Fast food restaurants become popular in the U.S. during the last part of the 20th century, and have since spread to most countries around the world. They offer quick, convenient food for people on the go, at affordable prices. Often décor and menus were set to appeal to children, so they became attractive to young families. In the industrialized world, busy people eat a lot of meals away from home. The majority of restaurant meals come from fast food establishments, and these are loaded with calories, fat, sugar, and sodium, along with sugary soft drinks and desserts. Only in recent years, salads have been offered. American restaurants tend to serve up portions much larger than needed. Not only that, restaurants, especially fast food businesses, offer larger portions as options to their customers. Health officials have noted the correlation between the rise of “fast food” and obesity. Critics have noted that consumers are often driven by aggressive marketing, low prices and convenience, and until recently, many were not aware of how unhealthy some of their fast food choices could be over time. For example, within the very same restaurant, you have the choice of the following two similar meals:
Quarter-pound cheeseburger, large fries, and 16 oz. Soft drink:
1166 Calories - 58% of daily value
51 g Fat - 78% of daily value
95 mg Cholesterol -32% of daily value
1450 mg Sodium -58% of daily value
Hamburger, small fries, 16 oz. Soft
481 Calories -24% of daily value
19 g Fat-29% of daily value
29 mg Cholesterol -10% of daily value
665 mg Sodium-27% of daily value
Compare these meals and decide for yourself.
Look at the differences in portions offered at the same restaurant and how even just portion size alone can affect the total calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium.
If you must eat away from home, pick your restaurants and meals carefully. The calculators provided here may help you to make more informed choices:
Nutrition data - Fast food and nutrition facts
As you eat, consider the nutritional value of the food you are consuming. Look at the food labels on the packages or within restaurants. Consider the impact of portion size, and try when possible to cook at home more often. Cooking at home allows you to take more control over the food you eat. You can eat better for less money. If you invest in cook books and the right equipment, you may discover that it is fun to prepare meals for yourself and others that taste good and are good for you.