Restaurant meals higher in salt and cholesterol than fast food meals

By Rebecca Burton • Published: October 8th, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

As Americans become more and more health conscious, fast food joints, for the most part, are getting a bad reputation.

But a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that those who eat at sit-down restaurants consume more salt and cholesterol than those who stop at McDonalds on their way home from work.

On average, restaurant meals contain 58 milligrams of extra cholesterol a day compared with home cooked meals. Fast food meals contain an extra 10 milligrams of sodium.

However, fast food meals are still the worst for your waistline, since they contain the most saturated fat and sugar.

Either way, those who eat at an establishment other than their home still consume around 200 more calories and 10 more grams of fat than they would with a home-cooked meal.

To conduct the study, researchers looked at data from 18,100 Americans who were asked to describe their eating habits during a 24-hour period. They recorded this information on two different occasions.

About one-third of participants reported eating at a fast-food restaurant during that time period, and about one-quarter said had eaten at a full-service restaurant.

Although sit-down restaurant meals contain more cholesterol and salt, they are healthier than home-cooked meals in some ways. They often contain more key vitamins such as B6, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids than meals you would cook at home.

But still, doctors warn to eat out in moderation. Excess sodium can increase the risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.

When you do eat out, experts say to look for meals that include fresh vegetables and lean meats … and go for the smaller portion when available.