A new study has compared fast food and table service meals at restaurants. Both types of meals are larger and have more calories than meals prepared at home. However, the typical fast food meal is smaller and has fewer calories than the average meal from a table service restaurant.
The study used data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals, a large sample of information regarding nutritional intake.
Fast food was found to be more energy dense than food from a table service restaurant, but fast food meals also tend to be smaller. As a result, the typical fast food meal had fewer calories than the average meal from a table service restaurant.
However, table service diners were more likely to reduce their food consumption during the rest of the day, most likely because of the difference in energy density. As a result, fast food may ultimately result in more calories.
Most people are well aware of the Super-Size-Me trap at fast food joints, but it may not occur to you that eating at sit-down diners and restaurants will also lead to consuming inferior food, and far more calories, than eating at home.
Restaurant meals can be highly deceptive, not only due to the fact that you don’t really know what’s in that meal, but you may also overindulge, eating more than your fill. Previous studies have shown that it actually takes you longer to reach fullness or satiety when you’re served a larger than normal portion of food.
Additionally, even when the plate comes stacked to the hilt, many have trouble leaving food on their plates. In one survey, 67 percent of participants said that they finish their entrees when eating out all or most of the time. As many restaurants serve very large portions, it’s no wonder studies have also found a link between body weight and frequency of consuming meals from restaurants.
Always use your hunger as a guide, rather than deciding how much to eat based on what’s on your plate.
Your hunger may in fact be a major clue that you’re eating not only the wrong types of food, but that you’re likely consuming them in lopsided ratios for your individual biochemistry.
But the sheer size of the meal does matter, when it comes to weight control.
In the past few decades, American meal portions have steadily increased, and our waistlines have expanded accordingly.