Restaurant Meals Are Just as Unhealthy as Fast Food, So... Eat All of the Chipotle You Want?

If you've ever felt like you were eating more healthfully because you chose to dine at a restaurant versus at a fast food joint, you're probably a little off the mark. A new study has found that eating at a restaurant is just as unhealthy as eating at a fast food restaurant. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois who used the health data of 18,000 adults in the US over the course of an eight-year period.

The study revealed that while those who did dine at restaurants did eat more vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients than their fast food consuming counterparts, they did actually eat more sodium. Compared to those who cooked for themselves at home, both restaurant diners and fast food eaters ate more sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat. Lead study author Ruopeng An commented on this saying that the cholesterol differences were very significant for home cooks versus those who ate out. “People who ate at full-service restaurants consumed significantly more cholesterol per day than people who ate at home," Professor An told the Telegraph.

The amount of sodium adults consumed while eating out at restaurants was on average 3,600 grams per day, which is more than a third over the recommended daily maximum amount of 2,300 grams per day. The American Heart Association has an even more conservative recommendation at 1,500 milligrams per day for adults.

In total, restaurant dining increased sodium intake by 412 milligrams per day and fast food eating 300 milligrams per day. When it came to cholesterol, the recommended maximum is 300 milligrams per day, and the only adults who went over the maximum amount on average were those in the dining out category. This added up to an extra 58 milligrams per day on average for those who dined out at restaurants.

Saturated fat was the only nutritional category where restaurant diners ate less than those who ate fast food , who consumed 2.46mg as opposed to 3.49mg . In terms of all types of fat those who ate out to both types of establishments consumed 10g more total fat than people dining at home.

Calories were also studied and there's not good news on that front for those of us who loathe cooking for ourselves either. Those who who ate out on average consumed 200 more calories.

“These findings reveal that eating at a full-service restaurant is not necessarily healthier than eating at a fast-food outlet. In fact, you may be at higher risk of overeating in a full-service restaurant than when eating fast-food," Professor An told the Telegraph.

Definitely consider this the next time you're about to go out for dinner. However, even though cooking at home may seem like the cheapest option, a 2013 study found that eating fast food was cheaper than it was to buy food to cook. This has been attributed to the rising cost of living and food prices, which have gone up by 38 percent in the last 10 years. If you can afford to, invest in your health and start eating at home more.

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