Fast-food menu offerings vary in dietary quality, but are consistently poor

Sharon I. Kirkpatrick, Jill Reedy, Lisa L. Kahle, Jennifer L. Harris, Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, Susan M. Krebs-Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: To evaluate five popular fast-food chains' menus in relation to dietary guidance. Design: Menus posted on chains' websites were coded using the Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies and MyPyramid Equivalents Database to enable Healthy Eating Index-2005 (HEI-2005) scores to be assigned. Dollar or value and kids' menus and sets of items promoted as healthy or nutritious were also assessed. Setting: Five popular fast-food chains in the USA. Subjects Not applicable. Results Full menus scored lower than 50 out of 100 possible points on the HEI-2005. Scores for Total Fruit, Whole Grains and Sodium were particularly dismal. Compared with full menus, scores on dollar or value menus were 3 points higher on average, whereas kids' menus scored 10 points higher on average. Three chains marketed subsets of items as healthy or nutritious; these scored 17 points higher on average compared with the full menus. No menu or subset of menu items received a score higher than 72 out of 100 points. Conclusions: The poor quality of fast-food menus is a concern in light of increasing away-from-home eating, aggressive marketing to children and minorities, and the tendency for fast-food restaurants to be located in low-income and minority areas. The addition of fruits, vegetables and legumes; replacement of refined with whole grains; and reformulation of offerings high in sodium, solid fats and added sugars are potential strategies to improve fast-food offerings. The HEI may be a useful metric for ongoing monitoring of fast-food menus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)924-931
Number of pages8
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Volume17
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2014

Keywords

  • Dietary guidance
  • Dietary quality
  • Fast food
  • Food environment
  • Healthy Eating Index-2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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    Kirkpatrick, S. I., Reedy, J., Kahle, L. L., Harris, J. L., Ohri-Vachaspati, P., & Krebs-Smith, S. M. (2014). Fast-food menu offerings vary in dietary quality, but are consistently poor. Public Health Nutrition, 17(4), 924-931. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1368980012005563