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Research letter evaluates calories, fat, and sodium content in restaurant meals

The JAMA Network Journals

A research letter by Mary R. L'Abbe, Ph.D., of the University of Toronto, Canada, and colleagues examined the nutritional profile of breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals from sit-down restaurants (SDR). (Online First)

A total of 3,507 different variations of 685 meals, as well as 156 desserts from 19 SDRs were included in the study. Nutrients evaluated included calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium; excess consumption of these nutrients is associated with obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Nutrient values were calculated as a percentage of the daily value (%DV).

Researchers found on average, breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals contained 1,128 calories (56 percent of the average daily 2,000 calories recommendation), 151 percent of the amount of sodium an adult should consume in a single day (2,269 milligrams), 89 percent of the daily value for fat (58 grams), 83 percent of the daily value for saturated and trans fat (16 grams of saturated fat and 0.6 grams of trans fat), and 60 percent of the daily value for cholesterol (179 grams).

"Overall, the results of this study demonstrate that calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium levels are alarmingly high in breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals from multiple chain SDRs. Therefore, addressing the nutritional profile of restaurant meals should be a major public health priority," the study concludes.


(JAMA Intern Med. Published online May 13, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6159. Available pre-embargo to the media at

Editor's Note: This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Strategic Training Program in Public Health Policy; CIHR/Canadian Stroke Network Operating Grant Competition; and University of Toronto Earle W. McHenry Chair unrestricted research grant. Please see article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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