You’ve been here before. You’re watching the clock, ready to leave the office wondering how you’re going to pull it off. Your son has baseball practice at 5:00 PM, but you have to get your daughter to play rehearsal at 5:30pm and to her concert, which starts two hours later. It’s already 4:30pm, and everyone has to eat, so you pull into the first drive-through you see—you’re getting fast food.
For better or worse, one of the facts about fast food we can’t deny is that a lot of us eat it. The reasons vary, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Whether you’re short on time, traveling, or just don’t feel like cooking or going to a sit-down restaurant, fast food factors in. Most of us know it’s not good for us, but knowing some fast food facts may help you to be more mindful of what you’re getting.
So, let’s take a look at some of the facts about fast food that may surprise you.
Facts About Fast Food #1:
Researchers at Statista found that the fast food industry in the United States is worth approximately 198.9 billion U.S. dollars. What’s more astonishing is that figure is expected to surpass 223 billion by the year 2020.
Facts About Fast Food #2:
A similar study uncovered what types of restaurants dominate the fast food market. It’s mostly made up of restaurants and drive-throughs, but other types of fast food restaurants include:
In the past 10 years, about 28,000 fast food restaurants were added to the more than 190,000 that already existed in the United States.
Facts About Fast Food #3:
Statista also did a survey at the end of 2016. Their researchers found 20 percent of people in the United States visited a fast food restaurant at least once a week. 17 percent of Americans say they visit a fast food restaurant at least once a month.
Facts About Fast Food #4:
McDonald’s is by far the largest fast food company in the world; it is valued at over $106 billion. Its closest competitor is Starbucks, with an $84 billion valuation. McDonald’s also generates the most revenue, followed by Starbucks and Subway.
Facts About Fast Food #5:
A surprising fact about fast food is that, despite being the most valuable fast food brand, Mickey D’s is rarely voted the most popular fast food restaurant. Topping the list of most popular hamburger chain in the United States is In-N-Out Burger. It started in California in 1948. The list also includes:
- Marco’s—most popular pizza
- Chick-Fil-A—most popular chicken
- Firehouse Subs—most popular sandwich chain
Facts About Fast Food #6:
According to the latest research, kids get more than 12 percent of their daily calories from fast food. Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics also found kids and adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 ate twice as many calories from fast food restaurants as children ages two to 11.
More than 30 percent of children and adolescents between two and 19 eat fast food on any given day.
Facts About Fast Food #7:
Fast food ingredients are not always the best. A recent report graded fast food chains on their use of antibiotics—11 out of 25 failed.
It’s a concern because The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization say many of us are developing a resistance to antibiotics because of all the medications we’re taking. Getting antibiotics in your food adds to the concern. The CDC estimates that at least 2 million Americans contract antibiotic-resistant infections every year and that 23,000 die as a result.
Facts About Fast Food #8:
One of the facts about fast food that stands out is that a lot fast foods are loaded with carbohydrates and contain little to no fiber. That includes sides and drinks. When your digestive system breaks down these foods, the carbs are released as glucose into your bloodstream. As a result, your blood sugar increases.
Facts About Fast Food #9:
Many fast-food meals have added sugar. The recommended daily allowance for sugar is 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. You can get more than that in one 12-ounce soft drink alone.
Some of the restaurants with the most sugar-filled meals include:
- Au Bon Pain
- Boston Market
But the fast food restaurant with the most sugar-filled choice is Smoothie King. I thought smoothies were supposed to be healthy, right?
Facts About Fast Food #10:
That’s why you have to be careful. Another fact about fast food is that there is a push to make a lot of the menu items at your favorite fast food restaurants healthier. Some of the things we’re seeing include:
- Fresher ingredients
- Less foods containing trans fats
- Nutritional information for each meal
If you feel you’re too busy to eat healthy—think again. You can make small, subtle changes to your diet and reap big benefits. Check out our guide: “Eating Healthy on a Busy Schedule” for tips and how you can make fast food work for you.