Eating out for breakfast, lunch or dinner? Your meal likely contains more than half of your daily recommended calorie intake, according to a new study from Canada.
Researchers from the University of Toronto examined the calorie, sodium, fat and cholesterol levels of 685 meals and 156 desserts from 19 sit-down restaurants around Canada, and found that the average meal has 1,128 calories.
Even though most nutritional facts are based on eating 2,000-calories a day, the number of calories a person should eat each day differs from individual to individual, based on weight, physical activity level, and other factors. The USDA's current daily calorie recommendations are as follows:
Estimates range from 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for adult women and 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day for adult men, depending on age and physical activity level. Within each age and gender category, the low end of the range is for sedentary individuals; the high end of the range is for active individuals.
The study, published as a research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine, also showed that the average sit-down restaurant meal has 151 percent of the daily recommended amount of sodium for adults, 60 percent of the daily recommended amount of cholesterol, and 89 percent of the daily recommended amount of fat. And the average meal contained 83 percent of the daily recommended trans and saturated fats particularly.
"The high level of saturated fat is worrisome because according to the Institute of Medicine, intakes of saturated fat should be kept as low as possible," the researchers wrote in the study. "Furthermore, though recommendations suggest that approximately 20 [percent] to 35 [percent] of energy should come from fat; in this study, 45 [percent] was derived from fat."
They continued on to write: "Overall, the results of this study demonstrate that calorie, fat, saturated fat, and sodium levels are alarmingly high in breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals from multiple chain [sit-down restaurants]. Therefore, addressing the nutritional profile of restaurant meals should be a major public health priority."
In another study, published in the same new issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, the Center for Science in the Public Interest's Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., found that processed food makers and restaurants are slow to decrease sodium levels in their foods. Jacobson analyzed sodium levels in food between 2005 and 2011, and found that sodium in processed foods went down by 3.5 percent and increased in fast food by 2.6 percent.
"A traditional recommendation among physicians for treating and preventing high blood pressure is to counsel patients on reducing sodium intake," Jacobson wrote in the study. "While in an ideal world that recommendation would be sufficient to lower blood pressure in the patient population, in the real world it places unrealistic demands on both patients and physicians given the high sodium levels present in processed and restaurant foods."
The new studies come on the heels of a report just published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, showing that the nutrition quality of fast food has improved just 3 percent over a 14-year period. For more on that research, click here.
For more on what we're really eating, click through this slideshow on gross ingredients in processed foods: