Restaurant Food As Unhealthy As Fast Food

Eating in full-service restaurants is not that much healthier than eating fast food, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It found that restaurant fare, whether at fast food chains or fine dining, results in more calories and fat and sodium consumption than a home-cooked meal.

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which records health and dietary information from a sample of the U.S. population, the study looked at 18,000 adults and their dietary habits. Participants answered questions about their diet over the past two days. Around one-third of the group recorded having fast food either both or one of the days. One quarter said they ate at a full-service restaurant on one of the days.

People who ate at fast food restaurants consumed, on average, 190 more calories per day, 11 grams more fat, 3.5 g more saturated fat, 10 mg extra cholesterol and 300 mg of additional sodium than people who ate at home. People who ate at a full-service restaurant--instead of eating at home--consumed on average 187 more calories per day, 10 more grams of fat, 2.5 g more saturated fat, almost 60 mg more cholesterol and over 400 mg more sodium.

People with lower education levels were more likely to eat at fast food restaurants. People of middle-income status were more likely to eat at a full-service restaurant. The analysis also showed that people with obesity were more likely to consume extra calories at a full-service restaurant compared to people of normal weight.

Takeout meals froms full-service restaurants meals had about 80 fewer calories, slightly less fat and about 80 mg less sodium than those eaten in the restaurant. By comparison, it didn't make much difference if fast food was eaten at home or at the restaurant.

Experts explain that when people cook their own meals, they know exactly which ingredients and servings are being used. People can add healthy substitutions at home. At restaurants, however, the ingredients may not be indicated and the portion sizes can be much larger.

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