A comparative study of the nutritional quality of fast foods from three restaurants in Kampala city
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Fast foods are defined as easily prepared processed food served as a quick meal or to be taken away (in snack bars and restaurants). Due to today’s busy schedule, fast food centers have taken over responsibility of preparing foods for families and people who do not have time to prepare food. With exception of sodium, there has been little attention paid to the micronutrient content of fast foods. The aim of this study was to assess the nutritional quality of fast-food menu items from the selected restaurants in Kampala, to determine how well they align to the dietary recommendations and their micronutrient profile, focusing on the nutrients of public health concern. The nutritional quality of the menu items from the selected restaurants was evaluated using the Healthy Eating Index-2015 (HEI-2015) and the levels of the micronutrients in the food were determined using the Nutrition Facts software. The results using the HEI-2015 showed that the menu items had a total score of 62.4 out of 100 possible points. The components of the HEI-2015 generally receiving the lowest scores were, Total fruit, Whole fruit, Whole grains, and Fatty Acids (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids) and two components received maximum scores which included Total Protein foods and Seafood and plant proteins. The Nutrition Facts software did not provide any data on Iodine, but it showed that the Entrees which are the main course of a meal provided the highest percent daily value of Folate, Vitamin A, and Zinc as compared to the desserts, beverages, and sides. The percent daily value of Iron was highest in the beverages. The menu offerings of these three fast food restaurants were not perfectly aligned to the Dietary Guidelines recommended for healthy eating. The menu items were relatively good sources of the micronutrients of concern as the percent daily values were above 5% of the recommended daily values of these nutrients. Consumption of food groups such as fruits and vegetables are still low and yet these establishments continue to have items that are rich in saturated fat and added sugars which go against the levels that are recommended. The fast-food industry can promote healthy eating by recommending downsizing of portions served and including more of the healthier items like fruits and vegetables and whole grains to their menus.