Restaurant meals can be just as bad for you as cheap fast-food takeaways and are just as bad for salt and cholesterol levels as burger bars, reported DailyMail.
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A study conducted by University of Illinois looked at data from 18,098 adults in the US. Author Ruopeng An analysed eight years of statistics from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The study found that while restaurant meals were healthier in terms of containing more vitamins, potassium and Omega-3 fatty acids than fast food takeaways, restaurant diners ate substantially more sodium and cholesterol.
Home-cooked meals were healthiest of all, as people who cooked their own food ate around 200 calories less than those who bought their food outside.
Professor An said: "People who ate at full-service restaurants consumed significantly more cholesterol per day than people who ate at home.
"This extra intake of cholesterol, about 58mg per day, accounts for 20 per cent of the recommended upper bound of total cholesterol intake of 300mg per day."
Fast food diners ate only an extra 10mg of cholesterol per day more than people who ate at home, he found. Fast food and restaurant diners ate 10 grams more total fat, and 3.49 grams and 2.46 grams, respectively, of saturated fat than those who dined at home.
Recommended limits of saturated fats are around 13 grams of saturated fat a day, Professor An said.
Fast food outlets add about 300mg of sodium – the part of salt that increases blood pressure – to one’s daily diet. Restaurant dining also adds 412mg of sodium per day.
"The additional sodium is even more worrisome because the average daily sodium intake among Americans is already so far above the recommended upper limit, posing a significant public health concern, such as hypertension and heart disease."
US recommendations for sodium intake vary between 1,500mg and 2,300mg a day, but the average American consumes more than 3,100 mg of sodium at home.
Professor An further said: ‘These findings reveal that eating at a full-service restaurant is not necessarily healthier than eating at a fast-food outlet.
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‘In fact, you may be at higher risk of overeating in a full-service restaurant than when eating fast-food.
'My advice to those hoping to consume a healthy diet and not overeat is that it is healthier to prepare your own foods, and to avoid eating outside the home whenever possible.’