Food & Drink

Restaurant Meals Are Just as Bad for You as Fast Food, Study Shows

Chona Kasinger/Thrillist

You can stop patting yourself on the back for being a mature adult and choosing to eat at an actual restaurant rather than Taco Bell last night, because as it turns out... the food is just as bad for you.

A new study published by University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Ruopeng An shows that when Americans eat out, be it at at a restaurant or fast-food chain, they consume an average 200 extra calories than they would if they were to cook at home. Additionally, people who eat out consume more fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium than those who cook at home. Now, when was the last time you bought groceries? Never? Oh, but you have that old tomato and a jar of cocktail olives? Great.

An studied eight years of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from around 18,000 adults in the US, and his report -- published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition -- shows that while people who eat in full-service restaurants get more nutrients from their meals, restaurant meals tend to have a lot more sodium and cholesterol than fast food. Fast-food diners also take in more cholesterol than they would at home, but it's only about 10mg extra.

According to An, fast food adds 300mg of sodium to a person's daily intake, while a restaurant meal adds 412mg per day on average -- thats 27.5% of your recommended daily intake (The American Heart Association recommends about 1,500mg per day). On top of that, An says Americans already consume over 3,100mg of sodium at home. It's definitely all that caviar you're eating.

"The additional sodium is even more worrisome because the average daily sodium intake among Americans is already so far above the recommended upper limit, posing a significant public health concern, such as hypertension and heart disease," An said. 

Especially among the obese, he found, people were consuming more calories and taking in more energy, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium at fast-food chains than at restaurants.  

Well, on the plus side, you now have a leg to stand on when voting for Taco Bell in that "where should we eat dinner" argument. But also, it's probably best to just start eating at home. You can make toast, right?

Lucy Meilus is a staff writer for Thrillist and hasn't cooked a meal at home in 75 years. Follow her on Twitter at @Lucymeilus and send news tips to