When we started analysing the nutrition info from the fast-food giants, even our hardened food team was shocked by the amount of kilojoules, fat and salt that some options packed (see the table, for details). A burger with 65 grams of fat — that’s around three tablespoons, even before you add the chips and other possible extras. A serve of crunchy chicken strips that’s over 2000 kJ? And our kids eat this stuff?
No wonder we’re evolving into a nation of fatties.
Calorie-guzzling couch potatoes
The PR knives are out for the health experts who’ve dared to implicate fast food as part of the problem of increasingly fat Australians.
Articles abound suggesting it’s inactivity that should be blamed — and we’re not disagreeing that sitting in front of the telly or computer is a big part of the problem. But fast food’s easy availability, relatively low cost and the advertising-driven demand from our kids for fatty, salty, high-calorie fast food have to take some share of the blame.
And the fast-food giants can take more blame still for their deliberate strategy aimed at increasing the amount you spend when you visit by offering meal deals and ‘upsizes’ where a little more money gets you heaps more food.
Upsize — to the next trouser size
It’s a strong person who can resist such great-value deals. In some instances you even get more food for less money by taking a meal deal. For example, the smallest HUNGRY JACK’S meal deals include regular-size chips and soft drink, so if you really only want small chips and a small soft drink with your burger it’s going to cost you more for less.
Health researchers at Deakin University in Melbourne found one upsize deal that delivered as much as 50% more fat, calories and sugar for only 16% more money. On average they found 12% more cash buys you around 25% more fat and calories (and nearly 40% more sugar). It may add up to value for money, but your arteries (and backside) won’t thank you for it.
And as anyone who’s visited one of these meccas of fast cuisine knows, the upselling doesn’t stop there — the famous cry of “you want fries/dessert/shake with that” has entered the national lexicon and echoes around our shopping malls and eateries every minute of every day.
So where do you go if the kids are demanding a fast-food fix, but you don’t want to blow your diet and your waistline? Here’s a look at what the big chains have on offer … a little good, but mostly bad and some downright ugly.