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Fast food vs. restaurant fare: Which is worse for your waistline?

WATCH ABOVE: New research suggests restaurant fare has as much, or even more, calories, fat, and sodium as fast food meals. Global News health reporter Carmen Chai put together five comparisons.

If you think you’re doing your health a favour by choosing a sit-down restaurant over heading to a fast food joint for your next meal, you’ve got it all wrong. In a new study, American researchers say that eating at a restaurant is comparable – or even worse, in some cases – to eating drive-thru fare.

University of Illinois scientists looked at eight years of data from national health and nutrition surveys to get to their findings.

READ MORE: Your restaurant meal is just as bad for you as fast food, study warns

Turns out, those who ate at a restaurant were taking in more healthy nutrients, such as vitamins, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids than those who ate at home or at a fast food restaurant, but those benefits are cancelled out by all of the fat, sodium and cholesterol they were also getting from their meals.

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The difference was “substantial” – an extra intake of 58 milligrams of cholesterol, 10 grams more of total fat, and 3.49 more grams of saturated fat compared to their counterparts who ate at home.

Those who ate at a fast food chain added about 300 milligrams of sodium per day to their daily intake while a restaurant bumped the salt up by 412 milligrams per day, on average.

READ MORE: If menus shared calories, sodium, would you make healthier choices?

Ultimately, restaurant fare also tacked on an extra 200 calories to your waistline.

Carol Dombrow, who’s been a registered dietitian with the Heart and Stroke Foundation for almost 25 years, isn’t surprised by the research.

“The major difference is portion size. When you eat in a sit down restaurant your portions are larger and in a fast food restaurant they’re controlled,” she told Global News.

“In a sit-down restaurant, there are many extras so the dishes are more elaborate. You may get more garnishes and more toppings than you would at a fast food restaurant, which is going to add to the fat content and to the sodium content,” she explained.

READ MORE: Why your fast food friendly neighbourhood is making you gain weight

Global News tested the researchers’ theory: is restaurant fare worse than what you’re getting from a fast food joint?

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Take a look at our comparisons.

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(Janet Cordahi/Global News)

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca