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We've never thought that eating out several nights a week was particularly healthy, and now there's proof. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a study concerning the health effects of restaurant meals on Americans.
USDA food economist Lisa Mancino told the Orlando Sentinel, "eating one meal away from home each week translates to roughly two extra pounds a year." Unfortunately, one meal is a low estimate, more than half of those surveyed eat out at least three times a week.
Since the majority of these meals consumed away from home are eaten out of convenience rather than enjoyment, fast and cheap usually trumps healthy and tasty, even though we all know that fast food is jam-packed with a wide array of bad-for-you ingredients including the dreaded high fructose corn syrup and trans fats.
Large portion sizes are another contributing factor to the restaurant-related obesity trend. So what do you get when you combine giant serving sizes plus calorie-laden food? Weight gain!
Choosing which meal to eat out might help keep the pounds off. According to the study, lunches pose the biggest problem. A restaurant lunch typically adds an extra 158 calories to your daily caloric intake. Restaurant dinners add about 144 extra calories, and breakfasts add 74 calories.
Our busy lifestyles can make it difficult to cook dinner every night, let alone three meals a day. But making more of an effort to eat at home will not only reduce your intake of calories and processed foods but also allow you to control portion sizes and perhaps best of all, enjoy your meals in a calmer, more focused way. (If you need some recipe inspiration, click here to get a meal idea for every weeknight.)
And when you do eat out, making healthier decisions is going to get much easier in the next few years. All chain restaurants will be required to post calorie counts of their offerings by 2013.