Well Being

Shocking! Fast Food Is Still Bad For You

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Thank you, Captain Obvious and his researchers! A 14-year study recently published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine shows that fast food menus haven’t gotten much healthier or more nutritious.

The study, which looked at the menus of McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Arby’s, Jack in the Box and Dairy Queen from 1997 to 2010, found that the nutritional quality of menu offerings improved only a very small bit. Using the USDA’s 100 point Healthy Eating scale, researchers determined that the nutritional value of most fast food meals improved from a 45 to a 48 over this period of time. That’s in comparison to the average American’s diet score of 55, which the USDA still considers to be very low. There were gains in terms of saturated fat and and added sugars, but scores related to fruits, grains, oils and vegetables remained unchanged from previous years.

In an editorial, Margo Wootan, the director of  nutrition policu at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said:

“The [three-point increase] is disappointing, and a bit surprising, given the many pronouncements by companies that they have added healthier menu options, switched to healthier cooking fats, are reducing sodium, and are touting other changes in company press releases and advertising.”

Oh wow. Fast food companies say they’re getting healthier…but they actually aren’t? GASP! Truly, though, I have to ask why this is news. I see all kinds of nutritional studies and news stories about fast food in my work with Blisstree, but all I really have to say about this is one is DUH.

There is, I think, an identifiable trend towards healthier fast food (Taco Bell has pledged to have more nutritious menu items by 2020, for example), but as long as people are still spending their money on the crappy food you can get at these places, the fast food companies really have no incentive to change their ways. It certainly seems like people are more interested in nutrition and healthy living than they were 50, 25, and even 10 years ago (and the government is waking up to this, too, thanks to Michelle Obama and others), but that’s still not enough. I live right by a McDonald’s and the long line of cars for the drive through spills into the street every single day. I’m sure that’s the case at hundreds of fast food joints throughout the country; These “restaurants” are doing business regardless of, or perhaps in spite of, the low-quality food they offer.

Some fast-food joints are offering healthier menu options, but as I explained back in March, this is a development meant to benefit fast food companies, not fast food patrons. Unless our society and our food system changes drastically, the menus at fast food companies are going to stay more or less the same (as will, likely, our country’s problem with obesity).

Photo: Shutterstock