Almost a day’s calories in some fast food
If you’ve spent the last few months of lockdown sitting on the lounge ordering home delivered takeaway meals, you might want to look away now. New research from The George Institute for Global Health has revealed that some popular fast food chains are serving up almost all your entire daily energy needs in a single meal.
The research reviewed fast food products available in Australia, benchmarking them by their healthiness… or lack thereof. At the very top of the fast food shame file is the Red Rooster Bacon and Cheese Rippa meal – which consists of one Bacon and Cheese Rippa Roll, large (by default) fries and Coke. It contains 7730kJ or 1840 calories per serving. For those playing at home, that’s 89% of the average adult daily energy intake. Whoah.
This Rippa meal could definitely leave you looking, well, less than ripped. It would take the average Australian male over five hours of walking or two and a half hours of running to burn it off. The meal also packs a salty wallop, with 4571mg of sodium per serving – more than twice the amount you should be having in an entire day.
Hungry Jacks came a close second in the fast food naughty list, with the Whopper Hunger Tamers Meal – two burgers, three chicken nuggets, fries and a medium coke, all intended for one person – containing 7600kJ or 1810 calories per serving, or 87% of the average adult’s daily energy intake in one meal.
Too fast, too easy
Public health lawyer and Research Fellow at The George Institute Dr Alexandra Jones says that the pursuit of convenience should come with a serious health warning.
“Before lockdown, Australians were making over 50 million visits to fast food chains a month and spending nearly a third of their household food budget on eating out,” she says.
“We may have lost our ability to dine in, but it has never been easier to order fast food from the couch. While we’re moving less, fast food companies have been bombarding us on social media with suggestions for ‘comfort’ eating. This undermines efforts to maintain a healthy diet for both physical and mental wellbeing.”
The report showed that Hungry Jacks was the worst offender in the single burger category. Its Double Angus Smoky BBQ burger provides a whopper 64% of the average daily energy intake and an alarming 87% of your daily salt allowance.
Even plant-based burgers are not always as saintly as they might sound, on average having the highest energy content per serving in the entire burger category at 3097kJ (737 calories). The plant-based burger with the highest energy content per serving was the Grill’d Beyond Garden Goodness Burger on a gluten-free bun with 4160kJ or 990 calories per serving – almost half a day’s worth of energy in the one burger.
A shaker full of trouble
Of the 144 combo meals analysed, 60 exceeded suggested dietary targets for sodium. Twenty-three of these were from Red Rooster and 18 were from Hungry Jacks.
“High salt intakes are closely linked to high blood pressure, which is the leading cause of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart disease,” Dr Jones says. “By choosing some of these fast food offerings, people are storing up trouble for their health.”
The report also looked at trends between 2016 and 2019, finding that most brands had made little progress in making healthier product ranges during that time.
“There are clear opportunities for companies to do better, like making healthier versions of products, replacing the less healthy ones with better ones in smaller serving sizes, and displaying complete nutrition information near the point of purchase, to help people make healthier choices,” says Dr Jones.
“In the meantime, our message to consumers is to limit your consumption of fast foods.”