Many single entrées at U.S. chain restaurants serve up masses
of calories, fat, and sodium. Just how bad is a full meal?
Most Americans eat out at least once a week, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So they might be dismayed to learn that 96 percent of the entrées from more than 200 chain restaurants contain more calories, fat, and sodium than should be consumed in one sitting. (This finding applies to any adult who eats three roughly nutritionally equivalent meals a day and hopes to stay within U.S. dietary guidelines for a daily 2,000-calorie diet.) Equally distressing? The fact that items consumed before and after entrées—such as specialty drinks, appetizers, sides, and desserts—substantially increase the counts. Using the average nutritional values calculated by RAND researchers for each item type, our fictional four-course meal illustrates just how easy it is to consume many times more nutrients than most of us need.
Hi, folks, I’m Joe, and I’ll be your server today! Can I start you off with something refreshing to drink, like our triple-berry-blast smoothie?
|Average Specialty Nonalcoholic Beverage|
And how about an appetizer? Maybe our loaded Southwest-style nachos with pepper jack, avocado, and sour cream?
Our Mighty Big Burger with a side of fries is an excellent choice, especially if you brought your appetite!
|Average Entrée with One Side|
Who saved room for dessert? Our apple cinnamon caramel pie with vanilla bean ice cream is out of this world!
Our four-course meal overshoots the target for one adult meal many times over
- 4 times the calories
- 5 times the total fat
- 6 times the sodium
- 7 times the saturated fat
| ||Our Four-Course Meal||Per-Meal Target||Our Meal as a percentage of Target|
Infographic: Erin-Elizabeth Johnson and Carol Earnest
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