So let’s be honest! What percentage of the calories that you ate today came from fast food? Did you start off your day with a bagel and a latte from a coffee shop? Did you find you didn’t have a lot of time after running errands at lunch so you zipped through the drive-through lane and ordered a burger, fries (and a diet drink, of course)?
Here’s the bad news. A new analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people in the United States got approximately 10 percent of their calories from fast food from 2007-2010. But there is a silver lining (now that I’ve got your attention). We’re actually consuming a lower percentage of fast foods than we did from 2003-2006, when fast food represented 13 percent of the calories we consumed daily.
Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, CDC researchers had some interesting findings. These included:
- Adults in the United States consumed, on average, slightly more than 11 percent of their total daily calories from fast food from 2007-2010. Interestingly, this percentage marked a decrease from 12.8 percent for 2003-2004.
- Not surprisingly, the researchers found that the consumption of calories that came from fast food decreased as people aged. Adults who were 60 and older consumed the lowest percentage of their daily calories from fast foods (6 percent). In comparison, adults between the ages of 20-39 got 15.3 percent of their daily calories from fast foods.
- Men and women ate approximately the same percentage of fast food. Overall, men consumed 11.8 percent of their daily calories while women ate 10.9 percent. However, those percentages changed tremendously over time. Men between the ages of 20-39 consumed 15.5 percent of their calories from fast food, whereas men over 60 only ate 6.6 percent of their daily calories from this source. And women who were between the ages of 20-39 got 15.1 percent of their daily calories from fast food, as compared to women 60 and older who consumed 5.5 percent of their total calories from fast food sources.
- Black adults in the United States consumed the highest percentage of calories from fast foods at 14.8 percent of the total caloric intake. The largest amount of fast food was consumed by black adults who were between the ages of 20-39. This group got 21.1 percent of their daily caloric intake from fast food. In comparison, white adults in this age group got 14.6 of their daily calories from this food source while Hispanics in this age group consumed 14.5 of their daily calories in this way. The percentage, however, dropped off significantly with the older generations. Black adults who were 60 and above consumed 6.6 percent of their daily calories from fast food; Hispanic adults and white adults had similar percentages (6.3 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively).
- Overall, the researchers didn’t see any difference when they analyzed the total study participants by income. However, they did see differences in the 20-39 age group. The report found that “the percentage of calories from fast food significantly decreased with increasing income level.”
- The researchers also found that obese adults consumed the highest percentage of their calories from fast food. For instance, obese adults who were between the ages of 20-39 got 18 percent of their calories from fast food, as compared to overweight people in this age group (14.7 percent) and people who were underweight/normal weight (13.5 percent). The older groups ate less junk food but the percentage differences between the three groups pretty much held. For example, obese people who were 60 and older got 7.7 percent of their calories from fast food whereas overweight people in this age group consumed 5.8 percent of their caloric intake from this source. In comparison, people who were 60 and older who were underweight or of a normal weight got 3.8 percent of their calories from fast food sources.
I take this CDC report as good news. Yes, we all need to lower the percentage of calories we get from fast food even more, but we have made progress. Still, I'd encourage you to use this information as a prompt to drive past the drive-thru more often and take your own meals to work.