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Large Portion Sizes When Dining Out a Problem Worldwide

According to the World Health Organization, global obesity has nearly tripled in the past four decades. A recent study suggests that overly large portion sizes in fast food and full service restaurants are a problem across the world — and that fast food may not be worse than full service restaurant meals.


For this study, the researchers examined the calorie content of the most frequently ordered meals from 111 randomly selected full service and fast food restaurants in five countries — Brazil, China, Finland, Ghana, and India — as well as five worksite canteens in Finland. Worksite canteens are common in Finland and often offer subsidized lunch options to support employee health. The researchers then compared the data collected with existing information for U.S. restaurants.


The researchers found that 94% of meals from full service restaurants and 72% of fast food meals across all countries studied contained 600 calories or more. The only country that had a lower calorie count per meal was China, with 719 calories versus 1,088 calories per meal.


On average, fast food meals had 33% fewer calories than full service meals, with 809 calories versus 1,317 calories per meal, respectively.  In addition, 3% of meals from full service restaurants had 2,000 calories or more.


The food samples taken were limited to entrees and did not include beverages, appetizers, or desserts. This means that the calorie counts probably underestimate the total calorie count of restaurant meals.


Researchers from Tufts University led the study. It was published on December 12, 2018, in BMJ.

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