A typical fast food meal is smaller and has fewer calories than the average meal from a table service restaurant, according to a new study.
For the study, James K. Binkley of Purdue University used data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals.
Fast food was found to be more energy dense than food from a table service restaurant. However, Binkley found that fast food meals tend to be smaller.
Consequently, the typical fast food meal had fewer calories than the average meal from a table service restaurant, whether the diner is an adult, teenager, or child.
However, the study also found that table service diners are more likely to reduce their food consumption during the rest of the day than are those eating at fast food restaurants, most likely because of the difference in energy density. As a result, fast food may ultimately result in more calories.
In addition, the study also found that fast food had the largest effects for adults, and that children's caloric intakes were greatest when they ate at table service restaurants.
"It is misleading to focus concerns about the nutritional effects of increased food away from home primarily on fast food. All food away from home should be considered," Binkley said.
This study is published in the Winter 2008 issue of the Review of Agricultural Economics.