Why Americans Are Fat
Isn’t it obvious? This study finds 96% of restaurant entrees exceed USDA limits:
[R]esearchers looked at the nutritional content of 30,923 menu items, including those from children’s menus, from 245 brands of restaurants. They found that 96% of them failed to meet recommendations for the combination of calories, sodium, fat and saturated fat set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The restaurants included fast-food, buffet, takeout, family style and upscale restaurants, said Helen Wu, one of the authors and an assistant policy analyst at the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica. The study was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The majority of the entrees did not exceed 667 calories – one-third of the calories the USDA estimates the average adult needs each day, said Wu and Roland Sturm, senior economist at Rand. They looked at restaurants’ websites from February to May 2010.
But they found that few of the entrees met recommended limits when considering calories, sodium, saturated fat, and fat combined.
“Many items may appear healthy based on calories, but actually can be very unhealthy when you consider other important nutrition criteria,” Wu said.
Beware the appetizer:
•Appetizers can be calorie bombs. Appetizers — while often shared — averaged 813 calories, compared with main entrees, which averaged 674 calories per serving, Wu says.
•Family restaurants fared worse than fast-food. Entrees at family-style restaurants on average have more calories, fat and sodium than fast-food restaurants. Entrees at family-style eateries posted 271 more calories, 435 more milligrams of sodium and 16 more grams of fat than fast-food restaurants, Wu says.
•Kid “specialty” drinks often aren’t healthy. Many drinks offered on kids’ menus have more fat and saturated fat on average than regular drinks. While regular menu drinks had a median of 360 calories, the median number of calories in kid specialty drinks, such as shakes and floats, was 430. The message to parents, Wu says: “It’s the little extras you order that add up.”