Many of us choose to dine out when we meet up with friends, family or business associates. It’s a nice environment to have a conversation and catch up on what we’ve been doing or solve a problem. If our budget allows it, we head over to full-service restaurants as we were taught that they are much healthier than fast food restaurants.
But a new study conducted by the University of Illinois has revealed that full-service restaurants meals aren’t much healthier than fast food restaurant meals. They still contain more calories, sugar, fat and sodium than the food that we prepare at home.
Ruopeng An, professor with an expertise in kinesiology and community health, gave a statement stressing that while people are well aware of the unhealthy nature of fast food products, with many referring to them as “junk food”, few are aware of the dangers posed by full-service restaurant products.
To reach this conclusion, professor An looked at the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and analyzed health and dietary data collected from over 18.000 American adults.
He asked subjects to say where and what they had eaten over the course of two (2) days. Around a third of the subjects reported that they went to a fast food restaurant in at least one of the days, and one quarter reported that they went to a full-service restaurant in at least one of the days.
When compared to the subjects who ate home cooked meals, those who ate fast food meals ended up consuming an extra 190 calories per day. On top of this they also ate an extra 3.5 grams saturated fat, 11 grams fat, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 300 milligrams sodium.
Those who ate full-service restaurant meals ended up consuming an extra 187 calories per day, 2.5 grams saturated fat and 10 grams fat. The additional amount of cholesterol and sodium were a little harder to pinpoint, professor An estimates that they were about 60 extra milligrams cholesterol and at least 400 extra milligrams sodium.
Another interesting finding was that people who bough fast food meals and ate them at home did not consume less calories, saturated fat, fat, cholesterol and sodium. But the people who bough full-service restaurant meals and ate them at home ended up consuming 80 less calories, 80 milligrams less sodium and a little less fat too.
Professor An theorized that the problem is people have no clue how many nutrients and calories any given full-service restaurant meal has. This makes it a lot easier for them to overeat, and they typically don’t think of the number of calories they’re putting in their bodies.
Lori Rosenthal is dietitian with the Montefiore Medical Center (New York City) and was not involved in the study. However she gave a statement of her own, explaining why people who prefer eating home cooked meals might consume less calories – when someone prepares their own food, they can make choices like replacing full fat cheese with reduced fat cheese if they feel that the meal is too rich. But at a restaurant the choice is made for them, by the chef.
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