There are so many options these days when it comes to fast food and it’s hard to resist caving once in a while and pulling up to the drive thru. With so many chains, there are bound to be things that we aren’t quite aware of when it comes to our favorite fast food joints, here is a list of the Top 10 Fast Food Facts You Don’t Want to Know.
10. Salads Aren’t Healthy Options
Salads are usually a popular choice for someone seeking a healthier option off of a menu. Fast food restaurants aren’t usually where one would turn to for a salad, but sometimes it can seem like the easiest and cheapest option available. However, salads only appear to be the healthier option at a fast food restaurant because of their distinct difference when compared to other fast food menu items, like burgers or fried chicken. Salads from fast food restaurants can be just as unhealthy as normal menu items! For example, McDonald’s Southwest Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Salad is advertised as being a pretty healthy salad, other than the fact that it is topped with fried chicken. However, even without the chicken, the salad is full of fatty dressing, chips, and other high fat ingredients. In fact, this salad is a whopping 520 calories and has over 25g of fat. To give a comparison, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese from McDonalds is the same amount of calories. Salads tend to be more expensive than other menu-items because they are ‘healthy’ alternatives, this is also the case in your average sit-down restaurant as well. People will pay more for something they think is better for them. But in the case of salads from fast food restaurants, it seems like your body and wallet would be better off choosing something else that’s more filling.
9. The Grill Marks are Usually Fake
When you order the grilled chicken burger from your favorite fast food joint, you expect it to have been cooked on a grill at some point, due to the grill marks that are found on the meat. However, the majority of restaurants that offer ‘grilled’ items, actually have their meat cooked beforehand by the supplier and it’s during this process that the grill marks are added. For the most part, they are simply added for aesthetic purposes. You may wonder how these items often taste like they have come off of a barbecue – and there is actually a pretty interesting answer to this. Different smoky flavoring is added to the meat to enhance the ‘grilled’ illusion. Fake grill marks are not only used for fast food items, they are actually used on a lot of the items you would find in the frozen section of your grocery store. One of the reasons this is done is to make the meat more appetizing and appealing, however, there is another reason that a lot of meat comes pre-marked – the cost. It is much cheaper for companies to get their meat pre-marked than it is to have equipment such as a grill installed in every single franchise location. So, the next time you opt for something advertised as ‘grilled’, just remember, those marks are probably not a sign of something fresh off of the grill – but it’ll probably taste just as good.
8. Soda Fountains Can Be Dirty
One thing that is often overlooked at fast food restaurants – are the drinks. We expect soda to be the one thing that is always bubbly, always tastes the same, and never has any issues. However, there are a few pretty concerning things about soda fountains that you probably haven’t thought about before. The first issue with fast food soda are the actual soda machines themselves that your drink is dispensed from. These machines are basically breeding grounds for all kinds of bacteria. The pipes that the soda runs through are often covered in mold and because they aren’t cleaned very often, this mold builds and builds until eventually it shows up in your drink. In past studies, they have even found fecal matter in some of the soda that comes from these pipes. The second issue? Ice. The ice that comes from these dispensers face a similar issue, they are often contaminated with bacteria, mold, fecal matter, and other gross things you probably don’t want to be consuming. Employees also often handle ice by hand, meaning any bacteria that is on their hands – ends up in your drink. This happens a lot at places like Starbucks, where employees get your ice from a large container that is covered by a lid. This lid is open half of the time, meaning there are a lot of opportunities for bacteria to get into the container and then into your drink. Sometimes it’s better to skip the ice – your drink will usually be cold enough without it.
7. Burgers Are Made from Dozens of Cows
This one’s a bit strange, but you probably don’t want to hear it. Did you know, that when you eat a burger from a fast food restaurant, it is likely that the meat you are eating is actually coming from dozens, if not hundreds of different cows? It’s hard to picture and imagine but all of the meat that is used to make ground beef is mixed together, and the number of animals that make up one burger is pretty high. Now, the idea of meat from multiple cows being made into one product is not too scary of a thought on its own, but it really makes you think about the process that meat goes through before you see it on a plate in front of you. In the US, the meat industry is not always praised for being sustainable or ethical. However, one bright side to eating something like a burger or a hot dog is that usually these meat products are made from the scraps left over from other meat products – such as steak. The best cuts of meat are used on their own and the extra parts are used for multiple other purposes. Some believe hot dogs to be a more ethical meat choice, as animals were not necessarily slaughtered for the purpose of creating hot dogs. The animals are already being used for steaks, fillets, and other cuts of meat, so hot dogs are the result of using meat that otherwise would have been thrown away.
6. Muffins Are Not As Healthy As You Think
Muffins are a popular breakfast choice and snack for many people who are looking for something on the sweeter side but don’t quite want a full-on dessert experience. Muffins seem like a good choice, as they are often advertised as being full of fibre, filling, and overall – healthy. However, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between eating a muffin and eating something like a cupcake. For example, a muffin at McDonald’s can be a whopping 450 calories, can have over 15g of fat and over 30g of sugar. When compared to other breakfast items at McDonald’s, muffins are not the better option. However, fast food restaurants tend to advertise muffins as a ‘smarter’ choice for your morning. This is supposed to be in comparison to other menu items, but it isn’t necessarily true. A McDonalds Carrot Muffin has 430 calories, while a McDonalds Egg McMuffin is only 290 calories. This is pretty interesting to think about, as we often choose items based on what we think is the healthier choice. Considering the lower calorie item, the Egg McMuffin, includes bread, egg, cheese, and meat, while the higher calorie item, a Carrot Muffin, is simply a muffin. Although fast food restaurants aren’t necessarily your first stop for a healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner, they are always the most convenient option for many people looking for a quick and cheap bite to eat.
5. They Advertise with Red and Yellow For a Reason
You may have noticed that most fast food chains use similar colors in their advertising and marketing efforts. There is actually a pretty deliberate reason for this aesthetic choice in branding. Many fast food chains use specific colors in their marketing in order to attract a bigger audience. Two of the colors most commonly used in fast food marketing are red and yellow. The reason yellow is chosen so often is because it is known to cause individuals to feel specific emotions. For example, the color yellow is seen as related to the feeling of happiness and comfort. This means that when individuals drive near a McDonalds and see the yellow logo from a mile away, it triggers a happy feeling, and people are more likely to be attracted to it. We will admit, seeing the golden arches down the street definitely makes you want to stop in and grab a quick something. Although it may seem far-fetched to someone inexperienced in marketing practices, color does have a lot of power over how we spend our time and money. From McDonalds, to Wendy’s, to Pizza Hut, to In-N-Out, yellow and red are everywhere. Just thinking about these fast food logos will cause a hunger or happiness response, in fact, we bet your mouths are watering just from the thought of it. Go ahead, get some fries – we won’t tell.
4. Everything Tastes the Same
We all have items on fast food menus that we enjoy more than others. However, have you ever noticed that a lot of your favorite items taste kind of similar? This is something that is done on purpose. Although a fast food burger and a fast food chicken burger may be made with different ingredients, they share a similar taste to one another. Each menu item at fast food restaurants is made specifically to appeal to our inner want for a comforting food. This is why no fast food menu item tastes too much like fresh meat or too much like fresh vegetables. Companies have managed to create items that will be more appealing to more people by making them less flavourful and a bit more neutral tasting. As our bodies prefer different tastes, for example sweet and savory, fast food chains play on this and offer items that meet all of these needs so that there is no need for their customers to go elsewhere. It is an all in one tasting experience and it is purposely done to attain loyal customers – and it really does work.
3. Getting a Combo is Rarely Your Choice
‘Would you like fries with that?’ Anyone who frequents fast food joints has heard this question asked way too many times. It is usually asked after someone orders a menu item instead of a combo, AKA a big no-no. The addition of a side of fries and a drink begins to seem necessary after you’re asked this question and yes, of course we’ll have fries with that. This question is asked completely on purpose, as it is a way to encourage people to spend more money, eat more food, and become more invested in a chain’s products. Customers who usually wouldn’t order a combo are more likely to do so when it is suggested to them by someone else, there have been actual studies that have proven this exact theory. But this suggestion to order more actually causes people to eat way too much – sometimes more than the suggested calorie intake you are supposed to consume in an entire day. In some areas of the world where child obesity is a problem, fast food is also very popular and the two are proven to be linked. It is pretty difficult to skip the side of fries and soda that often accompanies fast food meals, so we won’t judge you if you answer ‘yes’ (we all do it).
2. Fast Food Electronic Kiosks are a Selling Tool
Many popular fast food chains now have electronic kiosks in their restaurants. These kiosks make it so that you can order your food without waiting in line and without having to speak to an employee. Essentially, it gives you the freedom to choose what you want to order at your own pace. This process is not to give the customer independence or to lower staff numbers, it is actually part of a really smart plan to have customers order more food. How does this happen exactly? Well, customers tend to take their time when at these kiosks, meaning they are more likely to place larger orders than if they were to verbally order with an employee. This is partly due to the visuals that the kiosks offer. Each menu item that you can order on the kiosk is accompanied by an image, which can often lead to people purchasing items that they may not have originally intended to. It’s hard to hate on these kiosks because they do provide us with some sense of independence, and with everything in life becoming more and more screen-based, it isn’t surprising that this is how people choose to order fast food now. It may actually lead to people ordering new things and finding new menu items that they end up loving!
1. You Aren’t Saving Money
There is a misconception about fast food that leads us all to believe that we are saving money when we eat it. Everything in pop culture, especially TV and movies supports this idea. Characters often meet at the local fast food joint for their ‘cheap’ burger and fries. But this isn’t really representative of prices in real life. In fact, TV and movies make fast food out to be the cheapest way to eat, and this is reflected in our society. However, since fast food restaurants consistently raise their prices, we are spending more and more on eating out, when in fact, eating in would be the more economical choice. A lot of processed food is actually a lot more expensive than buying individual ingredients at home and making it on your own. For some, it comes down to convenience, and fast food is just that – convenient. We all know that we could have a more nutritional meals at home, but when it’s so easy to just visit a drive-thru, a night of grocery shopping and cooking starts to sound like a lot of work. Overall, if it’s just for you, then fast food may be a better choice for your wallet. But when it comes to feeding multiple people, ordering multiple combos (with the occasional supersize), you might end up breaking the bank.