Pretty much everyone eats out at some point. Whether frequently or occasionally, something will eventually come up that involves eating away from home. While more health-conscious consumers might choose to skip traditional fast-food establishments in favor of fast casual restaurants (think Chipotle or Panera Bread), a new study shows that they might end up consuming more calories than if they had just grabbed a burger from the drive-thru.
Researchers at the University of South Carolina found that an average meal at a typical fast casual restaurant is 200 calories higher than the average fast-food meal. Also, most casual restaurants were found to have higher calorie options than their fast-food competitors. This was gathered by cross comparing the calories from the menus of 34 fast food and 28 fast casual restaurants.
The researchers were quick to point out they only looked at calories and ignored all other nutritional information. "A burger on a white bun may have fewer calories, but when you're talking about cancer prevention or other chronic diseases, you have to look beyond calories," said researcher Brie Turner-McGrievy, "We don't want the message to be, 'Go eat hamburgers and don't eat guacamole and beans and brown rice.' "
Since we know that all calories are not created equally, it's important to think about what ingredients (along with the levels of fat, sodium, and sugar) are actually going into these meals. This list of Dining Our Dos and Don'ts can help you make better choices when eating out, whether you choose a fast or casual restaurant.