Ask Amelia Food Myths Nutrition

Why Do Vegetables at Restaurants Taste So Good?

roasted brussels sprouts

Have you ever wondered why you LOVE the Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, or fennel at restaurants but can barely gag these veggies down at home?

The answer to this wonder can be summed up in just 2 words: Bacon Fat.

It’s true.  Many restaurants roast or pan-fry their vegetable side dishes in bacon, butter, or other animal fat – or a mixture of these.  Why?  Because it makes veggies taste richer, more flavorful, and saltier than they would if you cooked them at home, which encourages you and other customers to keep coming back for more.

Is it really that simple?  Yes.  Chefs are not magicians.  They just use whatever they must to make their dishes taste good to most palates – i.e. lots of butter, oil, and salt (much more than you would feel comfortable cooking with at home).

Why am I telling you this? 

To remind you that…

1.  Eating out should be an occasional treat.  Restaurant food is almost always less healthy than home-cooked food.  When you eat at home, you control the ingredients.

2.  You can make veggies taste this good at home!  Cooking with oils, butter, bacon fat, etc. is not necessarily a bad thing, as long you can keep the amounts of these additions in check.  A drizzle here or tablespoon there will add flavor and an appealing mouth-feel without turning your steamed, roasted, grilled, or sauteed veggies into junk food.  Just remember that 1 tablespoon of any fat adds about 120 calories and 12-14g fat, so measure out your portions until you really have an eye for estimating.

roasted brussels sprouts

4 Comments

  • Reply
    Terra
    July 21, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Since I started working in the food industry, I love that I discovered that we really can make special requests when ordering at restaurants. I love having vegetables at restaurants, but hate how much butter and fat is on the small portion. So many people don’t realize it though, which is unfortunate. Thank you for sharing! Take care, Terra

    • Reply
      Amelia
      July 23, 2012 at 9:35 am

      Great tip! You can really ask for whatever you want at a restaurant. Although in my opinion, it’s a lot more enjoyable – and more delicious – if you eat dishes as the chef intended and just keep eating out to a minimum. Who wants to eat steamed veggies with baked bland meat? Boring.

  • Reply
    Kelley
    June 6, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Hello Amelia,
    I love that you encourage people to cook healthy whole foods at home, getting away from this is what has caused our country to go down to tube in terms of our general health. Also I really encourage you watch the documentary The Magic Pill on netflix. Fat is not as bad as well have been taught to believe in this country, its the vast amount of carbohydrates and sugar that have become staples in most households that are causing the obesity epidemic in this county. Finally after decades of misinformation, unbiased studies(i.e. not funded by groups with agendas) are finally coming out proving that low fat diets do not work an often they are actually harmful and exacerbate the chronic diseases associated with obesity. Thank you for your time and I really hope you can find the time to watch the movie.

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      December 7, 2018 at 11:30 am

      Hi Kelly, I’ve seen that movie and agree it offers a unique perspective. What I’ve found is, you can make an argument for ANY type of diet and find research to support it. Vegan, paleo, keto, low fat, etc. I don’t advocate for a low fat diet – I agree the research points to that just increasing our hunger for and intake of carbs and sugar. Fat is not the enemy! I think when eaten in the right contexts (nuts, plain yogurt, olive oil on salads, fish, etc) fat is a good thing.

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