Tags: restaurant | entrees | usda

Restaurant Entrees Exceed USDA limits

Friday, 18 May 2012 01:04 PM

Think it’s hard to find a healthy meal on a fast-food menu? A new study suggests it may be even harder to find a healthy option at a top chain or family-style restaurant.
The study, conducted by the Rand Corp. and reported in the journal Public Health Nutrition, found up to 96 percent of main entrees sold at major chain eateries exceed recommended U.S. Department of Agriculture daily limits for fat, saturated fat and sodium. Kids menus don’t fare much better, with just 11 percent of children’s entrees meeting USDA recommendations.
The study, led by Helen Wu, assistant policy analyst at Rand, was based on researchers’ analysis of the nutritional content for more than 28,000 regular-menu items -- and 1,833 children’s meals -- posted online by 245 restaurants. It was conducted in 2010, as the federal government was implementing new nutritional labeling requirements for restaurants.

“It may not be a shock that restaurant meals can be unhealthy,” Hu told Newsmax Health. “What our study - the largest one ever on the state of chain restaurant nutrition - shows, is that almost none are actually healthy.”

She added that researchers were surprised to find that many menu items that first appeared “healthy, based on calorie counts alone” actually had high levels of fat, saturated fat and sodium.

“The majority of main entrees actually do fall within reasonable calorie levels,” she said. “But sodium was the real shocker. Restaurants need to make big changes in order to bring sodium more closely in line with government-issued nutrition standards.”

In response to the study, the National Restaurant Association said the industry is responding to consumer demands for healthier menu options and suggested more efforts have been made since the Rand research was conducted two years ago. For instance, the group’s website features an online feature –www.healthydiningfinder.com – that allows consumers to search for healthy restaurant menu items by zip code, city or state.

For the study, researchers identified menu items exceeding USDA recommendations that foods not derive more than 35 percent of their calories from fat, 10 percent from saturated fat and 767 milligrams of sodium.

Among the study’s findings:

• Appetizers – though often shared -- averaged 813 calories, compared with main entrees, which averaged 674 calories per serving.
• Entrees at family-style restaurants tended to have more calories, fat and sodium than even those at fast-food restaurants.
• Kids' menu drinks often had more fat, saturated fat and carbohydrates than regular drinks.
• Restaurants that made nutrition information easily accessible on websites had significantly lower fat and sodium content in their menu offerings than those providing information only upon request.
Researchers noted 82 percent of Americans eat out at least once weekly.
“Honestly, it's really hard for consumers to choose a healthy meal now, even if they wanted to do so,” Hu told Newsmax Health. “Placing this responsibility on consumers, without giving them a good set of options to choose from, is not fair. The restaurant industry needs to step up and start offering more and better options for those who want those options - there is a growing market there.”

© HealthDay

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Study: Up to 96 percent of chain-eatery entrees exceed USDA daily limits for fat, saturated fat and sodium.
Friday, 18 May 2012 01:04 PM
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