NUTRITION
July 20, 2015

There's No Place Like Home

When you eat out, you consume far more fat, calories, and salt than when you eat at home. Fast food isn't even the biggest culprit.

Fast food outlets are justifiably known as pretty unhealthy places to eat. But if you think you’re better off eating at a restaurant, think again. When you eat out, regardless of whether you choose a full-service restaurant or a fast food place, you’re consuming about 200 extra calories compared to eating at home. And there’s more.

When we eat out, we eat more calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium than when we eat at home. And eating at a restaurant may even be unhealthier than eating at a fast food place, according to Ruopeng An, a University of Illinois researcher who did the analysis using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

When you eat out, regardless of whether you choose a full-service restaurant or a fast food place, you’re consuming about 200 extra calories compared to eating at home.

People who eat at restaurants may consume more vitamins, minerals, potassium, and omega-3 fats than those who eat at home or at fast food eateries, An found, but they also consume much more cholesterol and sodium, two nutrients that Americans — even those who cook at home — already eat too much of.

Fast food eaters consumed about 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 10 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, and 300 milligrams of sodium per day more than those who ate at home. Those who ate at full-service restaurants and took in an extra 58 milligrams of cholesterol, 10 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, and 412 milligrams of sodium per day.

“The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of saturated fats one eats to less than 5 to 6 percent of one’s daily calories,” An said in a statement. “That means that if one needs about 2,000 calories a day, less than 120 calories, or 13 grams, should come from saturated fats.”

The issue of salt is especially concerning because sodium intake among Americans already averages 3,100 milligrams per day, much higher than the recommended upper limit which varies from 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams per day.

The findings of this study reinforce the importance of learning to plan and prepare meals at home. Eating out, whether at a full-service restaurant or a fast food place, limits your healthy food choices and leaves you with little to no control over how your food is prepared.

Planning, preparing, and eating meals at home, as often as possible, makes healthy eating easier, putting you in control of what you are eating.

The study is published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. You can see a graphic depicting the findings of the study here.
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