New global research on how much people eat when they go out shows that large restaurant portions aren’t just a staple of American eateries, but more likely a global phenomenon.
A new paper published in the journal The BMJ suggests that everybody, no matter the nationality, tends to overeat when they’re going out. Even if that is generally a stereotype about Americans. Researchers focused on five countries for this study: Brazil, China, Finland, Ghana and India. They measured the most frequently ordered meals from classic restaurants to fast-food places.
The research team then compared their findings to data about the United States. According to it, the average American meal is 1088 calories compared to China’s 719 calories. But here’s the kicker: The other four countries included in the study are way worse offenders when it comes to average meal calories, more than the US and China.
Large restaurant portions, loaded with calories
Researchers recommend eating 600-calorie meals in order to combat the global obesity epidemic. But 94 percent of meals from restaurants and 72 percent of meals from fast-food places go above the 600 calories benchmark. And that didn’t depend on which country they were served in.
Out of all of those meals, 3 percent contain 2000 calories or more. Which is a scary thought.
"Current average portion sizes are high in relation to calorie requirements and recommendations globally," Susan B. Roberts, senior scientist and director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and one of the paper's authors, said in a statement. "Eating out is now common around the world, but it is important to keep in mind that it is easy to overeat when a large restaurant meal is likely to be only one of several meals and snacks consumed that day."
At the same time, it is interesting to note that fast-food is sometimes not as guilty of pumping people full of calorie-dense meals as some classic restaurants are. "Fast food has been widely cited as an easy target for diet change because of its high-calorie content," said Roberts; "however, previous work by our team in the U.S. identified restaurant meals in general as an important target for interventions to address obesity."