Photos and VideosMore Photos and Videos
Gordon Tokumatsu & Sergio Lelevier
About 82 percent of Americans eat at restaurants at least once a week, but a new study shows that not all sit-down chains are healthier than fast food joints. Nearly all of the 31,000 items studied failed to meet calorie, sodium, fat and saturated fat requirements set the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Gordon Tokumatsu reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 17, 2012.
About 82 percent of Americans eat at restaurants at least once a week, but a new study shows that not all sit-down chains are healthier than fast food joints, according to the Rand Corp.
“It’s not to say that fast-food restaurants are good for you, but potentially there’s another player that we need to pay attention to,” said Helen Wu, assistant policy analyst for Rand Corp.
Out of 31,000 menu items studied, 96 percent would exceed daily limits for calories, sodium, fat and saturated fat as set the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We found that quite a lot of main entrees and appetizers in chain restaurants would put you over that limit with just one item,” Wu said.
Wu sampled 254 restaurants as part of the study, and found that food at family-style restaurants tend to have more calories, fat and sodium than fast-food restaurants.
On average, entrees at the family-style restaurants posted 271 more calories, 435 more milligrams of sodium and 16 more grams of fat than fast-food restaurants, Wu said.
A fast-food staple, a McDonald’s BigMac packs 540 calories and 1,040 milligrams of sodium, while an avocado club eggroll, an appetizer from one of the major restaurant chains studied, contains 1,224 calories and 2,079 milligrams of sodium – nearly a day’s worth of salt.
“If you order an appetizer, you probably shouldn’t order anything else,” Wu said.
Restaurant owners groups content that they’re complying with new laws requiring the posting of nutrition information, but Wu said that’s not enough.
“So to put the onus on the consumer to make a healthy choice but not give them any is hardly a fair situation,” Wu said.
The Rand Study suggests restaurant owners take responsibility to provide healthier foods.