Restaurant food makes you just as fat as fast food

If you eat fast food regularly, you’ll put on weight. As a rule fast food contains more calories than food you prepare yourself. But the same is true for meals you eat in restaurants, a nutritionist at the University of Illinois discovered. Restaurant meals make you just as fat as the food you get at McDonalds or any other fast food outlet.

Ruopeng An analysed data on 18,098 adult American men and women, which had been gathered from 2003-2010 for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, in which participants described exactly what they ate.

The data enabled An to work out that fast food meals eaten at home or elsewhere provide nearly 200 kilocalories more than meals you prepare yourself. That’s not much of a surprise.

But An also discovered that meals in restaurants [Full service away from home] or meals that you order from restaurants but eat at home [Full service at home] contain about the same amount of extra calories as fast food. In fact, if you eat in a restaurant, you actually consume more kilocalories than if you confine yourself to fast food.


Almost half of the extra kilocalories came from fat.

Both restaurant meals and fast food also contained more salt and more cholesterol and food prepared at home.

“These findings reveal that eating at a full-service restaurant is not necessarily healthier than eating at a fast-food outlet”, An concluded in a press release from his university. [ 7/1/2015] “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.”

Fast-food and full-service restaurant consumption and daily energy and nutrient intakes in US adults


Calorie intake and diet quality are influenced by the source of food and the place of consumption. This study examines the impacts of fast-food and full-service restaurant consumption on daily energy and nutrient intakes in US adults.

Nationally representative data of 18?098 adults 18 years of age and above from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003–2010 waves were analyzed. Outcomes included daily intake of total calories and 24 nutrients of public health concern. The key predictors were any food/beverage consumption in a day from fast-food or full-service restaurant, differentiated by consumption at home versus away from home. First-difference estimator addressed confounding bias from time-invariant unobservables such as personal food/beverage preferences by using within-individual variations in diet and restaurant consumption status between two nonconsecutive 24-h dietary recalls.

Fast-food and full-service restaurant consumption, respectively, were associated with a net increase in daily total energy intake of 190.29 and 186.74?kcal, total fat of 10.61 and 9.58?g, saturated fat of 3.49 and 2.46?g, cholesterol of 10.34 and 57.90?mg, and sodium of 297.47 and 411.92?mg. The impact of fast-food and full-service restaurant consumption on energy and nutrient intakes differed by sex, race/ethnicity, education, income and weight status. Increased total energy, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium intake were substantially larger when full-service restaurant food was consumed away from home than at home.

A holistic policy intervention is warranted to target the American’s overall dining-out behavior rather than fast-food consumption alone.