Calories in restaurant meals just as high as fast food joints: study

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A new study out of the United States has found that restaurant food is just as high in calories and saturated fat as some of the meals offered by fast food chains.

The study says on average people consume 200 calories more when dining out than when eating at home.

“People who ate at full-service restaurants consumed significantly more cholesterol per day than people who ate at home,” said University of Illinois kinesiology and Community Health professor Ruopeng An.

“This extra intake of cholesterol, about 58 milligrams per day, accounts for 20 percent of the recommended upper bound of total cholesterol intake of 300 milligrams per day,” An pointed out.

An noted that while the intake of calories and fat is about the same in both restaurants and fast food joints, the restaurant food tends to be more nutritionally sound.

Sodium was another problem when dining out. Eating at a fast food restaurant adds about 300 milligrams of sodium to a person’s daily diet, while eating at a standard restaurant boosts sodium by 412 milligrams.

The average person should eat between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, but Americans already get more than 3,000 milligrams of sodium just from dining at home.

“The additional sodium is even more worrisome because the average daily sodium intake among Americans is already so far above the recommended upper limit, posing a significant public health concern, such as hypertension and heart disease,” he said.

Certain ethnic groups were more at risk of ingesting large amounts of calories, fat, and sodium when dining out than others.

“African-Americans who ate at fast-food and full-service restaurants took in more total fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugar than their Caucasian and Hispanic counterparts who dined out,” An said.

“The effect of fast-food restaurant consumption on daily total energy intake appeared larger among people with lower educational attainment, and people in the middle-income range had the highest daily intake of total energy, total fat, saturated fat and sodium when they dined at full-service restaurants.”

The study was compiled with eight years of nationally representative data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. An looked at data from 2003-2010, which involved 18,098 American adults.

And if you think Canadians are exempt from the health risks associated with dining out, think again. Research has shown that Canadians take in 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, around double what is recommended in a healthy diet.

Despite this, many Canadians do not feel they have an issue with their diets, citing sodium concerns as something that is not “their problem.”

In a survey from Statistics Canada about Canadian eating habits, 25% of those interviewed said they had eaten at a fast food restaurant just the day before.

“These findings reveal that eating at a full-service restaurant is not necessarily healthier than eating at a fast-food outlet,” An said. “In fact, you may be at higher risk of overeating in a full-service restaurant than when eating fast-food. My advice to those hoping to consume a healthy diet and not overeat is that it is healthier to prepare your own foods, and to avoid eating outside the home whenever possible.”

To read the full study, click here.

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Lauren Sundstrom Lauren is a Staff Writer and Projects Assistant at Vancity Buzz. She is a graduate of BCIT's Broadcast and Online Journalism program. She loves reporting on breaking news and lifestyle content. If you feel like you have a story that needs to be told, fire her a tweet.
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