Calories, Fat, Sodium in Restaurant Meals Quantified

Nutritional value of adult meal 1,495 kcal, 28 g saturated fat, 3,512 mg sodium, 11 g fiber

MONDAY, Jan. 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- An adult meal at a typical full-service restaurant chain contains about 1,495 kcal, 28 g saturated fat, and 3,512 mg sodium, according to a study published in the January issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Amy H. Auchincloss, Ph.D., M.P.H., from Drexel University in Philadelphia, and colleagues examined the nutritional value of meals at full-service national restaurant chains with outlets in the Philadelphia region in 2011; the restaurants provided nutritional information for all menu items on company web pages or printed menus. Nutritional profiles were assessed for 2,615 items from 21 chains and were compared with guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The researchers found that the nutritional value of an adult meal made up of an entree, side dish, and one-half appetizer was 1,495 kcal, with 28 g saturated fat, 3,512 mg sodium, and 11 g fiber. Inclusion of a beverage and one-half dessert increased the content to 2,020 kcal. Entrees labeled "healthy choice" or targeting seniors or children had better calorie and fat profiles, but sodium still exceeded recommended limits.

"Educators can use findings from this and similar studies to plan interventions and advocate for public policies that encourage restaurant chains to make healthier choices the standard through product reformulation and portion downsizing," the authors write.

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