Healthy restaurant chains? Not any time soon!

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

fast food
Chain restaurants are not as healthy as they appear to be.

Is it just me, or does it seem like chain restaurants are getting healthier? Several joints are introducing meals that are low in fat, contain fewer calories, yet still have the same delicious taste.

Well, it may appear like places are turning over a new leaf and stepping away from their unhealthy history, but according to a story published in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Diabetes, restaurants are still the same old fat factories they’ve always been.

Hey, that can’t be true. Just this year, Burger King introduced their “Satisfries,” which have 30% less fat and 20% less calories than their regular ones! Even McDonalds added a “nutritious” oatmeal food item to the morning menu, which is supposed to provide a hearty breakfast. While that’s true, there are still just as many unhealthy options that outshine the good ones, and citizens should not be fooled.

“Restaurants make changes to their menus regularly, but they may make both healthy and unhealthy changes simultaneously,” said Helen Wu, a policy and research analyst at University of California, Davis. “This study provides objective evidence that overall, we did not see a new wave of healthier entrees come in to replace less healthy ones.” What kind of evidence did the researchers find?

Well, they collected data from 213 popular chain restaurants across the nation and studied around 26,000 menu items from the year 2011 to 2012. Needless to say, the results were not pretty. After the scientists crunched some numbers, they revealed the average meal contains around 617 calories!

But, there has to be something healthy about the food establishments, right? Apparently, the average amount of salt decreased a bit. In 2011, the average sodium content was 1,515mg, but the following year, the number went all the way down to…. a measly 1,500mg. That’s basically no change at all! Just to give you an idea of how bad that is, the American Heart Association recommends that 1,500mg is all the sodium a person should eat in a day.

“Across the restaurant industry, we see a pattern of one step forward, one step back,” said Wu. Ha, it’s more like 1 baby step forward and 20 giant leaps backwards!

Featured image courtesy of Teresa Stanton on Flickr. Image of fast food chain courtesy of Leon on Flickr.