Fast food fuels more Americans than you thought

Roughly 80% of us eat it at least once a month, and the wealthier go for it more than the poor on a weekly basis.

By Jason Notte Aug 8, 2013 9:57AM
A Burger King Whopper hamburger and French fries (© Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)All the recent discussion about fast-food employment, wages and benefits has a lot of Americans asking one collective question: Who cares?

Well, you do. According to Gallup, 80% of you eat fast food at least once a month.

There's very little disparity in how all of that grease-fried food is consumed, either. Often associated with low income or poverty, fast food is consumed more heavily by those making more than $75,000 a year (51% report eating it at least once a week) than by those making between $20,000 and $30,000 a year (42%) or less than $20,000 (39%).

It's clearly a young person's game, however, as 57% of those aged 18 to 29 say they hit the counter or drive-through at least once a week. That drops to 47% for those aged 30 to 49, 44% for those aged 50 to 64 and to 41% among those aged 65 and older.

There isn't a whole lot of difference between how various races visit McDonald's (MCD), Burger King (BKW), Wendy's (WEN) and elsewhere, either. Fifty-two percent of blacks and 53% of Hispanics eat fast food at least weekly, while 46% of whites do the same.

All the groups feel just as badly about their meal afterward. A full 73% of those who go for fast food weekly told Gallup they think it's not too good for them or not good at all. That still trails the 81% of people who don't eat fast-food who believe the same. But at least there's a sizable degree of self-awareness.

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Aug 8, 2013 10:34AM
There are plenty of fast food options that are relatively healthy - but none of these articles seem to mention those.  Why is that?  Subway, Chipotle, Moe's, Panera, Jason's Deli, McCallister's, Zaxby's all offer a good variety of healthy options.
Aug 8, 2013 11:49AM

Fast food is not just bags of grease anymore, but it is still fast.  Long gone is the "lunch hour".  Just grab and pick at your food between phone calls and meetings.  Fast food works better at this. 


On the way home from work, between soccer practice and music lessons, sometimes the drive through is all you have time for.  The world has sped up, and fast food has kept pace. 


Now that you can get something healthy at most of these places, it is OK to go to them, if you choose wisely.

Aug 8, 2013 1:37PM
It doesn't surprise me that the wealthy eat it more than poor.  If you think about it you can get ground 85% beef , 1lb for 2.99.  That works out to four burgers for three dollars (but only if you make 4 ounce burgers, which is a recommended serving size). Even on the so called "dollar menu" it would cost you $4 for four burgers (which probably has only about 2 or 3 ounces of meat. homemade is healthier because you would use less salt.

I don't buy into the "I don't have time to cook" part.   Cooking a couple scrambled eggs and toast at home takes about five minutes.  They are still healthier than any fast food.  Even peanut butter and jelly is healthier.

Too lazy? It's all about laziness.  If you can read then you can read a recipe.  A little planning ahead goes a long way.

Before you say anything. We raised four children and both of us worked full time.  Did we have those occasions when we didn't get home until 8pm and everybody is very hungry? You bet we did.  That's when you pull out the eggs and toast. Throw in some vegies.  Cook a big batch of veggies ahead of time and spoon it into just about any dish you make. Tuna salad w/ vegies and a little oil and vinegar and your choice of herbs. Past cooks in 7 minutes, add some of those precooked veggies and nuts.  Hot oatmeal is great on a cold night, add fruit and make it w/ milk instead of water.
Aug 13, 2013 10:07AM
I remember when going out to eat was a Special Treat. Now that's all everybody does, isgo out. This fast paced world has made it this way, and all everybody does is complain. Slow down and smell the roses, and eat at home. Spending time to make a meal and spending time with your family is so much healthier and nicer, all around!
Aug 13, 2013 9:09AM
I put together my lunches on sunday so that during the week I don't even have to think about "what am I going to do for lunch today." I also leave a can of rolled oats in my desk for breakfast. Not that hard when you take an hour on sunday to prep for the week.
There are three reasons to eat at fast food restaurants. Tired after a long day, trying to meet a time schedule, and laziness. There is one more but its a matter of practice, can't cook. With all these reasons the fast food business is booming. Where do you fit in?
Aug 13, 2013 12:22PM

Last Saturday went grocery shopping for the weeks lunches,

 1 lb. deli sliced buffalo chicken breast             $ 5.99

          1 loaf whole grain oat nut bread               $1.79  at the bread outlet

          1 pkg. sliced Swiss cheese                      $ 1.99

          1 lb. dark leafy fresh greens                      $ 1.99

          2 pints grape tomatoes                              $ 1.75

          1 bottle flavored oil vinegar dressing       $ 1.99

                                                                                 $15.50 total for delicious and nutritious lunch for the week + a few pennies for sandwich condiments, top that fast foodies. Average value meal

$ 4.79 = $ 23.95 weekly savings $ 8.45 x 52 =  $ 439.40 annually not to mention less fat, sodium, carbs.    

Aug 13, 2013 12:47PM
As a vegetarian I don't go to burger joints. But I do occasionally frequent Taco Bell and get either their bean burritos or their veggie cantina bowl. Or Subway to get a veggie sub on  flatbread. There are healthy alternatives. The fast food at the movie theaters, however, are still notoriously unhealthy.
Aug 8, 2013 12:24PM
Interesting article & it makes sense why as many of these businesses currently exist.  Someone posted below fast food places that serve healthier options ~ where I live, Subway & perhaps Chipolte are the only ones available (no Panera yet) so all I generally see are greasy burger joints that still mainly serve burgers, fries, and soft drinks.  Eating on the run & lack of time are both reality in today's working world (or when raising a family & running them around).  Personally, I almost never think of Burger King or McDonald's but rather ordering takeout Chinese food which I believe is still a healthier option (as the ratio of veggies to meat is more appropriately alligned). 
Aug 13, 2013 11:20AM
I eat at McDonalds all the time, a burrito for breakfast is 300 calories, a McChicken or a McDouble with one half of the bun removed is close to 300 calories. I don't understand the constant harping on fast food as the reason people are fat, all of these places offer, free of charge, a list of all the calories, carbs and whatever that is in their menu items.  There is one major reason people are gaining weight and  it's not from food, it's the lack of exercise. People who are very active, like athletes, eat an enormous amount of food and they are not fat, that should tell you something. Walking to and from the car is not going to do it or you, a lot more is needed.
Aug 8, 2013 4:37PM
There are so many options out there, not just the McDonalds and Booger King and there are alot of them that are just as inexpensive but with better food and better service.  Most places have local places and regional places like In and Out.  Don't settle for the giants, try something else.
Aug 13, 2013 9:37AM
......dollar menu at mcdonalds is the mcdouble the two patties add up to a quarter pounder,so when you think about it you are almost getting the sandwhich at cost,when  include the bun and other ingredients,and I live in California so any energy use costs serious money
Aug 13, 2013 5:16PM
I haven't had fast food in years and years.  Do I miss Jack in the Box tacos?  Heck, yes. I probably haven't had a McDonalds or Burger King in 15+ years.  There's a KFC near me and every few years, I forget and buy a wing.  The first bite is incredibly delicious, but then it tastes like the yucky oil it's cooked in.  I love pizza and a burger every now and then, but that's a treat I rarely indulge in.
Aug 8, 2013 11:34AM
LOL..I knew it!!  Take that, all you holier-than-thou posters that jam the boards with their hating comments any time fast food is mentioned.  Moderation in everything.  That's how I live..and I DO indulge in fast food once in a while.  Probably averages out to once a week or so.
Aug 13, 2013 2:47PM
Having fast food a couple of times a month is FINE, having it a couple of times a day is a problem because a lot of it is just plain bad for you.

Everything in moderation.

Aug 13, 2013 5:09PM
Not having time to make something at home is code for "I'm too fricking lazy".
Aug 13, 2013 5:04PM
I make my own fast food at home, it's cheaper and don't have to use up any gas.  Usually buy some cheap food at the store and mix and match what I want, put it in the microwave and zap it, better then any fast food place by far.
Aug 13, 2013 7:25PM
Hasn't this debate on fast food offered by MSN numerous times during the last couple of months? Seems like the same stories over and over.
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