Entries in fast food (18)


CDC: Fast Food Makes Up 11% of Adults' Daily Calories

Comstock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- How much fast food do you eat?

According to a new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11.3 percent of the calories adults consume on a daily basis come from fast food.

Using data from 2007 to 2010, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that African-American adults between the ages of 20 and 39 ate the most fast food, constituting more than 20 percent of their daily caloric intake.  Adults 60 and over, on the other hand, consumed the least amount -- 6 percent.

The survey also found that income and one's weight can factor into how much fast food a person consumes.

Among the youngest age group studied -- 20 to 39 -- intake of fast food declined as income increased.  And, among all adults, researchers found that those who were obese ate the most.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Calorie Counts: How Accurate Are They?

Thinkstock Images/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- They are supposed to help America's obesity problem: calorie counts boldly displayed on restaurant menus across the country -- important information, considering Americans now eat one-third of their meals outside the home.

Two states and nine counties require them Tuesday, and by the middle of next year, a federal law is expected to force chain restaurants, convenience stores and vending machines nationwide to post calorie counts.

But how accurate are those numbers that so affect your waistline?

A 2011 study by Tufts University sampling food from 42 restaurants says it depends.

Fast food restaurants were the most accurate because of the uniform recipes and portions, but there were wide variations found in sit-down restaurants.

"We found that 20 percent of the foods we tested had 100 calories or more over what was stated on the menu," Lorien Urban, a postdoctoral associate in the energy metabolism lab at Tufts University and first author of the study, told ABC News. "We would consider that to be a considerable amount."

Urban explained that consuming an extra 100 calories per day can lead to an extra 10 pounds in one year.

Most concerning was that a majority of the errors Urban and her colleagues found were made on the diet side of the menu.

"These were the foods that people who are trying to manage their weight would gravitate towards and they may be getting more calories than they expect," she said.

ABC News sent producers in three cities that already require posting menu calories to major chains to do a sampling under the direction of a nationally known lab and found that more than half of the low-cal meals tested had more calories than listed on the menu.

In total 24 food samples from four sit-down restaurants and one McDonald's were collected and the results were surprising.

McDonald's did the best. Its Big Mac Meal (posted: 930) and its Premium Chicken Sandwich (posted: 400) tested 30 calories below the menu posting.

But the sit-down restaurants had results sometimes wildly different than advertised.

In all, only one calorie count was accurate -- a Skinnylicious chicken salad sandwich from the Cheesecake Factory.

Eleven meals had more calories than on the menu and 10 had fewer calories. Some were over by only 40 calories; another was over by as much as 420 calories, again at the Cheesecake Factory: this time an order of the fish and chips dinner.

Urban said that fast food restaurants tended to be more accurate than sit-down because of the formulaic preparation that fast food restaurants use.

"Things are arriving already packaged into the restaurants and it's just a matter of warming it up and serving it to the consumer," she said. "A sit-down restaurant, things are being prepared on [the] spot [and] by chance some extra butter gets into the pan."

That can change the calorie amount.

All the restaurants and their trade association say that most calorie counts are as accurate as possible and tested extensively to make sure.

They conceded that there are variations, mostly due to portion size and individual restaurant preparation, and that the menus warn actual calories may vary.

What can you do? Take control of what is put on top of the entree by asking for everything fattening -- such as cheeses, sauces or dressings -- on the side.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Kids Who Eat Out Consume More Calories, Study Finds

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Children and teens are consuming more calories when they eat out, according to a study released Monday by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

For the study, published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, the researchers surveyed almost 5,000 children ages 2-11 and another 5,000 between 12 and 19 years old about food eaten outside of the home. On a given day, data shows that about 40 percent of adolescents are consuming fast food or beverages, and a third of 2-11-year-olds are doing so. Children who eat out tend to take in between 126 to 309 more calories per day.  

The study's findings also indicate that diverse communities are impacted differently.  The effects of eating out were apparently much worse for children and adolescents living in low-income households, says Lisa Powell, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Fast food restaurants are not the only culprits of high calories, the authors say. Nutritional intake increased for everything they looked at with sitting down at a restaurant that includes even good things such as protein, according to Dr. Tara Harwood, a pediatric nutritionist with the Cleveland Clinic. "It's just too many calories that you have to watch out for," she says.
Setting aside the nutritional value in fast food restaurants, experts find that it's the larger portions that are problematic. The increased caloric intake adds up, Harwood says.

"Even with the sit-down restaurants the portions are huge. They're way bigger than we need to be eating, and the problem is when you put the food in front of someone it's easy to eat all of it even past when you're feeling full," she says.
"One hundred thirty calories a day and 160 a day for the full service restaurant, and that can equal close to half a pound a week," Harwood warns.

Powell says it suggests a re-evaluation of the tendency to eat out.
"We have these additional calories and we have these poor nutrients being taken in.  We really have to rethink some of these patterns," she said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fast Food Diet Participants Paid to Purposely Gain Weight

Thinkstock Images/Getty Images(ST. LOUIS) -- Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are making an unusual offer: They are paying people to add fat to their own bodies by eating an extra 1,000-calorie fast food meal each day for three months.

Dr. Samuel Klein, the lead researcher in the study, wanted to do some basic research on why only some people who gain weight develop diabetes and hypertension, while others do not. It's something he said he couldn't research by feeding food pellets to lab animals.

"What you learn in rodents does not always translate to people," Klein said. "What you learn on flies and worms won't translate to people."

Fast food turns out to be a perfect food pellet replacement because it is good for measuring exactly what people are eating. The five restaurants chosen for the study were McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC.

"[Fast food restaurants] have very regulated food content," said Klein, the lead researcher of the study. "We know exactly the calories and macro-nutrient composition within fast food restaurants, so it's a very inexpensive, easy and tasteful way to give people extra calories."

There was also a cash incentive. Participants could earn up to $3,500, depending on how long it took them to reach the weight goal. They had to gain five percent to six percent of their body weight during the three-month span and then they could work to shed the pounds again. Researchers monitored their weight from week to week.

The hospital put out an ad seeking participants, and several people came forward.

Dawn Freeman, a 50-year-old nurse who had finished the program, started out weighing 170 pounds. She said she gained 16 pounds over the course of eight weeks.

She was compensated a total of $2,650 for her effort, including $50 to lose all the weight again, which she did with diet and a lot of walking exercise to help her get down to 162.8 pounds. The hospital guides participants through the weight loss.

Freeman said gaining weight fast -- with a doctor's permission -- only sounds easy and even seemed easy at the first meal, when she ate a Big Mac and large fries from McDonalds.

"It was really good and you know the next night I went to Taco Bell and it was, it was wonderful," she said. "This is after I have already eaten dinner."

But Freeman eventually found out that gaining weight in a hurry is really hard.

"This is not pleasant for them," Klein said. "It's not easy to stuff your face every day for a long period of time."

Freeman said she started to feel awful after two weeks, "I could hardly breathe anymore."

Now she is glad it's over. But another participant, Dave Giocolo, was about to find out that this experiment was not a food lovers' dream.

The 48-year-old bathroom design and supply salesman, said when he heard the medical school's ad on the radio while commuting to work, he called them right away.

The St. Louis native's starting weight was 249.9 pounds with a goal of adding about 15 pounds for the study. So Giocolo, who never went without his morning McDonald's breakfast burrito, started eating quarter pounders for the sake of science.

He made so many drive-in runs that he knew the calories by heart, but around week four, those burgers and fries started to catch up with him. Giocolo said his knees and ankles started aching.

"It's getting harder to move," he said.

Metabolism is a mysterious thing. For Giocolo, the weight went on, slowly it seems. One week he actually lost about a pound. That's when researchers told him to up the quantities. Around week 11, he said he was ready to be done with it.

Just last week, Giocolo finished the weight gain part of the study, hitting 268 pounds -- a gain of just over 18 pounds. He was compensated $3,225, and will receive more when he gets his weight back down to baseline.

Now his challenge is to lose the weight, helped maybe by the fact that he said he has lost his appetite for fast food, at least for a while.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


How to Eat Fast Food More Slowly

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The tendency of people who decide to enjoy their fast food in the restaurant where they purchased it is to consume their meals quickly.  The interiors of these eateries are designed to speed customers in and out with garish colors, bright lights and plenty of background noise.

However, would a change of scenery affect dining habits?  That’s what researchers Brian Wansink and Dr. Koert Van Ittersum set out to learn when they conducted an experiment at a Hardee's in Champaign, Ill.

The researchers had one group of customers dine in a regular section of the restaurant while another group was served food in a section that mimicked a fine-dining environment with softer lighting and mellow jazz.

Their discovery was that even though Hardee’s patrons lingered longer in the altered part of the restaurant, they also consumed less than the group that gobbled down their fast food in the unadulterated section and didn’t feel compelled to order extra food.

Just as interesting was that the “fine diners” rated the quality of their food higher than the control group.

The take-away from all this is that environment seems to dictate the speed at which we dine and by making the surroundings more pleasurable, it can help to reduce mindless eating that contributes to obesity.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Has Saltiest Fast Food, Study Finds

David Livingston/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- If your favorite fast foods taste different in certain other countries, it could be because they have less salt, according to a new study.

Researchers collected data on the salt content of thousands of fast-food items from six different restaurant chains in Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States and found that the same foods varied widely in their salt content among countries.

Fast foods in the United States and Canada were found to be much saltier than in the other countries. Chicken products in the United States, for example, contained 1.8 grams of salt per 100-gram serving compared with 1.1 grams in the United Kingdom.

The reasons for the differences in salt content are unclear, but the authors say it's not because companies can't manufacture foods that are lower in sodium.

"Some fast foods are very low in salt, so it is technologically possible for all foods to have a low salt content," said Dr. Norm Campbell, a co-a-author and professor of medicine, community health sciences and physiology and pharmacology at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Several of the other researchers work with the World Action on Salt and Health, an international group whose goal is to gradually reduce salt intake around the world.

The 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that most adults consume no more than about a teaspoon of sodium daily, and studies have found that reducing sodium in the diet can lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. Other research, however, has called those findings into question, suggesting that lowering salt intake can actually have the opposite effect on the risk for heart disease.

Despite the controversy surrounding salt, Campbell and his co-authors argued that global salt consumption is much too high, and that the best strategy for reducing the public's salt intake is for governments to intervene and regulate salt content. Other attempts to lower salt consumption have been unsuccessful.

"Federal governments have a mandate for the safety of our food supply," he said.

One program underway in the United States is the National Salt Reduction Initiative, coordinated by the New York City Department of Health, which has set targets and timelines for food manufacturers and restaurants to voluntarily reduce sodium content in dozens of foods. So far, according to the program's website, nearly 30 different companies have agreed to participate.

The Salt Institute, a North American non-profit trade organization, responded to the study by saying that taste preferences in different countries dictate how foods are made, meaning that salt, sugar and other ingredients will naturally vary.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Unhappy Meals: Are Fast Food, Depression Linked?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- You’ve heard of eating comfort food to make you feel better, but did you know eating fast food may be linked to clinical depression?

Researchers in Spain claim that depression is 51 percent more likely to occur in people who consume large amounts of fast food — like hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza — compared to those who don’t.

“The more fast food you consume, the greater the risk of depression,” Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

And don’t forget about other junk food items, like doughnuts and croissants. According to the study, they are also linked to mood problems.

But experts suggest that it may not be the food that is causing the depression.

“Higher intake of fast food may very well increase risks of depression by causing poor health in general,” said Dr. David  Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Conn. “But depression may also increase fast food intake.”

“We use the term ‘comfort food’ for a reason,” he added. “It can help alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. So it may be that people with depression are turning to [fast food] for relief.”

Katz suggested that other factors may also be at play. Poverty, for example, is linked to both fast food intake and mental health problems.

Researchers also noted that subjects were less active and more likely to smoke and work greater than 45 hours per week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Downsize’ That Meal? Customers Say OK

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW ORLEANS) -- What if fast-food chains offered consumers the option of “downsizing” a meal instead of “supersizing” it?  Would people actually opt to “downsize,” or get less food, for the same amount of money? And, if people accepted the “downsize” option, would they actually consume fewer calories from the meal overall?

According to new research, this approach may actually work, on both counts.

In the study, published Wednesday in the journal Health Affairs, patrons at a fast-food Chinese restaurant in Durham, N.C., who were unaware they were being observed, were given the option to downsize their meals. Specifically, consumers who ordered a combination meal were given the option to receive a smaller portion of a side dish. About a third of people chose this option, and each of them cut about 200 calories from their meals.

The group that opted to downsize did not appear to feel deprived; they had an equivalent amount of leftovers as the regular group.

According to lead author Janet Schwartz, a behavioral psychologist at Tulane University, a big problem with many failed approaches to dieting is that “substituting a salad for a Big Mac is not an appealing choice.” That’s why she believes informing consumers of the amount of calories in food has not helped them to cut back on consumption.

Schwartz and her co-authors surmised that when you present people with calorie information alone, the choices feels too restrictive.

“Downsizing,” Schwartz said, is based on the idea that “getting people to think about a smaller side dish or beverage will help them to cut back without asking them to completely restrict themselves.

“Suggesting a smaller portion allows people to satisfy a desire for a food and does not force them to sacrifice what they want to eat,” Schwartz said, adding that “downsizing” may also help people with portion control. “Culturally, Americans do not respond to the cue of ‘feeling full.’ The cue to stop eating is only when the plate is empty.”

In a previous study, the researchers found that consumers wouldn’t ask for less food, but if offered, they would accept it. Past survey data also indicates that the majority of consumers believe restaurant portions are too large.

The owners of the fast-food restaurant where the study was conducted were initially concerned that patrons would be offended by the smaller portions. But while that may have been true for some customers, it was not true for all, and the restaurant ultimately saved money because it served less food.

Consumers didn’t mind being offered the option to downsize, and a small discount of 25 cents on smaller portions had no impact on patrons’ choice to downsize.

“They thought that fast-food customers just wanted more food -- a lot of food for a little money,” Schwartz said.  “['Downsizing'] was very cost effective for them.”

If, as this study suggests, “downsizing” really is a marketable concept, then less may truly become more -- to the great benefit of many American waistlines.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


The Top 10 Worst Kids’ Meals

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many popular fast food and restaurant chains now offer healthier menu choices for kids, but a recent review finds there are still a large number of so-called kids’ meals that are anything but healthy and actually contain almost as much of the daily recommended caloric intake of a typical adult.

A rundown of the 20 worst kids foods published in Eat This, Not That! 2012 Edition by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding finds the Cheesecake Factory’s Kids Pasta with Alfredo Sauce earns the dubious honor of being the most unhealthy kids meal in the U.S.

Zinczenko, who is also the editor-in-chief of Men’s Health magazine, tells the New York Daily News the pasta meal contains 1,810 calories and 89 grams of saturated fat.  That’s just about the same amount of calories as 40 McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.

Commenting on the list, Zinczenko says, “A moderately active 8-year-old should be eating an average of 1,600 calories a day.  Most of these dishes add up to an entire day’s worth of calories at one sitting and The Cheesecake Factory’s Kids’ Pasta tops that by 200 calories."

Here is the Eat This, Not That! list of the top 10 worst kids' foods, based on calorie counts, fat, sodium and added sugar:

1. The Cheesecake Factory Kids Pasta with Alfredo Sauce (1,810 calories)
2. On the Border Kid's Cheese Quesadilla with Mexican Rice (1,220 calories)
3. Outback Steakhouse Joey Spotted Dog Sundae (1,216 calories)
4. California Pizza Kitchen Kids Curly Mac n' Cheese with Edamame (1,088 calories)
5. Friendly's Dippin' Chicken Salad (950 calories)
6. McDonald's Mighty Kids Meal with Double Cheeseburger, Fries (small), and 1% Chocolate Milk (840 calories)
7. The Cheesecake Factory Kids Southern Fried Chicken Sliders (820 calories)
8. The Cheesecake Factory Kids Grilled Cheese Sandwich (810 calories)
9. KFC Kids Meal with Popcorn Chicken, Potato Wedges, and Pepsi (800 calories)
10. Applebee's Kids Oreo Cookie Shake (780 calories)

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Filth, Fecal Matter Found in Some Fast Food Restaurant Play Areas

Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision(NEW YORK) -- The play area at your local fast food restaurant may be harboring germs and bacteria that could make your children sick.

ABC News found out about this issue from a crusading mother who is trying to get standards in place for how -- and how often -- restaurant play areas should be cleaned.

At present, the government regulates restaurants and child care facilities, but not child play areas in restaurants.

Clumps of hair, rotting food and gang graffiti were just some of the things that mother Erin Carr-Jordan says she found when she followed her toddler into a fast-food restaurant play tube.

"It was like getting hit with a brick, it was so disgusting," she told ABC’s Good Morning America. "There was filth everywhere, there was black on the walls and it was sticky and there was grime inside the connecting tubes."

A professional with a specialty in child development and four children of her own, Carr-Jordan couldn't get the filthy scene out of her mind, so she crawled into more play tubes. And when she felt restaurant managers weren't responsive to her complaints, she started taking her video camera with her, and then posting her findings on the internet.

Carr-Jordan knew the play areas looked awful, but she wanted proof they could make children sick. So she spent several thousand dollars of her own money on testing. She collected samples at nine restaurants in seven states, from McDonald's, Burger King, Chuck E. Cheese's and others. She shipped off her swabs to a certified lab.

The lab found fecal matter in eight out of the nine play areas Carr-Jordan tested -- a staggering 90 percent. Children who come into contact with those bacteria could then get sick if they touched their mouth, nose or an open wound. One restaurant play tube had more than 20 million fecal bacteria in a two-inch area.

"Where there are people, there are germs," said New York University microbiologist Dr. Philip Tierno.

ABC News asked Tierno, director of microbiology and immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center, to put Carr-Jordan's lab result into context. He said the play areas could have been worse, but there's definitely room for improvement.

"The areas where children play in those restaurants, they should be periodically sanitized -- I don't know if some of these were sanitized in a more timely fashion to have 20 million count -- but they really should be," he said.

That is precisely Carr-Jordan's point. After all, restaurant bathrooms are required by law to be cleaned regularly, but there are no clear standards for restaurant play areas.

"I don't want them to take these places away, I most certainly do not. I just want them to clean them," she said.

ABC News asked the restaurant chains for their reaction:

Statement to ABC News from Burger King:
BURGER KING® restaurant playgrounds must be cleaned and maintained in accordance with the cleaning standards in the BURGER KING® Operations Manual. These standards include procedures for daily, weekly and monthly cleaning of playground equipment. In accordance with our policy, restaurant playgrounds are also required to be cleaned by a professional cleaning service on a quarterly basis. Burger King Corp. has contacted the franchise restaurant where the sample was taken and the franchisee has confirmed they conducted a deep cleaning of the playground this month. Additionally, the franchisee is reinforcing BURGER KING®'s standards on proper cleaning and maintenance procedures with all of its staff and management team at the restaurant. - Jonathan Fitzpatrick, Chief Brand and Operations Officer for Burger King Corp.

Statement to ABC News from McDonald's:
"We put our customers first, and are taking these concerns very seriously. We've spoken with Dr. Carr-Jordan and assigned a team to review the report findings and our own existing procedures. While we have stringent sanitizing procedures for weekly, daily and even spot cleaning, we're always looking for ways to improve our standards and how they are followed at each restaurant." - Cathy Choffin, Manager of Safety and Security McDonald's USA

Statement to ABC News from Chuck E. Cheese's:
Our goal at Chuck E. Cheese's is to provide families with a wholesome, safe, entertaining experience. Cleanliness is a critical element toward meeting this goal. We have detailed step by step cleaning instruction manuals with video training in each of our entertainment centers. All existing play equipment is cleaned at least daily with Oasis 146 Multi-Quat sanitizer. Touch ups are completed throughout the day as needed. Additionally, we have Purell stations installed for our guests and employees to use. - Lois Perry VP, Advertising Chuck E. Cheese's  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio