Restaurant Menu Items Grossly Exceed USDA Recommendations

A new study published in the journal Public Health Review sheds shocking light on the quality of restaurant menu items served at the nation’s most popular restaurant chains. The findings concluded that most menu items lack compliance with the USDA’s recommended daily intakes of calories, fats and sodium.

The 18-month study, titled “What’s on the menu? A review of the energy and nutritional content of US chain restaurant menus,” found that more than 95 percent of main entrees sold in 245 of the nation’s top family-style chain restaurants exceeded the daily limits of harmful ingredients including saturated fat and salt by significant levels.

The researchers examined more than 30,000 menu items, with appetizers scoring higher in excessive calories, fat and sodium than all other menu items. On average, an appetizer dish clocked in at more than 800 calories while entrees came in at just under 700 calories.

And children’s menu items, particularly specialty beverages, had more saturated fat and carbs than comparable beverages on the regular menus, with shakes and floats averaging more than 400 calories for children versus 360 on the regular menu.

Entrée salads scored nearly as high as regular entrees in fat and calorie count, and despite the healthy appeal of family-style restaurants, the study found that entrée items were significantly higher in calories and saturated fat than comparable items found in fast-food restaurants. On average, family-style restaurant entrees contained nearly 300 more calories, 435 more milligrams of sodium and 16 more grams of fat than the fast-food items.

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Image: Phillie Casablanca