By now, it’s been drilled into our heads that fast food is bad for us. When you’re craving a Big Mac for lunch, a healthy alternative seems to be a fast casual place like Panera, Subway, or Chipotle. But hold your buns: According to a survey published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, dishes at fast casual restaurants have more calories on the whole than ones found at fast food restaurants.
Comparing more than 3,000 entrées at fast casual and fast food restaurants, researchers found that, on average, fast casual entrées contained 200 more calories than fast food meals. The typical fast food meal is 560 calories, whereas fast casual entrées are around 760 calories.It should be noted that the researchers only tallied calories, not actual nutritional value, which would likely change the outcome of the study.
"When we encourage participants in our research studies to reduce their fast food intake, they often ask if these fast casual restaurants also 'count,'" said Schoffman, a researcher with the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia in a statement. "We were interested in looking at the calorie data for entrees at both restaurant types to see if they lined up with these assumptions."