Survey: 1 in 3 Americans eat fast food every day

The hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping season can often lead us to the nearest drive-thru for a quick bite to eat.

But according to a survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as one out of every three Americans are eating fast food every single day.

“If you’re eating fast-food with any sort of regular frequency, you’re typically going to be getting more saturated fat, more sodium, and more sugar than you would if were cooking at home,” said Lindsay Malone, RD, of Cleveland Clinic.

Malone said too much fast food is problematic, not only because what it contains, but also because of what it’s lacking in nutritional value.

“Typically, you’re not going to get a lot of fruits or vegetables, and what is available will be lower in nutritional value – for example – iceberg lettuce has less nutritional value than some darker greens, like red leaf lettuce or kale,” she said.

Malone said most of the meals offered at fast food restaurants are quite a bit larger than the amount of food that most people would regularly eat – which typically leads people to eat more, simply because the portions are available to them.

Also, most fast-foods are carbohydrate-rich with white, refined flours, which cause spikes in blood sugar, leading us to crash later in the day.

Malone said many times the biggest problem with fast food isn’t so much about what we’re eating as it is what we’re drinking. For instance, a large soda can easily contain a couple hundred calories with zero nutritional value.

If you’re in a situation where fast-food is your only option, Malone suggests trying a smaller portion size, like a children’s meal and consider swapping fries for a side salad or baked potato. Also, choosing water or unsweetened iced tea instead of soda will help to limit the damage.

She also pointed out that if we’re eating fast food all of the time, our bodies don’t function optimally.

“You’re going to have that after-lunch slump where you feel like you don’t want to do a whole lot, or you don’t have the energy to play with your kids, so, you want to think about food as fuel for your body,” said Malone.

Of course, we all get into situations where we don’t have a lot of time, but Malone said the best way to avoid the pitfalls of the drive-thru convenience is to plan ahead and bring food items from home when we know that we will be running around.

And remember that when it comes to quick and convenient, there are other options available.

“Go into a local grocery store; utilize their salad bar or their prepared foods section, where they’re going to have some healthier options that provide more nutritional value for the calories that you’re consuming,” said Malone.