A single meal at a North American restaurant may contain more than half the calories the average person needs for the whole day, according to research published on Monday in a leading US medical journal.
Researchers from the University of Toronto sampled hundreds of meals at 19 sit-down restaurants and found that average breakfast, lunch and dinner meals contained 1,128 calories, or 56 percent of the daily 2,000 calorie recommendation.
They also contained a lot of salt — 2,269mg, or 151 percent of the recommended amount of 1,500mg per day — and 89 percent of the daily value for fat.
The meals on average contained 83 percent of the daily value for saturated fat and more than 60 percent of the daily value for cholesterol.
“Overall, the results of this study demonstrate that calorie, fat, saturated fat and sodium levels are alarmingly high,” a research letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association said. “Therefore, addressing the profile of restaurant meals should be a major public health priority.”
A second study in the journal focused on dishes available at 33 small independent and small chain restaurants in Boston, Massachusetts, and found that the average meal contained two-thirds of daily calorie requirements.
Samples were taken from Mexican, US, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Greek and Vietnamese restaurants.
“On average, the meals studied contained 1,327 calories, which significantly exceeds the estimated energy needs of an individual adult at a single meal,” said senior author Susan Roberts, director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.
Italian meals had the highest average calories per meal (1,755), followed by American (1,494 calories) and Chinese (1,474 calories).
Vietnamese meals had the fewest calories on average (922), followed by Japanese meals (1,027).