The fast food paradox


A national survey summarized in a new CDC report found that more than one-third of adults eat at fast food restaurants and pizza joints on any given day. Surprisingly, the more money you make, the more likely you are to do so: 42 percent of people in the highest income bracket consume fast food daily compared to 31.7 percent of those in the lowest income bracket.


The study authors note that “fast food” describes any establishment offering grab-and-go meals, so wealthy people may be reaching for healthy wraps and salads more than burgers and fries. But Brian St. Pierre, RD, CSCS, director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition in Scarborough, Maine, says that in his experience with affluent clients, it’s often a mix of both. The demanding lifestyle of white collar jobs—working through lunch, long commutes into big cities, logging overtime to meet goals—makes it easy to prioritize convenience over health, he says.


In busy lives, convenience is king, but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice health. St. Pierre suggests you opt for eateries that offer easy customization, like sweetgreen, Chipotle, or Panera. Make produce and lean protein the cornerstone of each meal, then add minimally processed carbs or healthy fats for flavor and substance, he says.