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Restaurant Food Not Much Healthier Than Fast Food

Fish and chips are seen in a sea front cafe in Blackpool, northern England September 8, 2013. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Fish and chips are seen in a sea front cafe in Blackpool, northern England September 8, 2013. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Home cooking is still the best way to control the calories, fat, sugar and other nutrients that families consume, a new U.S. study suggests.

Researchers found that eating food from restaurants – whether from fast food places, or better establishments – led to increases in calories, fat and sodium compared to meals made at home.

Public health interventions targeting dining-out behavior in general, rather than just fast food, may be warranted to improve the way Americans’ eat, says the study’s author.fast food 3

Ruopeng An, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, noted that people have previously equated fast food with junk food.

“But, people don’t know much about the food provided by full-service restaurants and if it is better or healthier fast  food 2compared to fast food or compared to food prepared and consumed at home,” An told Reuters Health.

For his study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, An used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which regularly gathers health and dietary information from a representative sample of the U.S. population.

More than 18,000 adults answered survey questions about what they’d eaten over a two-day period. About a third of participants reported eating fast food on one or both days, and one quarter reported eating full-service restaurant food on at least one day.

Compared to participants who ate food prepared at home, those who visited fast food restaurants consumed an average of 190 more calories per day, 11 grams more fat, 3.5 g more saturated fat, 10 mg extra cholesterol and 300 mg additional sodium.

Source: Reuters


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Holiday Eating

The winter season is chock full of delicious dishes and treats, but no one likes the extra calories and added pounds that can come with the seasonal food. Use these smart tips on substitutions and choices to enjoy your favorite winter beverages and foods.

EggnogEggnog

  • Mix it up. Fill your glass with half- to three-quarter-parts of low-fat or skim milk and one part eggnog. You’ll still get the flavor without all the calories.
  • Act like a kid. Take out the alcohol. This simple step will reduce the caloric content.
  • Cut the fluff. Pass on that big dollop of whipped cream to avoid the extra sugar and saturated fat.

Hot Chocolate

  • Skip the heavy stuff. If you order hot chocolate at a restaurant or coffee shop, ask that it be made withhot chocolate low-fat or skim milk, and without the whipped cream.
  • Do some research. To make instant hot chocolate at home, look for product packets marked “low-fat/fat-free” or “low-sugar/sugar-free.” Be sure to add the mix to low-fat milk, skim milk or hot water.
  • Go easy on the toppings. Use five to eight mini-marshmallows instead of large ones. If using whipped cream, look for low-fat versions and stick to less than one tablespoon. If you have hot chocolate regularly, try to limit the toppings to “once in a while treats” since they can pack a lot of calories and added sugars.

Apple Ciderapple cider

  • Read the labels. When buying cider at the store, check its added sugar content. Many products contain added sugars, which can increase your calorie intake and cause weight gain. Choose low-sugar and sugar-free options.
  • Do it yourself. When making cider at home, use low-sugar apple juice and a variety of spices (like cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg and whole cranberries). You’ll keep the flavor while cutting calories.

Cocktails and Other Alcoholic Beveragescocktail

  • Enjoy cocktails. Serve non-alcoholic versions of your favorite cocktails to lower the calories. Be sure to check the nutrition label, because sometimes products that are alcohol-free have more added sugar.
  • Break it up. To reduce the amount of calorie-laden drinks you consume during a holiday gathering, drink a glass of water or sparkling water between each beverage. This will help fill your stomach, leaving less room to overindulge.

Sodium

  • Limit your sodium. Did you know that many of your favorite holiday dishes may be packed with sodium? Breads and rolls, poultry, and canned soups are three common foods that can add sodium to low sodiumyour diet. When shopping for ingredients to prepare your holiday meal, compare the labels to find lower sodium varieties.
  • Savor the flavor. Use herbs and spices, like rosemary and cloves, to flavor dishes instead of salt or butter.
  • Go fresh. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables to use in your dishes. If using canned products, rinse with water in a colander before cooking and serving.

Turkey

  • Outsmart the bird. Reach for the lighter pieces of meat; they have fewer calories and less fat than the Turkeydarker ones. Another way to cut calories is to take off the skin.
  • Keep portions in check. A serving size of meat is 3 oz., about the size of a deck of cards. So, be conscious of how much you put on your plate, and pass on that second helping. If you’re also having another meat, like ham or lamb, take smaller portions of each.
  • Watch out for the gravy train. Turkey usually comes with gravy, which can add excess fat, calories and sodium. Limit gravy to a tablespoon, and keep it off other items, like the dressing.

Dressing

  • Call it what it is. Dressing is intended to be a complement to your meal, not an entrée. To keep calories gravyand excess fat in check, aim for ¼ cup (or about half a scoop with a serving spoon).
  • Judge it by its cover. If the dressing is filled with fatty meats like sausage and pork, looks greasy or buttery, and is made with white bread or sweet rolls, it may be best to pass. Better options would be dressings that have whole grain or cornbread, lean meat (or no meat), nuts (like almonds or walnuts), and lots of veggies and fruits.

Desserts

  • Treat yourself right. The best way to enjoy an occasional sweet without losing control is by sampling a pecan pieselection or two, rather than having full servings. For example, have one bite of pie, half a cookie or one small square of fudge. Find a friend or family member who will stick to the sampling rule with you.

Source: American Heart Association