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Restaurant meals just as bad for your health as fast food, study reveals
Attention all foodies: Despite what you may think, you may be better off eating at McDonalds than that new four-star restaurant downtown. - photo by Jessica Ivins
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Attention all foodies: Despite what you may think, you may be better off eating at McDonalds than that new four-star restaurant downtown.

At least thats what a new study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition would suggest. Researchers found that Americans who eat out regularly whether in the form of drive-thru or sit-down consumed about 200 more calories a day than people who stayed home for meals.

Not entirely surprising on its own, but another discovery might cause you to scratch your head: Those who ate at sit-down restaurants consumed far more sodium and cholesterol than those who went the fast-food route.

These findings reveal that eating at a full-service restaurant is not necessarily healthier than eating at a fast-food outlet, study author Ruopeng An said in a University of Illinois release. In fact, you may be at higher risk of overeating in a full-service restaurant than when eating fast food.

To collect the data, An and his colleagues looked at eight years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They focused specifically on the eating habits of more than 18,000 American adults between 2003 and 2010, who reported everything they ate for two days.

"People mainly focus on fast food and want to beat this animal to death," An told Time. It was for this precise reason he launched his investigation into the perception that full-service restaurants were somehow better for a persons health than their quick-and-cheap alternatives.

If you still cant stomach a Whopper, theres another way to beat the extra calories, aside from just cooking in your own kitchen.

Researchers found that people who ordered take out and ate it at home consumed about 80 fewer calories than those who dined in. How can this be? Its all about the atmosphere, An said.

They have more time, its more relaxing, its more like a social event, so theyre less cautious about overeating, he said of eating in a restaurant.

More good news for those with an elevated palate: While dine-in restaurants tend to add more cholesterol and sodium to a patrons diet, meals prepared in traditional establishments also contain more vitamins, potassium and omega-3s than those in the fast-food arena.

Either way, Americans may want to consider eating out less in general, An said.

My advice to those hoping to consume a healthy diet and not overeat is that it is healthier to prepare your own foods, and to avoid eating outside the home whenever possible, he said.
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