FSR meals 'high in sodium and fat'

January 09 2014

Many of the meals served in Canadian full-service restaurants (FSRs) contain significant amounts of sodium and saturated fat. 

A new study conducted into US FSRs found certain dishes at these venues are no healthier than those served in fast food chains and a nutrition expert has claimed the situation is very similar in Canada. 

Researchers from Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania have published a report that shows many FSR dishes come close to or even exceed the daily recommended intake of sodium and saturated fat. 

In an analysis of 21 FSR chains, it found a typical meal comprised of an entree, side dish and half an appetizer contained close to 1,500 calories, which is near the recommended allowance for an entire day. The figure rises to 2,020 calories when half a dessert and beverage are included. 

When it comes to sodium, the typical meal contains 3,512 milligrams, which exceeds the recommended daily amount. While the level of saturated fat is also worryingly high. 

The researchers said meals labelled as healthy or aimed at children or elderly people tend to contain less calories or saturated fat, but are still very high in sodium. 

Mary L'Abbe, chair of the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, told CBC News the picture is "amazingly similar" in Canada, with many of the FSR chains analysed in the study also operating north of the border.

Last year, Ms L'Abbe authored a similar report to the one undertaken by the US universities and found sodium content was worryingly high in many Canadian restaurants' dishes.

However, she also said a lot od operators are making soild progress in providing nutritional information on their menus and websites.

"Restaurants are doing a good job of starting to identify healthy choices. They are a good place to start," she stated.

Ms L'Abbe provided advice on how people can watch what they eat at restaurants, such as asking for salt not to be added when a meal is cooked and requesting smaller portions.