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Days Not Eating Fast Food

We’re not lovin’ it.

Graphic of people eating fast food

We know that diet quality can take a hit on days when people are eating fast food. But what about on days when they forgo a trip to the golden arches?

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that people who reported not eating any fast food within a 7-day timespan ate fewer calories and less fat and had a higher Healthy Eating Index (HEI) score overall than those who consumed fast food three times or more in a week. The HEI is a measure of how a diet aligns with key recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Nutrient densities of several micro-nutrients were also lower in frequent fast-food consumers, even on days when they didn’t visit the drive-thru.

These results, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, suggest the diet quality of fast-food fans is not greatly different on non-fast-food days. In other words, the lackluster diet quality of frequent fast-food consumers appears to be a function of less nutritious food choices overall and not just a function of fast-food intake.

See also: Fast Food Nation

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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