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Jul 17, 2015 09:37 PM EDT

Restaurant Meals May Be Just As Unhealthy As Fast Food

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Restaurant food may be just as unhealthy as a McDonald's meal, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Illinois found that when Americans go out to a full-service restaurant, they consume, on average, about 200 more calories a day than when they stay home for meals, Medical Daily reported.

"People who consume food at full-service restaurants are not aware of the calorie and nutrient content in the food served [and] are more likely to overeat and are less cautious about the extra calories they intake from the full-service restaurant," researcher Ruopeng An said in a statement.

For the study, researchers collected and analyzed eight years of nationally representative data from more than 18,000 adults living in the United States, Reuters reported.

They found that eating at a restaurant is comparable to -- or in some cases less healthy than -- eating at a fast-food outlet.

While people who eat at restaurants tend to take in more healthy nutrients, including certain vitamins, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids, than those who eat at home or at a fast-food outlet, the restaurant diners also consume substantially more sodium and cholesterol.  

"People who ate at full-service restaurants consumed significantly more cholesterol per day than people who ate at home," An said. "This extra intake of cholesterol, about 58 milligrams per day, accounts for 20 percent of the recommended upper bound of total cholesterol intake of 300 milligrams per day."

They also found that fast-food and restaurant diners "consumed about 10 grams more total fat, and 3.49 grams and 2.46 grams, respectively, more saturated fat than those who dined at home," Reuters reported.

"These findings reveal that eating at a full-service restaurant is not necessarily healthier than eating at a fast-food outlet," An said. "In fact, you may be at higher risk of overeating in a full-service restaurant than when eating fast-food. My advice to those hoping to consume a healthy diet and not overeat is that it is healthier to prepare your own foods, and to avoid eating outside the home whenever possible."

The findings are detailed in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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