Researchers from the University of South Carolina have conducted a detailed study comparing fast food restaurants to fast casual restaurants. There was a long-held belief that fast, casual restaurants offered meals with less carbs, more nutritional value and were free of GMOs. The researchers reviewed more than 50 different fast food chains and casual restaurants to compare the calorie content of their meals. The results established that casual restaurants had more calories per meal than traditional fast food chains.

Danielle Schoffman and her colleagues examined menus from 34 fast food chains such as Burger King, McDonald’s, and 28 other casual restaurants such as Chipotle and Panera. The team only focused on the calorie count of each meal from different restaurants. Schoffman came up with the idea after conducting a similar study in which she explored the effects of eating from fast food restaurants. She advised families to avoid fast food restaurants due to high calorie content and poor nutritional value of their meals. Mrs Schoffman kept getting asked, “Does Chipotle or Panera count as fast food?”

Healthy Fast Food

Fast food entrée meals contained 561 calories on average, while entrée meals from fast casual restaurants contained 760 calories on average. Moreover, fast casual restaurants also had a higher number of entrée meals that exceeded 640 calories.

The team is now planning to compare other nutritional components such as sodium levels and fiber content. Schoffman was quite shocked by the outcome and said, “We were surprised that there were higher calories at fast casual restaurants, but one of the main takeaways from the paper is that there are a lot of high-calorie options at both kinds of restaurants.

Brie Turner-McGrievy, one of the researchers, said that there was a lot of exponential growth in the fast casual restaurant industry, so the team wanted to explore healthier alternatives for health-conscious people. “Are people who are looking to cut calories better off going to Chipotle or Burger King?” said Brie.

The debate is quite simple really, if we look at it from a broader perspective. Whether it is McDonald’s, Burger King, Chipotle or Olive Garden, consuming food other than home-cooked meals will have its consequences.

Researchers from Tufts University examined 364 meals in the cities of Little Rock, San Francisco and Boston between the time periods of 2011 and 2014. The findings proved quite shocking as a whopping 92% of the restaurant meals had more calories than the recommended calorie value for a single meal.

“A burger on a white bun may have fewer calories, but when you’re talking about cancer prevention or other chronic diseases, you have to look beyond calories,” Brie added. “We don’t want the message to be, ‘Go eat hamburgers and don’t eat guacamole and beans and brown rice.'”

Why Did The Researchers Conduct This Study?

Even though a new fast food restaurant opens up every day, right around the corner, attracting locals like a swarm of bees, more and more people are becoming aware of the health consequences of fast food restaurants, thanks to calorie counts and sodium warnings. Individuals are constantly looking for healthier alternatives to fast food since so many health risks are associated with it.

Health Risks Associated With Fast Food

Consuming fast food frequently can cause very serious health problems. There’s a big reason behind that. Foods such as burgers, French fries and fried chicken increase the risk of early onset diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.

These foods contain high level of sodium, trans fats, and high amounts of sugar. A high amount of sodium causes a sodium buildup in the system. This buildup forces the heart and kidneys to work faster and harder, which increases the risk for heart and kidney diseases.

The most unhealthy and dangerous ingredient in such foods is trans fat. Trans fats have high melting points which makes them harder to break down and dissolve. That’s why trans fat can get stuck in coronary arteries, thus greatly increasing the risk of heart attacks, diabetes and strokes.

Excessive amounts of sugars in fast food make the liver work extra hard in converting glucose into glycogen. This extra workload, in turn, makes it difficult for the liver to convert the stored glycogen into glucose during high energy situations. It also makes the body resistive to insulin, which greatly increases the risk for diabetes.

Fast food provides no nutritional value despite its high calorie content. Fast food has no minerals or vitamins which are essential for the body.

Instead, fruits and vegetables should be consumed frequently, since they are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals and are a rich source of fiber. All of these substances are important in natural bodily processes such as cell diffusion, hormonal growth, electrical nerve conduction and digestion.

Indulging in fast food every once in a while is not going to harm anyone, but carefully read the ingredients before eating to make sure the food is free of hormones, is gluten-free in case of patients with celiac disease, and is low in sodium and trans fats.