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Healthy choices not that easy with fast food

23 June 2005

Making healthy choices not as easy as fast food companies suggest

Making healthy choices in fast food outlets is not as easy as their marketing suggests, according to the latest issue of the monthly Healthy Food Guide magazine.

Healthy Food Guide says that it’s not easy for consumers to make informed healthy choices, as according to its investigations, fast food companies provide unacceptably confusing nutritional information. Among the examples: None of the companies provide the nutritional breakdown for a whole meal or “combo”, leaving consumers to add up the numbers. KFC and Pizza Hut provide nutritional information per 100g. No-one orders their food in 100g lots. Even for HFG’s qualified nutritionist it was time consuming to work out what was in a meal.

Without accurate and easy to understand information, parents are at risk of buying unhealthy choices. For example: the KFC “kids lap pack” contains half the fat and daily energy (kJ) requirement for a child aged 4-7.

The magazine’s latest issue investigated a range of local fast food and found there were many traps consumers could fall into when trying to choose offerings that were advertised as healthy.

For example: Subway positions itself as “fast food that is actually good for you”, yet their 12” meatball marinara sub with Ranch sauce will provide over half the kJ and nearly all the fat an average adult needs in a day. Adding Subway Ranch dressing to a 12” sub will add 28 grams of fat, over a third of the recommended daily intake. Adding any dressing other than the “lite” option to a McDonald’s salad will add up to 13 grams of extra fat – more than that found in a small fries.

Healthy Food Guide decided on the cover story because of the increasing prevalence of fast food outlets promoting healthy options. New Zealanders are eating more fast food than ever – we spent $795 million on fast food in the year to July 2004, up two thirds on 1996. We are the world’s 10th most frequent consumers of fast food, with nearly 30% of us eating it at least once a week.

ENDS

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