Is Fast Food Really Cheaper? Part I

This image above has been making the social media rounds of late — and has spurred quite a bit of discussion and debate. We’re hearing praise for such a powerful image debunking the “myth” that fast food really is cheaper, while others pointed out that when ordering from the “value” menu at fast food restaurants you can feed an entire family of four for a lot less than the order that was shown.  And is fresh food really that affordable everywhere?  Are these organic or non-organic choices? Does it matter?

Since this image raised so many questions and reactions, we decided to ask a panel of experts to weigh in on this image in a three-part blog series in a short Q and A session.  The first of our interviewees is Dr. Mark Fusco. 

Dr. Fusco is a Board Certified General Surgeon specializing in advanced laparoscopic procedures and has performed more than 1,000 weight-loss surgeries.  Dr. Fusco is listed as one of “America’s Top Surgeons” by the Consumers’ Research Council of America and has conducted research in nutrition published in several scientific journals. He is currently the Medical Director at LifeShape Advanced Bariatric Center of Florida

The idea that people eat less healthy because it is cheaper to eat less healthy foods is not true.

Upon closer examination, the costs quoted do not account for the cost of preparation. I think someone once told me that the food cost at a restaurant is about a third of the cost of the meal, so roughly these three meals are comparable in cost. The difference then is that for the first meal, food preparatory costs are abdicated to the restaurant. This abdication also involves a loss of control of the nutritional content of the meal. The question then becomes why? In these challenging economic times you would think people would want to save this money.

Consumer behavior, nutrition, obesity, these are all complex issues. Sometimes the answer that seems obvious is not the correct one.  A fuller understanding sometimes is required before floating potential solutions. (i.e., fat tax, soda ban, etc.) [We need “grey matter” not “white matter.”;-)]

Thank you Dr. Fusco for participating and for your thoughtful comments. You’ve definitely given us some great things to ponder. Up next, Marina Delio, the writer of the popular food blog,, will give us her thoughts on the image. Stay tuned!

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