(Reuters Health) – Main dishes served at fast food outlets tend to be higher in calories than traditional fast food meals, despite public perception that the offerings at these outlets are healthier, researchers say Americans.
By comparing over 3,000 entrees, they found that an average quick meal was 200 calories more than the average fast food meal. Overall, most of the quick and casual foods were also at the higher end of the calorie range.
“In recent years, there has been strong growth in the fast food industry (eg Panera, Chipotle), and consumers generally feel that these restaurants are a healthier and fresher alternative to eating out. fast, ”said lead author Danielle. Schoffman said.
“When we encourage participants in our research studies to cut back on their fast food consumption, they often ask if these fast casual restaurants’ matter too,” said Schoffman, a researcher at the Arnold School of Public Health. University of South Carolina at Columbia. . “We wanted to look at the calorie data from the entrees at both types of restaurants to see if they matched those assumptions. “
Researchers looked at the calorie counts of 3,193 entrees sold at restaurants representing 24 different fast food chains and 28 casual fast food chains, according to the report in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
They found that the average fast food starter contained around 760 calories compared to the typical fast food starter with around 560 calories.
Schoffman said the study team were surprised by the overall results and by the discovery that a greater proportion of appetizers from fast and casual restaurants exceeded the median of 640 calories.
“This means that if a customer walks into a causal fast food restaurant, there are more appetizer choices above that 640 calorie median than there would be in a fast food restaurant,” a- she declared.
It’s important to note that there were plenty of high-calorie options at both types of restaurants, Shoffman added.
Overall, consumers should use the calorie information posted on restaurant menus and websites to make informed meal selection, as there are increasingly fewer healthy options available at all restaurants. “she said.
The study only looked at the calorie count and did not compare the nutritional value of the meals, which Schoffman said he hoped to do in the future.
Some entrees with healthy ingredients, like brown rice and vegetables, are often also served in very large portions that it would be more reasonable for most adults to eat for two meals rather than one sitting. she noted.
“When it comes to nutrient breakdown, your best option is to go for fast, casual foods, however, don’t be fooled by the fact that they are necessarily better for you in terms of calorie load,” he said. Melissa Rifkin told Reuters Health via email. .
“As this study shows, fast food foods are more calorie dense, the reason being that they are often larger in size than fast food portions,” said Rifkin, registered dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center. New York, which was not involved in the research.
“While being aware of calories and sodium can help, there is a dark side to overstating the numbers,” said Lauren Graf, also a registered dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center and not involved in the new study. “This can distract customers from what makes food healthy – nutrient density, fiber content, antioxidants, fat quality, etc. It is important to look at health in a more holistic way,” Graf said by e- mail.
It would be much healthier to choose vegetable or fish tacos loaded with beans, vegetables and avocados in a casual place rather than choosing a burger at a fast food restaurant, even if the taco had more calories, Graf added.
“In the taco, you consume more vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants and avoid the harmful effects of processed meat,” she said. “Also, the fiber content in the taco will be more filling, which will make (one) less likely to overeat later in the day.”
THE SOURCE: bit.ly/1PjYBB6 Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics, online May 11, 2016.