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Total lunchtime fast food purchases were lower in sodium and saturated fat when nutritionally promoted fast foods were ordered instead of traditional fast foods: A pilot study


  • R.E. Antoniolli, Mast(Nutr&Diet) APD, Dietitian.
  • L.F. Atkinson, Mast(Nutr&Diet) APD, Dietitian.
  • M.A. Palmer, PhD(Nutr&Diet) APD, Clinical Researcher.



The aim of the study was to compare sodium and saturated fat contents of lunchtime fast food orders containing regular items with those containing items promoted for nutritional attributes (e.g. Subway sandwiches containing 6 g fat or less, McDonald's Heart Foundation Tick approved range).


In March–April 2010, 907 McDonald's and Subway lunchtime customers (aged 25(16–84) years, 59% M, 73% response rate) in Queensland, Australia were surveyed. Sodium and saturated fat contents of orders were calculated using information from company websites. Independent samples t- and chi-squared tests were used to assess whether orders including nutritionally promoted fast foods contained less sodium and saturated fat, and a chi-squared test to compare the proportion of customers at each store whose orders exceeded the daily sodium upper limit (2300 mg).


Proportionately more customers ordering nutritionally promoted fast foods (n = 24) ordered meals containing ≤1300 mg sodium and ≤6 g saturated fat (83% and 92%, respectively) than those ordering regular fast foods (n = 883, 33% and 24%, respectively, P < 0.02). One-quarter (24%) of orders—all selected from the regular menu—exceeded the daily sodium upper limit. Proportionately more orders from Subway (40%) exceeded the daily sodium upper limit than from McDonald's (5%, P < 0.001).


Lunchtime fast food orders may contain less sodium and saturated fat when nutritionally promoted foods are selected. Reformulating all fast foods may be warranted given that fast foods contain high levels of sodium and saturated fat, and nutritionally promoted fast foods may represent only a small proportion of lunchtime choices.