Is dining out worth an extra 11 pounds a year?

Is dining out worth an extra 11 pounds a year?

Hitting the local drive- through on the way home from work may sound like a quick and easy dinner solution, especially for busy families, but new research says this far too common eating habit costs adults about 200 extra calories each day they eat out at fast-food or full-service restaurants.

The research, published online in Public Health Nutrition, investigated data from more than 12,000 individuals aged 20 to 64 who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Survey 2003. Researchers asked participants about their eating out habits over the course of two days.

With the additional 200 calorie intake, the study also found adults consumed an extra 3.48 grams of saturated fat, 3.95 grams of sugar and 296.38 milligrams of sodium on days they ate out at fast-food restaurants.  When eating out at other full-service restaurants, adults had an even higher sodium intake of 451.06 extra milligrams.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average American eats out about four to five times each week.  For those doing the math, that’s an extra 800 calories per week, 3,200 calories per month or about an extra 11 pounds each year. It’s no wonder so many are struggling to control their weight.

“The United States is one of the most obese nations in the world, with more than one in three adult men and women defined as obese,” said Dr. Binh Nguyen of the American Cancer Society in a news release. “Just as obesity rates rise, there’s been a marked increase in total energy consumption consumed away from home, with about one in four calories coming from fast food or full service restaurants in 2007. Our study confirms that adults’ fast-food and full-service restaurant consumption was associated with higher daily total energy intake and poorer dietary indicators.”

Though the price of eating healthy may be a bit higher than feasting on fast food daily, the investment in health is something that has long-term benefits, said Dr. Paul Ringel of Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago.

“The benefits far outweigh the added costs,” Dr. Ringel said. “If you think of it in terms of a cost-benefit analysis, the cost of eating healthy is minimal compared to the cost of a heart attack, stroke or cancer.”

If you’re looking to save some money, Dr. Ringel suggests eating in rather than dining out.

“Fresh foods prepared at home can help with a tight budget,” he said. “It’s cheaper and healthier to prepare your own foods.”

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  1. This will make me think twice about eating out!

  2. This should give us reason to steer clear of drive through windows on the way home!

  3. Ernst Lamothe Jr August 12, 2014 at 12:41 pm · Reply

    I think eating out at a restaurant once every couple weeks is good. The problem is that people eat out more than a couple times each week.

    • Actually, the problem in not how many times people eat out, it is a combination of where and what they choose to eat. Visit your local Old Country Buffett or Golden Corral for the best, or worst, illustrations.

  4. Eating out was an occasional treat when I was a kid. For many families today, it’s the home-cooked meal that is the occasional treat!

  5. Lisa Parro

    Another reason I wish Subway had a drive-thru for busy families like mine.

  6. I have dined out less in the past year, and when I do, I try to make healthier selections.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.