On the surface, it would appear that fast food is getting healthier. Most major fast food restaurants now offer healthy options such as salads and drink options that aren’t exclusively soft drinks. Portions appear to be getting smaller and some restaurants have given up on salted fries.
On top of this there’s been a clear reduction in the number of fast food chains out there. As this site DoYouRemember shows, a great number of fast food chains have disappeared. In its place, a number of healthy and organic food chains have crept in such as Au Bon Pain and Panera Bread, which would suggest things are improving.
But is this really the case or is fast food just as unhealthy as it always has been?
Whilst there definitely seem to be more healthy options on menus, a number of new unhealthy options have also been added that could be seen as cancelling out the impact. In fact, when it comes to kids options in major fast food restaurants, one study from the Yale Rudd Centre found that only 1% of fast food kids meals could be classed as healthy.
Certain individual restaurants have made massive improvements such as McDonalds (which we all know gets a bad rep). Their fries – which used to contain well over 600 calories per serving – now contain only 230 calories thanks to the canola blend oil that they’re cooked in, whilst Chicken Snack Wraps are only 270 calories. This slideshow offers some of the other healthiest restaurants out there as voted by a professional panel.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, meanwhile there are the likes of Sonic – which has been voted the unhealthiest fast food chain in the US. Ten of the restaurant’s hamburgers contain over 1,100 calories (which is over half the recommended daily calorie intake for women) whilst nearly 50% of its menu was found to contain over a gram of saturated fat. Other restaurants that regularly make the unhealthiest list include Burger King, Arby’s and Wendy’s.
What about portion sizes – are these getting smaller? McDonalds got rid of its Supersize option long ago after the notorious Supersize Me documentary, but other restaurants such as Wendy’s quickly stepped in to fill the gap with large drinks options.
Portions seem to have been reduced in the last ten years in many major fast food chains. That said, other data shows that portion sizes in general when it comes to pizzas and French fries have gone up.
All in all, it comes down to what you’re eating and where you’re eating it. Whilst more healthy choices have been introduced and certain restaurants have taken big steps to cut down on their calories, other restaurants have introduced more unhealthy options and only gotten more calorific.