Fast Food Facts: Nutrition Awareness Growing

fast-foodEighty-seven percent of fast food operators say their customers are paying more attention to nutrition than two years ago, says the National Restaurant Association. The increased demand for healthier options on fast food menus was recently reported by the institute of Food Technologists in the March issue of Food Technology magazine.

Among the findings:

  • Diet, carbonated soft drinks are giving way to flavored/enhanced waters, teas and hand-squeezed fruit drinks.

  • Sixty percent of frequent fast food diners cite healthy menu options among the top reasons for choosing a limited-service restaurant.

  • Healthy/light sandwiches are projected to enjoy strong growth through 2022. Turkey sausage continues to gain ground in the breakfast department.

  • Almost one quarter of adults ordered more healthy fast food items in 2013 than they did in 2012 and people ages 18-34 were more likely to do so.

  • Fresher/better-for-you dominated the list of fastest growing menu items in 2013, and products perceived as indulgent or unhealthful such as French fries, hash browns, chicken nuggets, fried chicken, pies and mashed potatoes were among the poorest performers.

  • 89 percent of diners stated fresh is the menu descriptor that best conveys health in fast food restaurants. Other terms such as real, handmade, and never frozen also signal health.

  • Food service operators ranked gluten-free as the top menu trend; healthful kids meals were second. Other hot trends included fruit/vegetable sides; locally sourced protein/meat/seafood; low-fat milk/100 percent juice; organic items; grain-based salads; and snack-sized offerings.

  • The 400 to 600 calorie range received the most votes for an acceptable level of calories in a healthy fast-food meal. Only three percent of those surveyed see menu items with more than 1,000 calories as healthy.

  • More than one-third of parents feel that fast food restaurants do not offer enough healthy breakfast choices for kids.

  • Only 13 percent of consumers are regularly counting calories.


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