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Frequent Fast-Food Eaters Dish on Why They Dig In

Dec. 2, 2008 -- Fast food lives up to its name in a new study of people who frequently eat at fast-food restaurants.

Nearly 600 adults and teens in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area were interviewed for the study in 2005-2006. Most reported eating fast food at least three times per week.

After tucking into a meal at a fast-food restaurant, participants rated how strongly they agreed or disagreed with 11 statements about why they like fast food.

Here are their top reasons for eating fast-food meals, according to the percentages of people who agreed with each statement:

  1. They're quick: 92.3%
  2. They're easy to get to: 80.1%
  3. I like the taste of fast food: 69.2%
  4. They're inexpensive: 63.6%
  5. I'm too busy to cook: 53.2%
  6. It's a "treat" for myself: 50.1%
  7. I don't like to prepare foods myself: 44.3%
  8. My friends/family like them: 41.8%
  9. It is a way of socializing with friends and family: 33.1%
  10. They have many nutritious foods to offer: 20.6%
  11. They're fun and entertaining: 11.7%

The "I'm too busy to cook" line was more popular among people with college degrees than people with less education. And young adults were less likely than older adults to say they ate fast food because it offered many nutritious choices.

Still, the results boil down to speed and convenience at one end of the spectrum, and nutrition and fun at the other end. Bridging that gap means coming up with speedy, nutritious alternatives, suggest the researchers, who included Sarah Rydell, MPH, of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

Their findings appear in December's edition of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

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