If you think a Southwestern skillet from a sit-down restaurant is healthier than a double cheeseburger from the drive-thru, think again.
According to a new University of Illinois study, dining at a full-service restaurant adds over 200 extra calories to your daily caloric intake than if you were to eat a home cooked meal. What’s more surprising? It’s about the same amount of extra calories as you would ingest had you opted for fast food.
The study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed data from 18,098 Americans in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003 through 2010. Each participant was interviewed and kept a food log for 24 hours. Three to 10 days later, they completed a follow-up interview for comparison. Analysis showed that when eating in a full-service restaurant, they were more likely to consume more healthy nutrients such as vitamins, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids, but also more cholesterol and sodium than those who consumed fast-food or a homemade meal.
According to study author Ruopeng An, professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the relaxed nature of dining out causes the increase in calories. “When you eat at a full service restaurant and you’re enjoying yourself, you’re likely to over eat,” An said.
In fact, when participants chose take-out over eating in a restaurant, their caloric intake was similar to a home-cooked meal.
“When you have to eat out, be really careful about over eating,” An said. “Bring some food home and save it for the next meal.