US chains exceeding nutritional guidelines
23 May, 2012
The vast majority of chain restaurant meals in the US exceed nutritional recommendations, a new study has found.
Analysis by the RAND research agency, published in the Public Health Nutrition journal, found that all but 4% of chains' entrees provided more than the USDA’s recommendations for fat, saturated fat and sodium in a meal. The survey of more than 28,000 menu items at 245 restaurants provided better results on calorie counts, but this did not disguise their potentially damaging effect on health. Lead researcher Helen Wu told the Los Angeles Times: “Many items may appear healthy based on calories, but actually can be very unhealthy when you consider other important nutrition criteria.” Levels of salt were particularly dangerous, she said.
RAND says the findings show that the gap between fast food and casual dining concepts in the US is not as wide as some think. Many chains actually have more calories, fat and sodium than their fast food counterparts, the study found.
The study also flagged up children’s meals, which often featured items with more fat, saturated fat and carbohydrates than regular adult menus; and appetizers, which frequently had levels of fat and sodium above those of entrée-size portions. Restaurants that disclosed nutritional information on their websites tended to have lower levels of fat and sodium, RAND found.
For more about RAND’s research, click here.