American consumers choosing health over fast food? Experts weigh - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

American consumers choosing health over fast food? Experts weigh in

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Fast food is cheap, it's convenient, and it's full of options. But even though those restaurants are the easy way out when you're just not in the mood to cook, a lot of them are reporting a consistent loss in sales. Experts say it is a trend, for several reasons. For one, people are becoming more aware of what they're putting into their bodies.

"One of the top 8 trends in the United States, if you look at those for 2014, actually, is that people are opting for healthier choices," according to Sharon H. Thompson, Professor of Health Promotion at Coastal Carolina University. "They want fast choices though, and they want food a little better quality than you expect than your traditional fast food. And also they want to know where the food's coming from."

CCU's Associate Economics professor Yoav Wachsman has another possible reason. He said fast food is fear food. "And that means that when peoples' income goes up, they tend to consume less of it. What you see in the United States is predominantly poor people eat fast food, because it's cheap. And now we're in the midst of an economic recovery, beginning of economic expansion. And people shifting away from that food."

A possible explanation for why places like McDonald's have reported consistently declining sales for the last several quarters. But places like Chipotle are booming.

Their claim to use fresh, local ingredients is a hit with consumers wanting a healthier option of fast food. It might cost a bit more, but Thompson explained unlike traditional fast food, places like Chipotle offers something different beside the health factor. 

Though some wonder if claims to be healthier are rooted in fact or just an advertising ploy. Thompson actually compared the nutrition in a McDonald's Big Mac with french fries to a Chipotle chicken burrito.  Calories were about even but the burrito had way less fat, more than twice as much protein and four times more fiber.

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