Surprise! Many Restaurant Meals Have More Calories Than Fast-Food Combos
Fast food chains get a bad rep for impacting the obesity epidemic by serving high-calorie meals that are mostly full of saturated fat and low on nutritional value. But it turns out they aren’t the only ones to blame. A new study published in the British Medical Journal reported meals ordered from sit-down restaurants contain 33 percent more calories on average than fast food meals.
The study surveyed nutritional information from popular dining establishments in five cities around the world. In the United States, researchers turned to nutrition data from the most frequently ordered meals in fast food and sit-down restaurants in Boston to determine results for Americans.
The study illustrates their findings via an interactive chart to show just how many more calories are in an average sit-down restaurant meal compared to those from typical fast food joints. This report comes just after new retail data shows that fast-food meals are becoming increasingly expensive, closing the gap between drive-thru prices and fast-casual chains.
We’ve listed the five biggest offenders as listed in the report—these meals are often available on restaurant menus, whether its a chain or a local establishment. While it's important to note that nutritional values are not always the same at each restaurant, you may want to think twice before ordering these when dining out.
Just for comparison, keep in mind that a medium Big Mac meal (one that comes with a diet soda and fries) contains 870 calories, which pales in comparison to some of these caloric bombs.
How to choose the best option when dining out:
1. Fettuccine Alfredo and a Roll: 2,589 Calories
Fettuccine Alfredo was the clear winner of the study’s worst items to order at a restaurant, taking four of the top 10 spots, due to various (but high!) calorie counts at popular restaurants.
While fettuccine alfredo is typically an indulgent meal, we’ve created a lighter version topped with grilled chicken that is just as satisfying. At only one-fifth of the calories, go ahead and enjoy a whole-grain roll on the side, too.
View Recipe: Roasted Garlic Chicken Alfredo
2. Rib-eye with a loaded baked potato: 2,136 Calories
Steak and potatoes are an American staple, but when plow through the fattiest cut of the meat with a stuffed potato, calling this a heavy meal almost seems like an understatement (and that’s without the gorgonzola butter).
Choosing a leaner piece of steak, and opting for a healthier spud side dish, allows you to still enjoy a comforting meal… without eating more than a day’s worth of calories in one sitting!
View Recipe: Spice-Crusted Flank Steak With Crispy Potatoes
3. General Tso’s chicken and fortune cookie: 2,058 Calories
Two different General Tso’s chicken dishes took spots in the top 10 worst items to order at a restaurant, according to the study.
Luckily, Andrea Ngyuen shared her recipe for General Tso’s chicken in the air-fryer, and one serving checks in at only 300 calories.
View Recipe: Air-Fried General Tso’s Chicken
4. Chicken sandwich and fries: 1,975 Calories
It's not clear, but we're going to go out on a limb here and assume there was fried chicken instead of grilled in this bun. It may also be the serving size of fries here that earned this meal its fourth place ranking. We all know even a “small” french fry from a fast food joint is still much larger than a suggested serving, and many restaurants serve even more fries with meals.
One large fry from McDonald’s weighs in at 497 calories, which is comparable to a side of fries from Applebees' at 430 Calories. But at least McDonald’s offers two smaller sizes to choose from, whereas restaurants often just fill the plate with them, leaving you to battle the temptation of eating a whole plate of fried potatoes!
Luckily, we’ve perfected oven-fried chicken and created a spiralized french fry recipe that helps with portion sizing.
5. Pork Fried Rice: 1,971 Calories
Pork Fried Rice was all over this chart as one of the unhealthiest choices. Between high-fat pork smothered in a sugar and salt-laden sauce and all the oil used in frying the rice, this calorie count adds up fast.
Fried rice can actually be a nutritious meal—filled with whole grains and veggies if you do it right. At only 367 calories per serving, our nutty fried rice is a great option for when you’re craving some classic Asian flavor without a side of guilt.
View Recipe: Nutty Fried Rice