Study: Only 4% of Restaurant Main Dishes Meet Government Guidelines.

Planning on eating out a restaurant? According to a new study, there’s a very good chance that your meal will exceed federal nutrition recommendations for calories, fat, saturated fat and sodium.

The 18-month study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and conducted by the Rand Corp., examined nearly 31,000 menu items from 245 top U.S. restaurant chains. The findings were abysmal.

According to Helen Wu, the lead researcher:

If you’re eating out tonight, your chances of finding an entree that’s truly healthy are painfully low. The restaurant industry needs to make big changes to be part of the solution.

Just how low are your chances of eating healthy? Based on the collected data, only 4% of main dishes fell within the federal guidelines. In other words, 96% of main dishes have more calories, fat, saturated fat and/or sodium than advised by the government.

The USDA recommends that main dishes not exceed the following guidelines:

  • 667 calories
  • 35% of calories from fat
  • 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • 767 mg sodium

According to researchers, surveyed appetizers and main dishes averaged 813 calories and 674 calories respectively. Moreover, the main dishes at family-style restaurants were significantly less healthy than fast food chains. Their main dishes, probably because of portion size, averaged in with 271 additional calories, 435 additional milligrams of sodium and 16 more grams of fat than fast food alternatives.

Clearly, dining out can be a real challenge for health-conscious individuals – and, though restaurants have made some changes (like listing calories on some menus) – more needs to be done.

I always recommend researching a restaurant before deciding where to eat, avoiding menu items with words like crispy, creamed, buttered, cheesy, pan-fiend or breaded, drinking lots of water and sharing desserts. It’s also a good idea to eat an apple before going out to eat. The apple, which is rich in filling fiber, will help curb your appetite before chowing down on unhealthy restaurant food.

For more information, check out my 9 tips to eat healthy at a restaurant or the top 12 words to avoid on restaurant menus.

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  1. Seeing the logos on the picture, a different choice of restaurant might help a lot! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    But all fun aside, I rarely go out to eat anyways so I’m not so bummed out about it.

  2. If they are going to give us the info…then give us all the info….what 4% restaurants did meet the guidelines so that we can dine at those places, then the restaurants that did not meet the guidelines might think twice about doing so, when they see their sales fall