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Experts Analyzed Over 5,000 Fast Food Meals: Only 33 Are Healthy

Update Date: Nov 08, 2013 09:44 AM EST

It is no secret that fast food meals are not healthy. Despite this fact, adults and children continue to eat it. In a new study, researchers from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity decided to examine the healthiness of fast food meals. The Center, which promotes healthy eating, such as encouraging the removal of sugary drinks by imposing a sin tax on soda, analyzed menu options from 18 different fast food restaurants. They found that out of 5,427 meals, only 33 of them could be considered healthy. That means that only one percent of all the food options they analyzed are healthy.

For the healthier options, the analysts listed a few different fast food chains. The 18 restaurants the analysts looked into were Arby's Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Cici's Pizza, Dairy Queen, Domino's, Dunkin' Donuts, Jack in the Box, KFC, Little Caesars, McDonald's, Panera Bread, Pizza Hut, Sonic, Starbucks, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy's. They found that 11 out of 12 of the restaurants offered kids' meals that had at least one option for a healthy side dish. Healthy Side dishes included green beans, corn, or salads. The analysts found that Panera's offered three side salad options that were healthy for children. The researchers also reported that over 75 percent of the restaurants had healthy drink options, such as unflavored milk and water.

The analysts specifically commended McDonald's for changing the kids' Happy Meal to include half a serving of fries with sliced apples. The analysts also praised Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell, Arby's and Jack in the Box for making their main dishes relatively low caloric and with fewer saturated fat and/or sodium.

Even though fast food options are still unhealthy, the analysts also found a reduction in advertisements geared towards six-to 11-year-olds. Now, teenagers get the bulk of the fast food advertisements. These advertisements, however, focus on healthier food options that have an average of 16 percent fever calories in each commercial.

The report's findings continue to stress the importance of modifying and improving fast food options. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago revealed that around 41 percent of teenagers consume fast food every day based on a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. In another study reported by some of the same researchers this year, they reported that when people eat fast food, their daily caloric intake increases by 126 for children and 310 for teenagers.

The report was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Rudd Foundation. For more information, visit Fast Food F.A.C.T.S.

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