Study shows most Restaurants serve Really Bad Food for Dieters

Anyone who’s paid any attention to their diet over the years is well aware that fast food chains are notorious for serving up high caloric, low nutrition meals. We’ve gained the perception that eating out at a restaurant is a much better choice. But is that really true?

According to a study authored by Susan Roberts of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Boston’s Tufts University, 92% of restaurants serve entrees that are more than 2x the recommended caloric intake for a single meal. In fact, some of them are close to meeting the recommended daily caloric intake, and that doesn’t even include beverages, appetizers and desserts.

Bad Food for DietersInstead of offering sensible, well-proportioned meals, they are increasing the amount of food served per entrée, delivering menus chalk full of bad food for dieters.

From 2011 to 2014, research was conducted across 364 restaurants in Boston, San Francisco, and Little Rock, Arkansas, encompassing a wide variety of local and chain-based eateries that serve American, Chinese, Greek, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Thai and Vietnamese meals.

Among them all, the average meal contained about 1,200 calories. The worst were American, Chinese and Italian restaurants, which averaged a whopping 1,495 calories per meal. And the local eateries were just as bad as chains.

That’s pretty ridiculous when you consider that that average woman is only encouraged to consume 2,000 calories per day; the average male 2,500 calories per day.

“We feel the results are extremely important because there is a general perception out there that fast food is the problem,” said Roberts. “What this study shows is that all restaurants are terrible when it comes to providing excessive portions that overfeed people. It’s not just fast food but virtually all of them.”

Eat Out without Blowing your Diet

A registered dietician and assistant professor of clinical nutrition with University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Lona Sandon blamed the situation on consumer demand. Restaurants are merely serving what consumers want, and consumers, in turn, are buying it. However, she did have a few tips for those calorie counters who want to avoid bad food for dieters.

The most obvious solution is to “eat out less often or never,” said Sandon. Cooking at home allows people to choose what does and doesn’t go into their meals, regulating the calorie intake and flavor to personal taste.

Another idea was to “order the kids meal instead”, thereby cutting the portion and calorie level. Sandon admits that adults may feel weird about ordering a kids meal in a sit-down diner, but in a drive-through setting, it’s perfectly acceptable.

Another good idea is to share a meal among two or three people. Since the portions are already oversized, one can easily satiate their hunger, plus they won’t feel guilty about leaving an unfinished plate. And we’ve all done that before – eaten more than our bellies could hold just because we paid for it. By sharing, we have no guilt, no belly ache and no blown diet.

Lastly, Sandon recommends staying away from entrees altogether, instead ordering only from the soups, salads and side menus. “I do this all the time,” she said. “I love a baked potato with a side of broccoli and a little cheese, or a bowl of beans and rice with a side of fried plantains.”

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