Can Restaurant Food Really Be as Unhealthy As Fast Food?

Posted by Meghan Orner on September 25, 2015

Can Restaurant Food Really Be as Unhealthy As Fast Food?

Planning and cooking meals every day of the week can be tough, which is why many people turn to restaurants and fast food chains to make their lives easier. The average American eats out five times a week, but many of those meals are filled with an astounding number of calories.

We all know that the burger and fries found in a traditional fast food meal can’t be very nutritious, but can restaurant food really be as unhealthy as fast food?  According to a recent study released by the University of Illinois, this does seem to be the case – as implausible as it might seem!

A Study’s Startling Results

Many people opt for eating out at a restaurant instead of driving through a fast food chain to avoid the unhealthy meals, but this choice might not make much of a difference in off-putting the health risks. So what exactly makes restaurant meals as unhealthy as fast food meals?

To discover the truth, researchers analyzed national data of more than 18,000 adults and compared the nutrient and calorie consumption of those who regularly ate at restaurants with those who regularly ate at fast food chains between 2003 and 2010.

While restaurant meals contain more nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, potassium and vitamins, they actually have higher levels of cholesterol and sodium when compared to fast food meals.

Now here’s the part of the study that should come as no surprise: home-cooked meals are by far the healthiest option when compared to restaurant and fast food meals. By analyzing the calorie and nutrient consumption of those who regularly ate home-cooked meals versus those who ate out frequently, researchers found that home-cooked meals have a much lower calorie count (by about 200 calories) along with reduced cholesterol and total fat levels.

Part of the reason why home-cooked meals are healthier is simply because you have more control of what exactly goes into your meal along with the size of the meal. Not only are they more nutritious, but these meals are also a great way to catch up with your loved ones and enjoy some quality time together!

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Healthy Restaurant & Fast Food Meals

Could there be such a thing as a healthy fast food meal? Apparently so, according to a recent article featured in U.S. News & World Report. Here are five healthy alternatives you can order at some of your favorite restaurants and fast food chains:

  • Panera’s Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad (350 calories)
  • Subway's 6-Inch Turkey Breast Sandwich (350 calories)
  • Chipotle's (Carefully Selected) Salad (475 calories)
  • Starbucks' Edamame Hummus Wrap (460 calories)
  • McDonald's Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken (450 calories)
  • When eating out, pay close attention to the menu as many restaurants list the amount of calories per meal along with healthier options for you to choose from. It’s also helpful to follow these tips for eating healthy when eating out, such as sitting near a window and using the restaurant’s atmosphere to your advantage.  


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