Fast-Food Factors

Fast food — not just burgers and fries, but the entire range of quickly served food — remains an immensely popular alternative to cooking and eating at home. According to a 2008 study commissioned by the industry, Americans spend an average of about $500 per person each year on fast food, with more than half of the population eating it at least once a week. While the most popular fast-food restaurant is McDonald’s — 57% of Americans had eaten there in the month prior to the survey — the second most popular chain is Subway, drawing 37% of the population. The range of fast-food options continues to grow, and these restaurants claim a diverse customer base.


Despite the variety of options available, eating fast food is still associated with a lower intake of fresh produce and whole grains, and a higher intake of refined carbohydrates, sodium, and total calories. Since it can broadly be classified as unhealthy, many researchers are interested in finding out exactly why Americans choose fast food as often as they do. This question was addressed in a recent set of short essays by food experts in The New York Times.

Participants disagreed about whether or not the main problem was a lack of information or knowledge about healthy eating. One writer noted that it is not poorer households who patronize fast-food establishments the most; in fact, households earning $80,000 annually consume more fast food on average than those earning $30,000. These higher-income households presumably can afford, and have access to, high-quality produce and other healthy ingredients found at the supermarket. They simply prefer the convenience and taste that fast food offers, or they feel they don’t have enough time to plan and prepare home-cooked meals. Another writer, having heard from many Americans who are confused about what they should eat, countered that Americans could indeed use more information on eating well.

While the participants mostly agreed that preparing more food at home is an important step toward good nutrition, they disagreed about what it would take for a shift of this kind to happen. Some felt that education and information could bring about such a change, while others felt that a lack of time to prepare food and a preference for convenience over nutrition were the real culprits.

What do you think — what motivates you to eat at fast-food restaurants when you do? Do you believe you cook at home more than you would if you didn’t have diabetes? Is saving money a factor in your food decisions? Do you feel you have enough time or nutrition and culinary expertise to prepare meals at home with confidence? Leave a comment below! (And be sure to check out our recipes section for diabetes-friendly ideas.)

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  • Suzanne

    Most of the problem for me is the time factor. I do not arrive home from work until about 7pm. When I purchase fast food, I try to make it fairly healthy such as a burger and side salad instead of fries or a Subway Sub. Probably neither of these choices is the best but they could be worse!

  • Ferne

    We eat a small meal out every Sunday. We get tired of cooking and just want to get out like normal people and not feel like cheating and sneaking. We know what we are doing and we know our own bodies and what works and what doesnt’t. Being diabetic doesn’t mean we have to be different and tired of all the hype.

  • jim snell

    The food in fast food restaurants tend to be high energy high glucose generating food. If you are getting extensive hearty exercise and burning off – great – no issue.

    I have found I can do this but targeted = crisp and firm calories control and reduce the breads, fries, sugars to manage protion size and generally no problem.

    Here again energy input control is crucial to most of us living the normal high energy input – low exercise life to arresting the rot and issues.

    Eating in or out, my target goal is 1200 calories a day and one and one-half to 2 miles walking a day( I am 240 pounds and not wasting to shadow.)

  • joan

    I do not usually have fast foods of any kind and have enjoyed a healthy life as a Type 1! Fast foods make my daily control more difficult to control and it means that I must take more insulin which I do not want to do. It is not worth feeling “stuffed with heavy carbs” and trying to regain control.

    I can find a good meal in any restaurant. I do enjoy a hamburger now and then but leave the bun alone and have a green salad with the meat, relish, tomato etc – but no fires!

    Saying all of the above I realize that every diabetic must find the best means for good nutrition that fits their lifestyle — within reason. There is just not ONE WAY to meal planning that fits us all! Life is made up of choices – we should try to mostly seek the best for our our selves every day – to remain as healthy as possible and to take the strain off our families!

    I have enjoyed a good life as a Type 1 for 55 years and I wish for everyone the same.