Calories in fast food
Weight Loss

What Is The Actual Nutritional Value Of Fast Food?

We all turn to fast food when our days are too long, we didn’t have time to grocery shop or the idea of cooking is just too much. Why not? It’s easy, fast and filling. But as I discussed in my last post on fast food, it’s having a major impact on obesity in this country. Now I’d like to break it down to its actual caloric parts to help all of us better understand exactly what we’re eating and how it can be improved. Especially since we consume so much of it.

About 40% of American adults between 20 and 74 years old are obese, compared to 13% of that age group between 1960 and 1962. Fast food accounted for about 11% of the daily caloric intake in the U.S. between 2007 and 2010. It’s estimated that 37% of U.S. adults consume fast food on any given day.

Once in a while won’t hurt you, but too much of it can cause serious problems. We all know most fast food contains too many calories, salt and artery-clogging cholesterol to eat every day, or even once a week. Exercise levels and current weight can combat these numbers, but the totals of a single meal at the fast food restaurant often adds up to a full day’s caloric needs.

The calorie content at the most popular U.S. fast food restaurants has shot up over the past three decades, according to a new study published March in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In it, they compared food at 10 fast food restaurants: Arby’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr, Dairy Queen, Hardee’s, Jack in the Box, KFC, Long John Silver’s, McDonald’s and Wendy’s. The study looked at the restaurants’ food in 1986, 1991 and 2016.

Researchers found that, on average, the calorie content of entrees went up by 30 calories a decade, while the calorie content of desserts went up by 62 calories a decade. Menu items also had a major increase in sodium content – about a 4.6% daily value increase per decade for entrees. Portion sizes for both entrees and desserts increased from decade to decade as well. The portion size of entrees went up by about 13 grams a decade, while desserts got 24 grams larger. The size of side dishes remained the same.

Customers were also offered more menu options over the period of this research. The number of entrees, sides and desserts increased by 226%, leading to an increase of about 22.9 menu items a year, the study said. On average, the study suggests that new menu items were particularly unhealthy because of the significant increase in sodium, calories and portion size. Given the popularity of fast food, this study highlights how these significant changes are likely a major contributing factor to the increase in obesity, as well as the related chronic conditions over the past several decades resulting in all causes of death in the U.S.

With the obesity endemic, President Obama signed a new law into the health care reform bill that required every big restaurant chain (more than 20 stores) to post calorie information on every menu and drive-thru sign, as well as the amount of calories a healthy person should eat. Restaurants were required to comply by May 2018. The law also requires vending machines to have nutritional information on them too. Fortunately, if they don’t comply you can still find this information for most fast food chains online. Some fast food chains also have special menu options that are healthier. Just remember a salad can be as high in calories as a Big Mac when creamy dressing and fried chicken are added. Consider too, that a can of regular soda can have 12 teaspoons of sugar in it!

Many online sites offer specific information on the caloric, serving size and nutritional values of restaurant dishes. Try this one for example.

Here’s just a quick look at what we are eating daily:

Pizza: Calories Fat Sugar
California Pizza Kitchen Original BBQ Chicken (whole pizza) 1136 19 grams
Domino’s Medium Ultimate Deep Dish EXtravaganZZa Feast, 1 slice 12″ 320 16 grams
Domino’s Cheese, 1 slice 12″ 210 8 grams
Papa John’s Garden Fresh on Original Crust, 1 slice 12″ 200 7 grams
Papa John’s Spinach Alfredo on Original Crust, 1 slice 12″ 210 8 grams
Pizza Hut Thin n’ Crispy, Pepperoni, 1 slice 12′ 200 9 grams
Pizza Hut Fit n’ Delicious Pizza with Green Pepper, Red Onion, and Diced Tomato, 1 slice 150 4 grams
Hamburgers: Calories Fat Sugar
Burger King Whopper (with cheese) 770 48 grams
Five Guys (with cheese) 610 34 grams
McDonald’s Quarter Pound with cheese 510 26 grams
Wendy’s ¼ Pound Single Hamburger 470 21 grams
Chicken Strips: Calories Fat Sugar
Burger King 8 Piece Chicken Tenders 360 21 grams
McDonalds Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips (5) 660 40 grams
Wendy’s 10 Piece Chicken Nuggets 450 29 grams
French Fries: Calories Fat Sugar
Burger King Medium Fries 440 22 grams
Five Guys 310 15 grams
McDonald’s Medium Fries 380 19 grams
Wendy’s Medium Fries 410 19 grams
Burritos:  Calories Fat Sugar
Baja Fresh Chicken Burrito Ultimo 880 36 grams
Baja Fresh Bean and Cheese Burrito 840 33 grams
Chipotle Chicken (with rice, beans, sour cream and cheese) 950 37 grams
Taco Bell Burrito Supreme, Chicken 390 12 grams
Sandwiches: Calories Fat Sugar
Burger King Tender Grill Chicken (no mayo) 410 7 grams
McDonald’s Premium Grilled Chicken Classic 420 10 grams
Panera Turkey Artichoke Panini 750 24 grams
Panera Bacon Turkey Bravo 830 29 grams
Quiznos Honey Mustard Chicken Sub, Regular 830 41 grams
Quiznos Tuna Melt, Regular 1220 94 grams
Subway Turkey, 6 inch (no mayo) 280 3.5 grams
Wendy’s Ultimate Chicken Grill 370 7 grams
Salads (no dressing):  Calories Fat Sugar
Burger King Tendergrill Chicken Garden 300 10 grams
McDonald’s Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken 320 9 grams
Panera Greek Salad 380 34 grams
Panera Strawberry and Poppyseed Chicken Salad 280 8 grams
Quiznos Chicken Caesar, Regular 440 16.5 grams
Quiznos Raspberry Chipotle Chicken, Regular 520 25 grams
Subway Oven Roasted Chicken, Fat-Free Italian dressing 130 2.5 grams
Wendy’s Mandarin Chicken Salad 390 16 grams
Muffins: Calories Fat Sugar
Au Bon Pain Cranberry Walnut 540 25 grams 28 g
Dunkin Donuts Blueberry 510 16 grams 51 g
Dunkin Donuts Honey Bran Raisin 500 14 grams 48 g
Starbuck’s Blueberry 470 24 grams 23 g
Starbuck’s Lowfat Blueberry 430 2.5 grams 57 g
Donuts: Calories Fat Sugar
Dunkin Donuts Glazed Donut 220 9 grams 12 g
Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Donut 200 12 grams 10 g
Starbuck’s Old-fashioned Glazed Donut 420 21 grams 34 g
Bagels: Calories Fat Sugar
Dunkin Donuts Everything 350 4.5 grams
Einstein’s Asiago Cheese Bagel 310 5 grams
Einstein Everything 270 2 grams
Starbuck’s Plain 300 1 gram
Other Breakfast: Calories Fat Sugar
Burger King Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit 550 37 grams
Dunkin Donuts Egg and Cheese Bagel 510 6 grams
McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin with Egg 450 27 grams
Starbuck’s Cheese Danish 420 25 grams
Starbuck’s Banana Walnut Loaf 350 16 grams
Coffee: Calories Fat Sugar
Dunkin Donuts Mocha Swirl Latte (10 oz) 220 6 grams 32 g
Dunkin Donuts Coolatta with Skim Milk (16 oz) 210 0 grams 49 g
Dunkin Donuts Latte (10oz) 120 6 grams 10 g
Dunkin Donuts Coffee (14oz), (no milk or sugar) 10 0 grams 0 g
Starbuck’s Caramel Frappuccino, Grande with Whip 390 15 grams 59 g
Starbuck’s Caffè Mocha, Grande 2% Milk, no Whip 260 8 grams 31 g
Starbuck’s Caffè Latte, Grande 2% Milk 190 7 grams 17 g
Starbuck’s Coffee Frappuccino Light 110 0 grams 23 g
Starbuck’s Caramel Macchiato, Grande 240 7 grams 31 g

Let’s face it, with so much to do, it’s hard to eat right on the go. While avoiding fast food may be the wisest and most health-conscious option, it may not be the most realistic. Knowing these facts can help you to make wiser choices.

dsc_0323    -Dr. Courtney


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