A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that between 2013 and 2016, 36.6 percent of Americans ate fast food on a given day. That comes out to about 85 million people!
“Fast food consumption has been a part of the American diet for a while,” Kirsten Herrick, Senior Service Fellow at the CDC, told CBS Philly. “With today’s busy lifestyle, fast food is an easy option that people choose.”
While the drive-thru remains a convenient way to fuel up on the fly (it’s called fast food for a reason, after all), the study found something interesting between the genders: men and women had very different fast food eating habits.
Among adults who went to fast food spots, the most commonly reported meal to eat on the go was lunch, followed by dinner, breakfast, and snacks. Here’s the interesting part though: Men were more likely than women to eat fast food for lunch, whereas women were more likely to eat fast food as a snack. The study discovered that 9.2 percent more men ate fast food for lunch than women did, while 6.2 percent more women visited a quick-service restaurant for a snack.
In theory, this may lead us to conclude that many women who generally eat fast food pick up something small (think a McDonald’s Snack Wrap or a four-piece McNuggets), but the current study didn’t investigate the link between men and women’s different eating habits and the respective caloric consumption. However, a previous CDC study found that between 2007 and 2010, men consumed an average of 11.8 percent of their total calories from fast food, while women’s caloric intake from fast food clocked in at 10.9 percent—meaning the number of fast food calories consumed by men and women stayed roughly the same.
This new study is a reminder that fast food is linked to a higher average intake of calories, fat, and sodium—three culprits that can contribute to metabolic diseases (such as obesity and heart disease) if eaten in excess.
Pro tip: Try limiting your drive-thru visits to once a week, and, when you do, don’t forget to review the items’ nutritionals. Skipping out on fat-laden sides and add-ons such as French fries, bacon, and cheese can help you cut a significant amount of calories from your fast food order.