You might be getting more than you bargained for when you bite into that cheeseburger or chicken sandwich you purchased from your favorite fast food restaurant. But, this is not the “buy one get one free” offer you want. According to a study published in the April 26, 2010 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, fast food meals are not only high in calories, but contain an excessive amount of sodium as well – with 20% of the total meals studied containing more than the recommended daily amount for adults, which is 2,300 mg.
If you think you are making a healthier choice by choosing a chicken dish over a hamburger meal when dining at a fast food chain, think again. The current study found that 55% of the meals at fried chicken restaurants contained more than 2,300 mg of sodium. Meals from the fried chicken establishments also contained, on average, 66 more calories per meal than from burger chains. Furthermore, the chicken meals contained nearly 900 mg more sodium than burger meals.
Data from the recent study was obtained from 6,580 lunch hour receipts of adult patrons from 167 fast food chain restaurants. The sodium content of the average meal (from both chicken and burger chains) was 1,751 mg – with 57% of all purchases exceeding 1,500 mg of sodium. Considering that 75% of all dining out experiences occur either at casual or fast food chain establishments, these findings highlight a major public health concern. Excessive amounts of sodium consumption can lead to elevated blood pressure levels. Having a high blood pressure condition, known as hypertension, increases your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Fortunately, according to the authors of the study, The American Medical Association is calling upon the food manufacturing industry to reduce the sodium content by 50% in processed foods and restaurant meals. Some fast food chain establishments are already making changes. In the mean time, how can you make a healthier choice the next time you visit a fast food restaurant? Check the establishment’s website. Many now post nutrition information for the meals on their menus, which you can access prior to your dining experience. For healthy decisions that have to be made on the fly, use the “Shop to Lose” app for the iPhone which provides the nutritional information, including sodium content, for several restaurants.