Washington: Dining at a restaurant is comparable to - or in some cases less healthy than - eating at a fast-food outlet, a new US study has found.
Researchers found that when Americans go out to eat, either at a fast-food outlet or a full-service restaurant, they consume, on average, about 200 more calories a day than when they stay home for meals.
They also take in more fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium than those who prepare and eat their meals at home.
University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Ruopeng An analysed eight years of nationally representative data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
An looked at 2003-10 data collected from 18,098 adults living in the US.
His analysis, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that eating at a restaurant is comparable to - or in some cases less healthy than - eating at a fast-food outlet.
While people who eat at restaurants tend to take in more healthy nutrients - including certain vitamins, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids - than those who eat at home or at a fast-food outlet, the restaurant diners also consume substantially more sodium and cholesterol - two nutrients that Americans generally eat in excess, even at home.
"People who ate at full-service restaurants consumed significantly more cholesterol per day than people who ate at home," An said.
"This extra intake of cholesterol, about 58 milligrams per day, accounts for 20 per cent of the recommended upper bound of total cholesterol intake of 300 milligrammes per day," he said.
Those who ate at fast-food outlets also took in extra cholesterol, but only about 10 milligrammes more than those who ate at home.
Fast-food and restaurant diners consumed about 10 grams more total fat, and 3.49 grams and 2.46 grams, respectively, more saturated fat than those who dined at home.
Eating at a fast-food outlet adds about 300 milligrammes of sodium to one's daily intake, and restaurant dining boosts sodium intake by 412 milligrammes per day, on average, An said.
Recommendations for sodium intake vary between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrammes per day, but Americans already consume more than 3,100 milligrammes of sodium at home, he found.
"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," he said.
"These findings reveal that eating at a full-service restaurant is not necessarily healthier than eating at a fast-food outlet," An said.
"In fact, you may be at higher risk of overeating in a full-service restaurant than when eating fast-food," An said.