The Dirty Little Secret of Restaurant Meals

It's not just fast food that can make you fat. All restaurant food can do it.

Whether you're eating American, Chinese or Italian, the average restaurant entrée is about 1,500 calories.

Add in drinks, appetizers, desserts--and the ever present bread basket--and you have far exceeded the calorie guidelines for an entire day, which is about 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men.

That's the word from Tufts University in Boston, which conducted an analysis of 364 American, Chinese, Greek, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Thai and Vietnamese meals offered at restaurants in Boston, San Francisco and Little Rock between 2011 and 2014. The restaurants included local establishments and chains.

Even the savviest, most educated restaurant customers are blindsided by the number of calories in meals due in large part to hidden calories.

"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," study leader Susan Roberts, told HealthDay News.

What can be done? Roberts said the situation requires a radical restaurant rethink. "What I think would work to help people eat less, and would be wildly popular with consumers, would be laws--passed at the federal or state or local level--that would give customers the right to buy proportional portions for a proportional price," she told HealthDay News. "So, let's say that I, as a small woman, want to buy one-third of an entrée plate. I could do that and pay one-third of the price. Oh my God, I would love that. The restaurants wouldn't love it, of course. But all restaurants would be in the same boat [and] it would take away the incentive they have today to overfeed people."

Until such radical change happens, try this:

  • Eat out less frequently. Cook at home more often.
  • Order the kids' meal, which is easy to do at a drive-through.
  • Split a single entrée with your dining companions.
  • Skip the entrée completely and order two side dishes.

The study findings were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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