Did you know that 50 million Americans get their meals from fast food restaurants daily?
That’s a lot!
In addition, 44% of us eat at these establishments once a week. And, on average, fast food makes up 37% of our daily caloric intake.
McDonald’s, just by itself, serves up 75 hamburgers per second.
Yup, that’s not a typo.
They’re very tasty and many of us have our favorites. But for the most part, fast food is seen as unhealthy.
In this article, we take a closer look at the advantages of fast food.
Benefits of Fast Food
Fast Food is Very Accessible, Convenient and Quick
Let’s face it, preparing meals takes time. This includes not includes prep and cooking time but also time spent going to the supermarket for groceries. While much healthier, not everyone enough time to squeeze all these things into their hectic lifestyles.
Fast food restaurants are everywhere.
According to Google Maps, there are nearly 50,000 fast food chains in the U.S. alone, 500,000 for the world. The largest chain among them all, McDonald’s which has over 35,000 locations can be found just about anywhere. Meanwhile, there seems to be a Starbucks Coffee on every street corner.
Their close proximity to wherever your work or you’re currently at, plus the relatively short 2 to 5 minute (okay sometimes 10 minutes) wait for your order to get to you makes them very convenient for anyone who doesn’t have much time to spare during their day.
Considering that about 20% of all American meals are consumed in our cars, this makes fast food a more convenient choice.
They offer a Large Variety of Menu Options
One of the advantages of fast food restaurants is that they offer a wide variety of cuisines and food items.
Whether you’re craving burgers, Chinese food, Mexican, pizza or pasta, there’s are a lot of options available to choose from.
Also, these food outlets carry a number of different food items ranging from appetizers, main meals, value meals, side orders and desserts. This allows you to get a complete meal or whatever you’re hunkering for at that moment.
Fast food is always associated with unhealthy eating, and for good reason.
It’s easy to order the mouthwatering bacon cheeseburger that’s loaded with fat and grease. Fried chicken and pizza are other favorites.
The good news is that over the past decade, fast food chains like McDonald’s and Chick-Fil-A have incorporated a number of healthier menu options like oatmeal, salads, grilled items, leaner meat choices, nuts and yogurts.
In addition, there are also healthier fast food chains like Subway, which lets you choose the type of bread and ingredients for your sandwich.
This allows you to eat fresh, healthy food and control your portions that are quick and don’t require much work on your end.
They’re Budget Friendly (and Much Cheaper than Sit Down Restaurants)
As mentioned earlier, fast food chains have come a long way from where they began. Today, you have the option of using the drive-thru, take out counter or sit in the restaurant.
In addition, there are a number of types of fast food including those that serve small items, burger joints and pizza places.
Additionally, there are not fast casual dining places like Chipotle. These restaurants are hybrids between the traditional casual dining establishment and fast food outlet. They serve fast food but you sit down like a family restaurant.
Depending on what type of fast food place you eat, price can vary.
Cost of Fast Food
The cheapest among them are the burger places like Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s. Burrito joints like Taco Bell also fall under this price range. You get your meal for between $4.00 and $5.00.
Pizza costs a little more. According to researchers, fast food pizza costs between $5.00 to a little over $7.00. There are some cheaper options like the $1 NY slice pizza and some chains like Little Caesar’s.
Cost of Casual Dining Chains
In comparison, research by Morgan Stanley reveals that eating at a casual dining restaurant often costs anywhere from $12.00 to $30.00. This depends on what type of sit down restaurant you’re at and what city you’re living in. We’re not considering the higher end restaurants which cost $40.00 and up.
Among these casual dining spots, the cheapest options are:
- Red Ribbon comes: $12.17
- Applebee’s: $12.42
- Logan’s Roadhouse: $15.80
- Chili’s: $13.99
- Texas Roadhouse: $15.80
- Olive Garden: $16.50
In the middle of the group, you can splurge a little and get steak and lobster, these cost around $20 per person.
- Outback Steakhouse: $20.00
- Red Lobster: $20.50
Cost of Eating Healthy at Home
Do note however, research shows that eating healthy at home comes out cheaper than eating at fast food restaurants. A study conducted by Oakton Community College found that a healthy diet costs $7.48 a day. Meanwhile, eating fast food costs $15.30 a day on average.
The study compared buying grocery and preparing food at home for 3 meals a day to eating out (fast food). They found that preparing 3 meals at home for a week costs $43.00. Eating fast food for a week cost $87.00.
Of course, this will depend on what type of foods you buy in your healthy diet, where you buy your grocery as well as which fast food outlets your eat at.
But in the end, you do pay a bit for the convenience of not having to make your own meals.
Fast Food Chains Now Carry Nutrition Data
In addition to fast food chains carrying healthier menu options, they are now also required to post each item’s nutritional information.
Thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, restaurant chains that have more than 20 branches are required to include calorie counts on their menu boards.
This gives us, the consumer that ability to choose informatively.
In addition, if you go to the fast food chain’s website, you’re likely to find complete nutrition data on the food they serve. This data ranges including data like serving size, calories, amount of fat, carbohydrate and protein per menu item.
Fast food’s benefits are the reason they’ve stood the test of time. They’re tasty, served up quick, easy on the budget and easily available.
But while they make our hectic lives convenient, they’re by no means something we should have on the regular basis due to their lower food quality, higher sodium and fat content among others.
However, when you’re craving for your favorite fast food offering or just don’t have the time to make your own meals, eating right at fast food chains can give something healthy as well.