Foodservice Equipment Reports

Chains Exceed Recommended USDA Nutrition Goals, Study Claims

In a large examination of the product offerings in chain restaurants, meals at the vast majority of major U.S. chain restaurants are exceeding the recommended daily limits set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says a new report conducted by the Rand Corp.

According to “What’s on the Menu?,”  96% of main adult meal entrées overshot the USDA’s recommended daily limits for calories, fat and sodium. The study examined the availability of nutritional data for nearly 31,000 menu offerings at 245 major U.S. restaurant chains and then analyzed the nutrient levels.

Full-service restaurants averaged higher levels of calories, fat, and sodium than those in the quick-service sector. Fast-casual menu items also had significantly higher calorie counts, but not significantly higher amounts of sodium or fat, according to the study.

“If you think about it, the portion sizes at family-style restaurants are just bigger, so of course they are higher in calories and sodium and saturated fat,” said Helen Wu, who oversaw the study. “It could be the case that the fast-food restaurants are more to blame for the obesity epidemic … but just mapping out objectively what’s available on the menu, family-style restaurants tend to be more problematic.”

The report also examined the availability of nutritional info at chain restaurants. Its findings suggest that U.S. restaurants with fewer outlets or those that are considered upscale are less likely to report data.

“Restaurants that made nutritional information easily accessible on websites had significantly lower energy, fat, and sodium contents across menu offerings than those providing information only upon request,” the study states.

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