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Fast Food Is as Fattening as Ever

More calories, larger portions and expanding waistlines accompany new menu items.

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Finding prepared salads when you’re in a hurry may be easier than it used to be, but good news about fast food is still rare. Case in point: A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that tracked foods from 10 popular fast-food restaurants (including Wendy’s and McDonalds) in 1986, 1991 and 2016 found that entrées, on average, increased by 30 calories per decade, while desserts shot up by 62 calories per decade. Sodium content increased by 4.6% for entrées, and portion sizes for both entrées and desserts grew larger from decade to decade.

While the total number of entrées, sides and desserts available soared by 226% through the decades, the new items were, on average, nutritional duds, according to the study. Since more than 1 in 3 American adults nosh on fast food daily, it is troubling to see that calories, portion sizes and sodium content overall have worsened over time, and this
is likely fueling the obesity crisis.

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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