Restaurant meals pack more calories than you might think

It's common knowledge that most fast food meals are loaded with enough calories to last you a few days.

But if you think that ordering a salad in a sit-down restaurant is a healthier alternative, you're probably wrong.

A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that the average meal from small-scale chains or independent restaurants is 1,327 calories – which is about the amount an average person should get from two or even three meals in a day.

Skip the spaghetti

After analyzing 157 of the most popular meals at 33 restaurants in Boston, researchers at Tufts University found that some types of foods were, indeed, worse than others. The average Italian food meal clocks in at 1,755 calories, while American food and Vietnamese dishes follow close behind at 1,494 and 922 calories per meal, respectively.

Senior study author Susan B. Roberts said that not only is 1,327 calories more than double what the average woman should be eating for a single meal, but that it's also 66 percent of the total calories that an average adult needs in a day.

“When restaurants are serving these gross, obscene portion sizes, we don’t know what we’re eating,” she wrote.

Hidden calories

The hidden calories in restaurant food often lie in how it's prepared. Even when healthy things are cooked in lots of oil, the nutritional profile will suffer, Roberts said. And since smaller restaurants aren't required to disclose nutritional information, eating out can be a guessing game.

To reduce calories right out of the gate, Roberts recommends asking for half of your dish to be put in a to-go box and ordering dressings or sauces on the side. Asking your server how a meal is prepared can also be helpful – request that vegetables be steamed or cooked without oil.

Source: Women's Health

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