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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Real Problem with Eating Out

The Real Problem with Eating Out
Dining out was once reserved for the wealthy or a special occasion. Not anymore. Now more than a third of the food Americans eat is made up of so-called “away-from-home” foods, which include both restaurant food and pre-packaged or prepared foods purchased at supermarkets. And about 40 percent of that comes from fast-food restaurants serving the likes of cheeseburgers and French fries.  

To better understand the obesity epidemic in America, Alice H. Lichtenstein, a senior scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts, and her colleagues looked at whether portion sizes and the nutritional content of fast food have changed over the last two decades. They gathered data from the three most popular fast-food chains in the United States between 1996 and 2013. They tallied the sodium, saturated fat and trans fat content in French fries, cheeseburgers and grilled chicken sandwiches.
Perhaps surprisingly, they found that neither portion size nor nutritional content has changed much over 17 years—but, they stress, that doesn’t mean the food is healthy. Fast-food portion sizes are still quite large and often contain sky-high amounts of salt and many more calories than most of us need at one sitting. While the nutritional content of the foods varied markedly among the restaurants—a small serving of fries at one chain might contain more than twice as much sodium as the same product at another chain—the scientists found a large serving of fries at all three chains contains about a quarter of an active adult’s daily recommended calories. Likewise, a large meal of a cheeseburger, fries and a soda contains almost a full day’s recommended serving of sodium.

The team’s findings were published on December 31, 2014 in a pair of papers in Preventing Chronic Disease, the research journal of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Implications of their findings
·         The take-home message is that obesity epidemic cannot be attributed just to portion size. Certainly there is evidence that portion sizes were increasing in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The study found serving portions have stabilized.  The study also found that simple advice to individuals—to always order the small portion, for example—may not necessarily have the intended effect. That’s because the small size of an item in one fast-food outlet can be very different from the small size of the same item in another fast-food outlet.

·         If there was a higher proportion of the population purchasing healthier options, there would be a greater number of healthier options.

·         Calories, saturated fat and sodium in cheeseburgers, fries and regular beverages are extremely high and represent a very large proportion of what somebody should be consuming over an entire day.
Source: Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts:  See more at: http://now.tufts.edu/articles/real-problem-eating-out#sthash.GT9HgRqJ.dpuf

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