Ask A Scientist

What percentage of Americans eats fast food?

Asked by: John Martin
School: St. James Middle School
Grade: 7
Teacher: Mrs. Walter
Hobbies/Interests: Sports
Career Interest: A gym teacher.

Answer from Alexa Schmidt, RD, CDN

Registered Dietitian

Web page address:

Our hectic lifestyles lead many to eating on the run and this is not a new trend. Studies have shown that each day, 1 in 4 Americans visits a fast food restaurant. Since fast food meals tend to contain a large number of calories they may help explain why around 60 percent of all Americans are considered overweight or obese. Convenience is key when it comes to dining choices for today's Americans, which can lead to many visiting the famous fast food drive through windows. We often think of fast food places as burger joints where you can get any type of hamburger, fries, and sugary soft drink within minutes for a cheap price. It's true that many fast foods are high in calories, saturated fat, and sodium, but these are not the only choices available. Consumers are looking for the healthier alternatives and restaurants are responding to the demand by offering more salads (beware of the toppings), grilled chicken and fish options, deli style sandwiches/ wraps/ pitas/ tortillas, veggie burgers, and bottled water. Eating on the go doesn't have to mean poor food choices. Read the menu carefully and don't be afraid to ask how the foods are prepared. It is important to know if something is baked versus fried. Enjoy a healthy entree to satisfy your appetite and nutritional needs! There is always the alternative of planning ahead and packing your own on the go meal or snack box. The Scooby-Doo and Star Wars square lunch boxes and thermos sets may be 'out', but the concept lives on. Pack a natural peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread, bunch of grapes, and raw veggie sticks, or veggie soup with whole grain crackers, orange, and cup plain yogurt, or leftovers from dinner of grilled chicken, brown rice, and steamed broccoli.

Last Updated: 3/1/17