New research presented recently at the 2015 Society of Nutrition Education and Behavior Conference reveals an effective tool for measuring how well your favorite restaurant helps diners make healthy choices. Developed by Brand Lab and Cornell Food researchers Brian Wansink, Gnel Gabrielyan and Steven A. Wendel, The Restaurant Scorecard for Healthier Dining can be used to identify changes that can be made to promote healthy eating behaviors without undermining revenue.
The researchers used the results of field studies and principles of behavioral science to identify 100 actions that restaurants can take to make it easier for you to eat healthier. Next, they created a 100-point and a 10-point restaurant scorecard to rate whether a restaurant is making its diners fat or slim by design. The researchers recruited eight diners to test out both scorecards in a large cafeteria, an Applebee's and two different McDonald's in a medium-sized city.
The researchers concluded that the restaurant scorecards can be a reliable way to rate how effective a restaurant is at helping customers dine healthfully. "Restaurant managers want people to leave feeling good, and these scorecards can help identify potential improvements that will make diners leave feeling both satisfied and healthy," said lead researcher Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and author of the new book, Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life.
Restaurant Meals As Bad As Fast Food For Your Waistline
In July, a study conducted by community health professor Ruopeng An, a University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor, reported that Americans consume on average about 200 more calories a day when they eat out at either a fast food or full-service restaurant. The report also reveals that they also take in more fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium than those that prepare and eat their meals at home.
"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."
- Those who ate at fast-food outlets also took in extra cholesterol, but only about 10 milligrams more than those who ate at home.
- 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.
- Eating at a fast-food outlet adds about 300 milligrams of sodium to one's daily intake, and restaurant dining boosts sodium intake by 412 milligrams per day, on average.
- African-Americans who ate at fast-food and full-service restaurants took in more total fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugar than their Caucasian and Hispanic counterparts who dined out.
- The effect of fast-food restaurant consumption on daily total energy intake appeared larger among people with lower educational attainment and people in the middle-income range had the highest daily intake of total energy, total fat, saturated fat and sodium when they dined at full-service restaurants.
- The obese also consumed more calories at fast-food restaurants, and took in more total energy, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium when eating at full-service restaurants than their normal-weight and overweight - but not obese peers.
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