As obesity rates have risen in conjunction with the rising popularity of convenience foods, the American government has taken notice, and in an attempt to make the population more food-savvy, they now encourage open availability of all fast food nutrition information. Ideally, this means that you can walk into any fast food restaurant and demand to know what's in your food. Realistically, this means with a little effort, you can continue calorie-counting regardless of where you choose to eat.
Where to Find Fast Food Nutrition Facts
All companies selling food in the U.S. must affix accurate food nutrition labels to their products. Unfortunately, fast food establishments are not yet required to provide the same courtesy to their patrons. Still, ongoing criticism of fast food menus has inspired many establishments to give a nutrition breakdown on all of their food products. Where can you find these fast food facts? Most of the major fast food chains have pamphlets detailing the calories and fat contained in each of their products. Others put this information on posters or in company binders which are not immediately visible to the public. If you can't find fast food nutrition information on your own, go ahead and ask the manager where they keep their information.
Since it is not yet illegal for fast food restaurants to withhold nutrition facts about their food, you may not be able to find calorie and fat content numbers inside the restaurant. Where else can you find them? Online! In an effort to make their company appear more health-conscious, fast food giant McDonald's makes their food facts easy to find, just click the “Food, Nutrition, and Fitness” header on their home page and then “Nutrition Info” from the left-hand menu on the new page. A drop down menu gives you instant access to fast food nutrition stats on everything the restaurant offers.
Not all companies are as open with this information. If you can't find nutrition stats in the obvious places on a company's site, try a site search for “nutrition” or open the site map (an option usually located at the bottom of the home page). If you believe the company site does not contain the information you're looking for, then you can still find it at a number of different fast food watch dog sites.
Other Fast Food Facts to Consider
Few fast food companies follow the FDA's advice when it comes to determining serving sizes. For example, the classic quarter-pound hamburger accurately represents a single serving of meat (4 ounces). While these small burgers are still on most menus, they have long since been replaced as feature items by much bigger burgers. Likewise, it is important to remember that the nutritional facts posted to a company's site are not set in stone. If you have extra salt on your fries, less ice in your drink, or mayonnaise on your sandwich, it's going to significantly affect the sodium, calorie, and fat content (respectively).
Few fast food restaurants offer truly healthy menu options, at least in comparison to the lean meats, organic fruits, and vegetables you can create a meal from at home.