prioritizing speed and ease, Martinac notes that few people choose these.

However, dining out is not just about the food itself. It’s also about the experience and, as an instrumental part of social life, provides a greater opportunity to connect with others and try new things. Guo says that when he’s not doing it to save time, his favorite part of going out to eat is “the ability to try new cuisines with friends and the fact that it’s a time of relaxation where we can catch up.” For this reason, it would be a huge loss, not to mention unrealistic, to avoid dining out altogether.

In terms of Fordham’s campus dining options, if health is a concern, choosing places with self-serve bars such as Ram Cafe and the Community Dining Hall can make it easier to monitor factors like how much you eat and the nutritional value of your food. 

So how can one dine out in a healthier way? Martinac suggests saving it for special occasions, which allows individuals to eat food more mindfully and better enjoy every aspect of the experience. She also suggests taking the health of menu items into consideration when deciding where to eat. It’s also important to be intentional about how much you plan to eat, and Gussin even recommends ordering half of one’s meal to go as a means of portion control.

Whether you choose to dine in or out, it’s important to stay mindful about the food you’re eating. Not all food contains the same nutritional value. Striking a balance between treating yourself to a meal out and finding a few recipes you like to cook at home is important when it comes to knowing what you’re putting into your body without breaking the bank.