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Food technology has changed the shape of fast food burgers
Over the past decade, manufacturing techniques have made it possible to produce extremely dense foods. In fact, some experts say we eat less meat now than ever before, which is something that people in Asia were even able to enjoy long ago.
These advances in production efficiency have also allowed companies to reduce product size while still maintaining quality and profit margins. It’s been very profitable for industry leaders who play this game, like McDonald’s(!).
But why are these improvements necessary if consumers seem opposed to smaller servings? One reason is psychological. A lot of us enjoy owning things that make us feel good about ourselves. We want to bring home trophies and praise for our hard work.
Another reason is that manufacturers have come to appreciate the benefits of serving sizes based on the number of calories they contain. For example, one large cookie or ice cream cone makes you happy but only contains 100-150 calories. By contrast, one small cookie or ice cream cone brings you pleasure with 150+ calories but serves more nutrition.
This means there’s an opportunity cost when it comes to consuming larger portions. You may be satisfied short term, but over time your weight will most likely return to normal, and you’ll never know the difference!
Burgers are made with better ingredients
The amount of food in your burger is related to the size of the bun it is served upon. Mini burgers have smaller buns than normal-sized hamburger patties.
By using small buns, more surface area is available for filling. This means you can fit more flavor and fillings into the mini version.
Convenience plays a role as well. With fast food restaurants counting on people having several options where and when they eat, the industry works hard to make eating fast affordable.
Some locations serve up to six different types of fries alone! And many chains offer at least two variations of potato dishes (like baked beans or mashed potatoes) and three alternatives to vegetables among their lineups.
Cheese bread or grilled cheese sandwiches are popular choices because they use minimal materials and are easy to make. Many places provide prebuilt combinations of flavors and products which save time for customers who do not want to cook.
Freshness is more important than quantity
It’s hard to argue with the convenience of a fast food burger, but it may not be the best choice for you health-wise. Many people are aware that processed foods have less nutrition in them compared to whole, natural things, and burgers are no different.
People seem to think that because something is a burger, it must be healthier than other options.
But eating a burger does not make you healthy unless you eat a lot of veggies or other healthy choices. A cheeseburger packed with cheese and meat is too much fat for most people’s diets.
A better option would be a salad filled with vegetables and some dressing. Or any type of grain like rice or quinoa (all complete proteins).
Or if you can’t stand the thought of consuming grains, try a grilled chicken burrito. There is a wide variety of ingredients that can be added to create a balanced diet.
If you need help finding a good restaurant, visit websites and look at apps that tell you what’s fresh and nutritious about each dish. Or you can ask staff for advice.
They will know how to make your menu item healthy without taking away from the flavor.
Less meat is added to create more substantial sandwiches
One of the things that has made faster food burgers possible is the reduction in the size of the beef burger. Since customers have become used to hungry mouths filling up for cheap, restaurants have had to innovate new ways to serve bigger meals with less protein.
It all started when diners were willing to pay extra for a better tasting menu, but they wanted value too. Restaurants then found they could satisfy their customers by adding extra sides to make up for the increased cost of ingredients.
Beef products continue to be expensive, so companies are searching for solutions. Some farmers are even using special techniques to produce larger amounts of milk or corn as an alternative to pork.
More options for breakfast foods include everything from doughnuts to waffles to eggs. Later in the day, dishes like stews, salads, fried potatoes, and vegetables help keep people full longer. By letting people choose differently priced menus, chefs enhance customer satisfaction levels.
Lettuce is used instead of old bread
A large part of McDonald’s menu includes items that are only available at certain hours, like breakfast sandwiches and kids meals. But most restaurants have shorter hours and offer less food during peak lunch and dinner times. This is why there are so many more fast food options throughout the day.
McDonald’s tried to keep up with demand by becoming a 24-hour restaurant about 20 years ago. It opened its first restaurant in Russia in 1989 and offered midnight snacks.
Restaurants were already required to open until 9 p.m., so McDonald’s just added midnight. “It was a very smart move,” said Andrew Mowry, who works with social media for the company.
But it was still difficult for McDonald’s to compete with other fast food options that operated late. So the chain started looking for alternatives to traditional burgers and fries. In 1996, they introduced the McMuffin as well as new breakfast products.
Shortly after, they began offering smaller sizes of hamburger meat than before. And in 2010, Big Macs went from two ingredients to three. By letting customers know what they can expect, McDonald’s encourages them to come back again and spend money.
In 2013, Apple Restaurant’s spring rolls increased from two pieces to four pieces. The change made those restaurant’s rolls the best tasting way around. It also reduced the cost of making all
Special shapes and sizes of buns
The round, top-bun has been around for decades. But over the last decade, it’s become increasingly smaller. It’s now very hard to find large bun burgers at fast food restaurants!
And why is that a problem? Research shows that eating fewer whole calories is important to weight loss. Bun burgers can be high in calories—some stacks don’t even note how many calories are inside!
That makes them harder to control compared to years past. When you can easily count down the number of calories and know how much each portion contains, it’s easier to keep an accurate diet.
It also helps you understand whether you should eat more or less next time you’re at home or at a restaurant.
So what options do we have these days for those looking for nutritious and affordable lunch choices?
We talked with Christine Clark, health expert at Healthful Pleasure! Nutrition Club, about ways to make better decisions at the checkout line or when choosing snacks at the grocery store.
Here are her tips for finding healthier foods to buy and using shortcuts to keep track of your intake.
More types of sauces
It’s hard to believe but there was a time when a restaurant didn’t need a kitchen because they only needed one sauce. That is no longer true. If you were a burger expert in the 1950s, your chances are good that you would be cooking fries instead of burgers at night.
That all changed in the early 1980s with the introduction of high-volume production of artisanal sauces like ketchup, mayo and mustard. Now every restaurant has their own chipotle powder and habanero pepper relish.
By making lots of different flavors of sauce, chefs and restaurateurs can give customers what they want without overworking their kitchens or sacrificing quality.
It’s no secret that kids prefer burger choices with fewer ingredients. And fast food restaurants know this too. That’s why they use vegetable substitutes for meat in their burgers and sandwiches.
And it’s not just kids who are eating more veggielicious (vegetable-based) foods. According to statistics, over half of all adults claim to be vegetarian or vegan.
So how does our health benefit from these lighter meals? Nutritionists say that the shift toward smaller, simpler versions of dishes is extremely important because it allows people who don’t want to eat red meats, poultry, or eggs to get enough of those nutrients.
As celebrities continue to publicly acknowledge the benefits of being vegetarian or vegan, more and more people are going green for nutrition reasons.
Some choose to go vegetarian after reading books such as The China Study, which explains how animal products can contribute to chronic disease. Others realize that switching to healthier beverages like coconuts or almond milk instead of soda is a better way to enjoy your daily vitamin C.
Scientists have some explanations for why it’s so hard to find fast food restaurants with large burgers. Some of it has to do with how machines are designed.
When you ask people what size they want, most say “large”; but when we put their order through, the software defaults to “medium” or “small.” It sounds weird, but it is a very important factor in whether or not someone orders twice as many calories than needed.
Also contributing is the rise of the small portion. No one decided that kids should get only tiny snacks or meals worth less than prices. But that practice started developing long ago, and researchers now estimate that children eat an average of 100 more kilobytes per day than adults.
That means your child may be getting half his daily calorie intake from junk foods—before he knows how terrible it can make him.