Full-service restaurants are not much healthier than eating fast food, a new study finds.
Indeed, full-service restaurants may be less healthy than fast food.
Eating at home, meanwhile, is often the healthiest option.
On average, Americans eat 200 more calories at both fast food outlets and full-service restaurants compared to having meals at home.
They also consume higher level of sugar, fat, cholesterol and sodium when eating in restaurants, the study reports.
Professor Ruopeng An, the study’s author, said:
“These findings reveal that eating at a full-service restaurant is not necessarily healthier than eating at a fast-food outlet.
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.”
People consuming fast food also tend to eat less fruit, vegetables and vitamins compared to those who prepare and eat at home.
The new survey is published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (An, 2015)
The study analysed 8 years of data collected from 18,098 adults living in the US.
It found that restaurant diners are more likely to consume higher levels of healthy nutrients such as omega-3, potassium and certain vitamins than those who eat fast food or eat at home.
However, people who eat at restaurants consume much higher amounts of cholesterol and sodium.
Professor An said:
“People who ate at full-service restaurants consumed significantly more cholesterol per day than people who ate at home.
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.”
Fast food adds 300 milligrams of sodium and this level increases by 412 milligrams per day when eating at restaurants.
Professor An said:
“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.”
The data showed that dining out has different impacts on different groups.
For example, African-Americans consumed more sugar, total fat, saturated fat, and sodium compared with Caucasian and Hispanic people.
Those with lower education and a middle income had a higher energy intake.
These findings are supported by previous research published in the journal of Public Health Nutrition (Nguyen & Powell, 2014).
Dr Binh Nguyen said:
“The United States is one of the most obese nations in the world, with more than one in three adult men and women in defined as obese.
Just as obesity rates rise, there’s been a marked increase in total energy consumption consumed away from home, with about one in four calories coming from fast food or full service restaurants in 2007.”
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