The single-serving, calorie-controlled packages can potentially meet consumer demand for convenience, establish a new and acceptable portion size standard for consumers (Sloan, 2006), and assist consumers with limiting their consumption of snacks at a single eating occasion. However, evaluations of these initiatives are needed to demonstrate that consumers do not overcompensate by consuming more of the calorie-controlled packages or consuming more calorie-dense foods or beverages at other times of the day.
The Health in the Balance report recommended that full serve restaurants and QSRs expand their healthier food options and provide families with the calorie content and general nutrition information of their meals at the point of purchase (IOM, 2005). The restaurant industry estimates that the full serve restaurant and QSR sector will have provided approximately 70 billion meals or snacks to U.S. consumers in 2006 (NRA, 2006). More than 925,000 commercial restaurants are projected to generate an estimated $511 billion in annual sales in 2006, an increase from $42.8 billion in 1970. The restaurant industry’s share of American’s food dollar is approximately 47.5 percent (NRA, 2006) and is projected to increase to 53 percent by 2010 (Cohn, 2006).
In this report, the term fast food is used to describe the foods, beverages, and meals designed for ready availability, use, or consumption and that are sold at eating establishments for quick availability or takeout (Appendix B). This definition is similar to that provided by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), which defines fast food restaurants as the U.S. industry sector that “comprises establishments primarily engaged in providing food services where patrons generally order or select items and pay for them before eating. Food and drink may be consumed on the premises, taken out, or delivered to the customer’s location” (NAICS, 2002).
It has been suggested that researchers have no universally accepted definition of fast food, which may present methodological challenges for accurately describing the characteristics of the foods, beverages, and meals obtained at these establishments (Kapica et al., 2006). However, a robust evidence base from over the past 25 years is available and documents that a large proportion of foods, beverages, and meals purchased from fast food restaurants or QSRs tend to have larger portion sizes and are higher in total calories (from fat and added sugars) and energy density than foods, beverages, and meals prepared and consumed at home (IOM, 2005, 2006).
The percent of total calorie intake of children and adolescents ages 12 to 18 years obtained from foods purchased and consumed away from home increased from 26 to 40 percent between 1977–1978 and 1994–1996