Yeah, you pile on those toppings. Pile ’em on real good.
Say no to the extra guac, because believe it or not, a trip through the McDonald’s drive-thru might be better for you in the long run. No, this isn’t about the recent E. coli scare at Chipotle. What it’s about is calories in versus calories out. According to a new study out from the University of South Carolina, main dishes at fast casual restaurants contain up to 35 percent more calories than their fast food frenemies do.
The study analyzed menus at 34 different fast food restaurants, including fan favorites such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Subway, and 28 fast casual spots, like Chipotle, Panera Bread, and Smashburger. And, surprise!, the fast casual entrees contained an average of 761 calories each. A pretty huge difference, when compared to fast food’s average of 561 calories per entree.
What it comes down to, according to the study’s lead researcher, Danielle Schoffman, is larger portion sizes and a greater ability to customize with decadent add-on options (think guacamole, cheese, sour cream, and everything else you love slopping on your burrito bowl).
“These add-ons are available at both types of restaurants,” Schoffman said, “but the option of customizing your meal at fast-casual places gives you more opportunity to select or avoid the extra calories.” But really, who wants to avoid when you can select, other than that guy who’s trying to prove a point with his Chipotle gainz?
Of course, just about every food study can be taken with a grain of salt, this one included. The only thing looked at was calories, and not the quality of those calories. Is a carton of battered and fried nuggets really any better for you than a salad with a lot of calorie-dense toppings and an olive oil-based dressing? Even the study acknowledges this weakness, stating that, in the future, “studies should compare actual purchasing patterns from these restaurants to determine whether the energy content or nutrient density of full meals (ie, entrées with sides and drinks) differs between fast-casual restaurants and fast-food restaurants.”
If you’re really looking to cut calories, maybe think about going light on the extras and order half portions of those fast-casual monster entrees the study looked at. Or just eat at home, where you have complete control over everything that goes into your food.
(H/T: Men’s Health)