Fast Food Facts

Did you know there are more than 300,000 fast food restaurants in the U.S. Why is fast food so popular? Because it is convenient, predictable, and fast. Fast food has become a part of the busy American lifestyle. But, nutrition experts point out that fast food is often high in calories, sodium, fat and cholesterol. While fast food isn't bad, you should keep these things in mind when including fast food into your diet.

Calories

On the average, to maintain desirable weight, men need about 2,700 calories per day and women need about 2,000 calories per day. It is not well understood why some people can eat much more than others and still maintain a desirable weight. However, one thing is certain – to lose weight, you must take in fewer calories than you burn. This means that you must either choose foods with fewer calories, or you must increase your physical activity, preferably both.

Fat

Research shows that eating too many high-fat foods contributes to high blood cholesterol levels. This can cause hardening of the arteries, coronary heart disease and stroke. High-fat diets may also contribute to a greater risk for some types of cancer, particularly cancers of the breast and colon.

While most Americans get more than 40 percent of their daily calories from fat, the American Heart Association recommends limiting fat to less than 30 percent of daily calories. This means limiting the fats you consume to 50-80 grams per day.

Percent of Calories From Fat

The category in this guide "% of Calories from Fat" is calculated by multiplying the grams of fat by nine (there are nine calories per gram of fat), then dividing the calories of fat by the total number of calories in the food.

Cholesterol

The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day. But don't just look at the cholesterol contained in a food item. A product high in total fat or saturated fat can be an even bigger contributor to high blood cholesterol levels. For example, "cholesterol free" potato chips may be high in fat and may contribute to raising your cholesterol level, because high-fat foods cause the formation of cholesterol in the body, even if the food itself contains no cholesterol.

Salt

Everyone needs some sodium in the diet to replace routine losses. The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences/ National Research Council has estimated that an "adequate and safe" intake of sodium for healthy adults is 2,400 to 3,300 milligrams a day, the equivalent of approximately 1/2 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Americans, on average, consume at least twice that amount, according to estimates by the Food and Nutrition Board. For some people, consuming high amounts of sodium can cause high blood pressure.

Fast Food Meals

Fast food meals can be high in calories, fat, sodium, and cholesterol. See how easily these red-flag items can add up:

burger

Quater-Pound Cheeseburger, Large Fries, 16 oz. soda (McDonald's)

this meal:recommended daily intake:
1,166 calories2,000-2,700 calories
51 g fatno more than 50-80 g
95 mg cholesterolno more than 300 mg
1,450 mg sodiumno more than 1,100-3,300 mg

pizza

4 slices Sausage and Mushroom Pizza, 16 oz. soda (Domino's)

this meal:recommended daily intake:
1,000 calories2,000-2,700 calories
28 g fatno more than 50-80 g
62 mg cholesterolno more than 300 mg
2,302 mg sodiumno more than 1,100-3,300 mg

chicken

2 pieces Fried Chicken (Breast and Wing), Buttermilk Biscuit, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Corn-on-the-Cob, 16 oz. soda (KFC)

this meal:recommended daily intake:
1,232 calories2,000-2,700 calories
57 g fatno more than 50-80 g
157 mg cholesterolno more than 300 mg
2,276 mg sodiumno more than 1,100-3,300 mg

taco

Taco Salad, 16 oz. soda (Taco Bell)

this meal:recommended daily intake:
1,057 calories2,000-2,700 calories
55 g fatno more than 50-80 g
80 mg cholesterolno more than 300 mg
1,620 mg sodiumno more than 1,100-3,300 mg

Better Fast Food Choices

This is not meant to scare you away from fast food completely. Rather, it is intended to provide you with information to help you make better fast food choices. Realize that it is still possible to eat fast food occasionally and follow a sensible diet. See how these meals stack up against the previous examples:

burger

Hamburger, Small Fries, 16 oz. soda (McDonald's)

this meal:recommended daily intake:
481 calories2,000-2,700 calories
19 g fatno more than 50-80 g
30 mg cholesterolno more than 300 mg
665 mg sodiumno more than 1,100-3,300 mg

pizza

3 slices Cheese Pizza, 16 oz. diet soda (Domino's)

this meal:recommended daily intake:
516 calories2,000-2,700 calories
15 g fatno more than 50-80 g
29 mg cholesterolno more than 300 mg
1,470 mg sodiumno more than 1,100-3,300 mg

chicken

1 pieces Fried Chicken (Wing), Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Cole Slaw, 16 oz. diet soda (KFC)

this meal:recommended daily intake:
373 calories2,000-2,700 calories
19 g fatno more than 50-80 g
46 mg cholesterolno more than 300 mg
943 mg sodiumno more than 1,100-3,300 mg

taco

Three Light Tacos, 16 oz. diet soda (Taco Bell)

this meal:recommended daily intake:
420 calories2,000-2,700 calories
15 g fatno more than 50-80 g
60 mg cholesterolno more than 300 mg
840 mg sodiumno more than 1,100-3,300 mg

Fast Food Surprises

Fast-food chains have noticed that consumers are more health-conscious, and as a result many chains are adding healthier choices to their menus. Here are examples of some of these better alternatives:

Arby's Light Roast Chicken Sandwich

276 calories, 7 gr fat, 23% calories from fat, 33 mg cholesterol, 777 mg sodium

Burger King's Chunky Chicken Salad

142 calories, 4 g fat, 25% calories from fat, 49 mg cholesterol, 443 mg sodium

Mcdonald's Vanilla Shake

310 calories, 5 g fat, 15% calories from fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium

Wendy's Chili

210 calories, 7 g fat, 30% calories from fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 800 mg sodium


fast_food_facts

This information and other information on this site is intended for general reference purposes only and is not intended to address specific medical conditions. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice or a medical exam. Prior to participating in any exercise program or activity, you should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition.