Despite the efforts of fast food companies to convince us they are adding healthy items to their menus, a new study finds what you might expect: The food is getting higher-calorie, saltier, and larger (much like American waistelines).
Researchers looked at the menu offerings of 10 of the most popular US fast food chains from 1986, 1996, and 2016. They published their findings in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
They found that entrees, sides, and desserts increased significantly in calories, sodium, and portion size over that time span.
The variety of menu options increased by 226 percent over the period, but both new and discontinued items tended to be less healthy than those available throughout the study period.
In spite of the increased societal awareness of the dangers of eating fast food, consumption is on the rise. About 37 percent of adults over the age of 20 eat fast food on any given day.
As consumption goes up, so does portion size and other key factors. A few of the most interesting findings:
- Total number of entrees, sides, and desserts increased by 226 percent. So, y'know, pick your poison.
- Calories increased in each of the three categories. The most significant were desserts (62 calories per decade) and entrees (30 calories per decade).
It Doesn't Have to be Never
I would never suggest never eating fast food. One of my favorite cheat meals involves irresponsible amounts of Taco Bell (and their meat is barely meat).
But let's not try to fool ourselves into thinking "it's not that bad." It is, and it's getting worse.