Eating out can be notoriously difficult for those watching their weight. Traditionally, fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Taco Bell have been thought to be amongst the worst. In the past decade, a newer brand of quick-service restaurants like Qdoba, Panera, and Jason’s Deli have seen tremendous growth. Consumers tend to perceive these choices as “fresher”, and “healthier”, but are they really?

Recent research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics challenged the perception that the newer “quick-service” meals are actually lighter in calories than their fast food counterparts. The calorie content of entrees from both types of restaurants was assessed using a database of publicly available nutrition information. Results showed that the traditional fast food entrees were lighter in overall calorie content than the newer quick-service choices, at 561 calories per meal versus 760 calories per meal.

What does this mean for those trying to lose weight? Is fast food the better choice? In short, not exactly. All the meals assessed were quite high in calories, ranging on average between 561-760 calories per meal. The fast food choices have also been shown in prior research to be lacking in overall nutritional quality, including low amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and high amounts of fat and sodium. More research will need to be done to compare how the newer quick-service restaurants measure up nutritionally.

In the meantime, use caution in assuming that picking up a quick meal at any of these restaurants will be a healthy choice. For those that tend to eat out often, speak with one of our Nutrition Specialists to discuss the best options to fit your needs.