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Fast Casual Restaurants May Have Higher Calorie Meals Than Fast Food

Many people view “fast casual” restaurants, such as Chipotle and Panera Bread, as a healthier alternative to traditional fast food. That perspective may be inaccurate, however, as a recent study found that food from fast casual restaurants may actually have a higher average calorie count than food from fast food chains such as McDonald’s.

The researchers examined menus from 34 fast food restaurants and 28 fast casual restaurants. They found that entrees from the fast casual restaurants had an average 760 calories, compared with 561 calories for fast food entrees. They also found that a higher proportion of entrees at the fast casual restaurants exceeded the median of 640 calories than the entrees in the fast food restaurants. Entrees were determined by what the establishments considered a “standard order.”

The researchers cautioned that calorie counts are not the only markers of health and more research needs to be done in order to determine, for example, the nutritional differences between the two types of restaurants.

Researchers from the Arnold School of Public Health conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on May 11, 2016, in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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