New recipes

What's Cooking at Fast-Food Restaurants

What's Cooking at Fast-Food Restaurants

Call it the Chipotle effect.

With fast-casual restaurants such as Chipotle and Panera Bread growing at a sprint while fast-food counterparts expand at more of a slow jog, the latter group is entering the race is trying to shift upscale. At stake is a booming restaurant segment.

Fast-casual restaurant sales rose 13 percent last year, while fast-food sales increased 4.7 percent, according to data from market research firm Technomic. The company expects the former to grow an average of 10 percent through 2017, compared with a rise of 3.5 percent for fast food.

Despite the rush, experts say there's definitely room for fresh ideas.

"Right now, our country is pretty saturated with fast food — you could evolve that entire segment into fast-casual," said Sam Oches, editor at QSR magazine, which covers the quick-service restaurant industry.

"There's no ceiling on this," he added. "This is just going to be explosive growth for possibly decades."

Fast-food restaurants are taking one of two routes into the fast-casual space.

Many have chosen to test completely new concepts. That includes Yum Brand's KFC unit, which prompted fan outcry when it launched KFC Eleven, which doesn't feature Colonel Sanders or the company's red-and-white color scheme. KFC spokesperson Rick Maynard described it as a "innovation" restaurant that was "developed with a focus on relevance for today's consumers."

"This innovation lab offers a great way to test new elements — products, services, and design — that may end up in other KFC restaurants across the country," he added.

From pretzels to artisanal pizza

A mainstay of U.S. malls, Sbarro is also going higher-end with its Pizza Cucinova concept, which will feature made-to-order pizza as well as alcohol. It is set to open this fall.

The co-founder of Wetzel's Pretzels entered the competitive artisanal pizza market last year with Blaze, which uses an assembly-line format similar to Chipotle and has drawn a handful of well-known investors, including former California first lady Maria Shriver, movie producer John Davis, and Boston Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner.

From the beginning, Rick Wetzel, co-founder of both companies, said he viewed fast-casual as the best way to position Blaze.

"If you look at the top five QSR categories — burgers, Mexican, Chinese, sandwiches, and pizza — all have been developed into the fast-casual space, except pizza," he said. "This one looks like a natural whose time has come."

That's not to say things aren't busy with fancy burgers. Lexington, Ky.-based A&W Restaurants is tossing its hat into the fast-casual and better burger segment later this year.

"We've seen a lot of success within the burger portion of fast-casual with Five Guys just exploding and Smashburger," Liz Bazner, A&W's social and digital communications strategist, told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "This is our way of saying these are options."

The second path is to incorporate more premium selections into the existing lineup, such as the decision by Wendy's to launch flatbread items or McDonald's attempt to sell angus beef burgers (which fizzled). Among other possible advantages, that approach lets companies capitalize on their brand reputation.

Leaving a mark

"I think the ones that are choosing to adapt some of these fast-casual [ideas] instead of launching a whole new concept, they still want to maintain their image and still want people to see them as what they set out to be," said Lauren Hallow, an assistant editor at Technomic.

Although fast-casual has taken off within the past 10 to 15 years, it is only in the last four years or so that established companies have started to eye the segment, partly because it weathered the recession better, QSR's Oches said.

In time, the whole industry will move to a more premium experience as the recent explosion of fast-casual restaurants leaves a lasting mark, he predicted.

"The lines are not very firm, and you're seeing a lot more blending of the two," Oches said.

Katie Little, CNBC

More From CNBC:


What's cooking at fast-food restaurants

With fast-casual restaurants such as Chipotle and Panera Bread growing at a sprint while fast-food counterparts expand at more of a slow jog, the latter group is entering the race is trying to shift upscale. At stake is a booming restaurant segment.

Fast-casual restaurant sales rose 13 percent last year, while fast-food sales increased 4.7 percent, according to data from market research firm Technomic. The company expects the former to grow an average of 10 percent through 2017, compared with a rise of 3.5 percent for fast food.

Despite the rush, experts say there's definitely room for fresh ideas.

"Right now, our country is pretty saturated with fast food—you could evolve that entire segment into fast-casual," said Sam Oches, editor at QSR magazine, which covers the quick-service restaurant industry.

"There's no ceiling on this," he added. "This is just going to be explosive growth for possibly decades."

Fast-food restaurants are taking one of two routes into the fast-casual space.

Many have chosen to test completely new concepts. That includes Yum Brand's KFC unit, which prompted fan outcry when it launched KFC Eleven, which doesn't feature Colonel Sanders or the company's red-and-white color scheme. KFC spokesperson Rick Maynard described it as a "innovation" restaurant that was "developed with a focus on relevance for today's consumers."

"This innovation lab offers a great way to test new elements—products, services and design—that may end up in other KFC restaurants across the country," he added.

From pretzels to artisanal pizza

A mainstay of U.S. malls, Sbarro is also going higher end with its Pizza Cucinova concept, which will feature made-to-order pizza as well as alcohol. It is set to open this fall.

The co-founder of Wetzel's Pretzels entered the competitive artisanal pizza market last year with Blaze, which uses an assembly-line format similar to Chipotle and has drawn a handful of well-known investors, including former California First Lady Maria Shriver, movie producer John Davis and Boston Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner.

From the beginning, Rick Wetzel, co-founder of both companies, said he viewed fast-casual as the best way to position Blaze.

"If you look at the top five QSR categories—burgers, Mexican, Chinese, sandwiches and pizza—all have been developed into the fast-casual space, except pizza," he said. "This one looks like a natural whose time has come."

That's not to say things aren't busy with fancy burgers. Lexington, Ky.-based A&W Restaurants is tossing its hat into the fast-casual and better burger segment later this year.

"We've seen a lot of success within the burger portion of fast-casual with Five Guys just exploding and Smashburger," Liz Bazner, A&W's social and digital communications strategist, told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "This is our way of saying these are options."

The second path is to incorporate more premium selections into the existing lineup, such as the decision by Wendy's to launch flatbread items or McDonald's attempt to sell angus beef burgers (which fizzled). Among other possible advantages, that approach lets companies capitalize on their brand reputation.

Leaving a mark

"I think the ones that are choosing to adapt some of these fast-casual [ideas] instead of launching a whole new concept, they still want to maintain their image and still want people to see them as what they set out to be," said Lauren Hallow, an assistant editor at Technomic.

Although fast-casual has taken off within the past 10 to 15 years, it is only in the last four years or so that established companies have started to eye the segment, partly because it weathered the recession better, QSR's Oches said.

In time, the whole industry will move to a more premium experience as the recent explosion of fast-casual restaurants leaves a lasting mark, he predicted.

"The lines are not very firm, and you're seeing a lot more blending of the two," Oches said.


10 Differences Between Cooking at Home and in a Restaurant

If you’re a good cook at home, and often have guests over or cook for others, you have undoubtedly had someone tell you that you should open your own restaurant. It’s a compliment, sure, but if you hear it enough, you may be tempted to actually want to do it. How hard can it be? Cooking is cooking, right?

Not so fast. While it is true that certain principles of home cooking are similar to professional cooking, for the most part, it’s vastly different. If you’ve never worked in a restaurant, it’s difficult to see, especially if you have a hobby of recreating your favorite restaurant meals at home.

Before you head out and open your own place thinking it will be similar to cooking at home, read on. You may change your mind before you get to the end.

1. The Equipment is Different

Besides the fact that professional tools and appliances are designed to be in use non-stop for hours every single day, they work differently. This is because in a restaurant, you want efficiency. Food needs to be prepared quickly and consistently over and over. For this reason, ovens are hotter, pots are heavier, and that commercial deep fryer heats up in seconds instead of minutes. These are all conveniences that you’ll learn to appreciate, but it takes some getting used to. You’ll also quickly notice that almost everything is much larger than you’re used to at home.

2. The Food is Different

While many restaurants use fresh food, it’s not uncommon to find commercial products that are just made to make restaurant cooking easier. You may go in thinking that you’ll make everything from scratch, but when a vendor shows you a bag of soup that doesn’t taste that much different than your version for a quarter of the price and a tenth of the time to prepare, you may start to think differently.

3. Professionals Don’t Use Recipes

You won’t find a professional chef tediously measuring ingredients in measuring spoons and cups unless he’s baking a cake. For the most part, chefs rely on formulas and ratios, which allow them to easily scale recipes to make more without the hassle of dividing minuscule amounts of a spice or oil. It takes memorization to get it right, and if you head into a kitchen with recipes on paper, other professionals will think you look silly.

4. You Won’t Find Any Gadgets in a Commercial Kitchen

A professional chef knows that almost any dish can be cooked well with nothing more than a sharp knife and some pots and pans.

For this reason, you won’t find a quesadilla maker, fancy onion chopper, or anything as seen on TV. They know these things are difficult to store, don’t last, and just make cooking more difficult.

You may find a waffle iron in a kitchen that cooks a lot of breakfasts, but outside of standard multi-use tools, that’s probably it. You also won’t find every item in every kitchen. Most professional kitchens are small spaces and need room for a lot of people to move around in, so you’ll only find items that are used for the restaurants menu.

5. Cooking at Home is More Laid Back

If you think you’re going to lazily stir your sauce, or sit down and relax while you wait for your timer to go off, you won’t have fun in a commercial kitchen.

Especially on busy nights, professional kitchens are always a hustle and bustle of activity. Workers will be walking by you holding scalding hot pans over your head, all while trying to do two other things at the same time. There’s always something to be done in the kitchen at a restaurant, whether it’s chopping for the next shift, cleaning out the fridge, or even washing dishes in the downtime.

A professional kitchen is hot, uncomfortable, and at times, ridiculously cramped. Busy cooks can be downright mean when they can’t get what they want, which can stress anyone out.

6. The Health Department Won’t Bother You at Home

Home kitchens aren’t subject to the rigorous and sometimes downright tedious inspections that commercial kitchens are, and for good reason. At home, you’re cooking for a couple people. Making a recipe with expired products may make you or your spouse sick, which is bad, but at a restaurant, one bad egg mixed in with a couple dozen good ones can send tens of people to the hospital.

7. Presentation Matters in a Restaurant

When you make something at home, you probably just dish some out on a plate, not worrying about splatters. You place your piece of meat on the side of your vegetables, because you don’t care what it looks like as long as it tastes good.

Restaurant diners are different. They’re paying money for their food, sometimes big bucks, and they want it to look good, and taste good, which can be a difficult balance to achieve with certain foods. You need to think about how you’re going to plate that dish when you create your menu, and it needs to be in a way that can be done fast without the need for excessive cleanup. Splashing soup in a bowl, or plopping a brown piece of meat on a brown plate is unacceptable in most places, and your diners will let you know by not coming back.

8. You’re Not Cooking in Your Bath Robe

You probably don’t think about what you’re going to wear when you make dinner for your family, but in a professional kitchen, what you’re wearing can keep you from getting burned, cut, or worse. To a non-professional, that tall chef’s hat, heavy chef’s jacket, or steel toed shoes may seem like overkill, but professionals know that even though it’s hot, they’d rather wear it than not.

Restaurant kitchens are hot, they move fast, and there’s always a chance someone will bump into you sending a hot dish tumbling to the floor. Professional clothing protects you from injury, as well as keeps things sanitary.

9. Professionals Use More Butter and Salt

When cooking at home, you have different priorities than in a restaurant. You may want your meal to be healthy, or you may just want something that comes together quickly on a busy night. In a restaurant kitchen, only one thing is important, and that is that the food tastes as good as possible. There are two secret ingredients that help achieve this: Butter and salt. If you’ve ever had a restaurant meal in which you couldn’t figure out why it was so good, the answer is probably because of excessive amounts of one or both of these ingredients.

10. Cooking for 100 is Not the Same as Cooking for 4

Perhaps the biggest misconception about restaurant cooking is that scaling a recipe is easy. Want to make a recipe that serves 2 serve 100? Simply multiply every ingredient by 50 and you should be safe.

Not so fast. Not every recipe scales well, especially with such a large difference in servings in fact most recipes don’t. Many dishes simply taste better when made in smaller quantities as well. It’s difficult to understand unless you’ve tried to do it, but it rarely works out like you’d think.

Working in a restaurant is a noble profession, but it’s not the same as cooking at home. Even if you are a great home cook, you may find yourself lost when faced with professional equipment, commercial food products, and the stressful environment. While it shouldn’t discourage you from opening your own restaurant, it is something you should think about before taking the plunge.


The last thing you need when eating at a fast-food chain is to drink something that gives you calories without nutrients, like soda, sweetened tea, lemonade, and fruit drinks. It's even worse if your drink is also loaded with fat -- like shakes. Choose either a no-calorie beverage (like water, unsweetened tea, or diet soda) or one that contributes some nutrients along with its calories (like low-fat milk or 100% orange juice).

Continued

That said, here are 21 healthier entree alternatives from popular fast-food chains:

Continued

1. KFC Honey BBQ Sandwich

  • 280 calories
  • 3.5 grams fat
  • 1 gram saturated fat
  • 60 mg cholesterol
  • 780 mg sodium
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 32 grams carbohydrate
  • 14 grams protein

2. KFC Tender Roast Sandwich (without sauce)

  • 300 calories
  • 4.5 grams fat
  • 1.5 grams saturated fat
  • 70 mg cholesterol
  • 1,060 mg sodium
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 28 grams carbohydrate
  • 37 grams protein

3. Chick-fil-A Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich

  • 270 calories
  • 3.5 grams fat
  • 1 gram saturated fat
  • 65 mg cholesterol
  • 940 mg sodium
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 33 grams carbohydrate
  • 28 grams protein

4. Hardee's Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich

  • 340 calories
  • 4 grams fat
  • 1 gram saturated fat
  • 60 mg cholesterol
  • 1,070 mg sodium
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 40 grams carbohydrate
  • 33 grams protein

5. Carl's Jr Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich

  • 360 calories
  • 4.5 grams fat
  • 1 gram saturated fat
  • 60 mg cholesterol
  • 1,150 mg sodium
  • 4 grams fiber
  • 48 grams carbohydrate
  • 34 grams protein

6. Wendy's Ultimate Grill Sandwich

  • 320 calories
  • 7 grams fat
  • 1.5 grams saturated fat
  • 70 mg cholesterol
  • 950 mg sodium
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 36 grams carbohydrate
  • 28 grams protein

Continued

7. Arby's Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich (without mayo)

  • 390 calories
  • 8 grams fat
  • 2 grams saturated fat
  • 25 mg cholesterol
  • 1,563 mg sodium
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 49 grams carbohydrate
  • 41 grams protein

8. In-n-out Hamburger (with onion, mustard, and catsup instead of spread)

  • 310 calories
  • 10 grams fat
  • 4 grams saturated fat
  • 35 mg cholesterol
  • 730 mg sodium
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 41 grams carbohydrate
  • 16 grams protein

9. Taco Bell Fresco Style Bean Burrito

  • 330 calories
  • 7 grams fat
  • 2.5 grams saturated fat
  • 0 mg cholesterol
  • 1,200 mg sodium
  • 9 grams fiber
  • 54 grams carbohydrate
  • 12 grams protein

10. KFC Oven Roasted Twister (without sauce)

  • 330 calories
  • 7 grams fat
  • 2.5 grams saturated fat
  • 50 mg cholesterol
  • 1,120 mg sodium
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 39 grams carbohydrate
  • 28 grams protein

11. McDonalds Grilled Snack Wrap with Honey Mustard OR Grilled Snack Wrap with Chipotle BBQ Sauce. Each:

  • 260 calories
  • 8 grams fat
  • 3.5 grams saturated fat
  • 45 mg cholesterol
  • 820 mg sodium
  • 1 gram fiber
  • 27 grams carbohydrate
  • 18 grams protein

Continued

12. Taco Bell Fresco Style Steak Burrito Supreme

  • 330 calories
  • 8 grams fat
  • 3 grams saturated fat
  • 20 mg cholesterol
  • 1,250 mg sodium
  • 7 grams fiber
  • 48 grams carbohydrate
  • 16 grams protein

13. Jack in the Box Chicken Fajita Pita (no salsa)

  • 280 calories
  • 9 grams fat
  • 3.5 grams saturated fat
  • 60 mg cholesterol
  • 1,110 mg sodium
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 30 grams carbohydrate
  • 21 grams protein

14. Chick-fil-A Chargrilled Chicken Cool Wrap

  • 410 calories
  • 12 grams fat
  • 3.5 grams saturated fat
  • 70 mg cholesterol
  • 1,310 mg sodium
  • 8 grams fiber
  • 46 grams carbohydrate
  • 34 grams protein

15. Chick-fil-A Chargrilled Chicken Garden Salad

  • 180 calories (260 with 2 Tbsp. Reduced Fat Raspberry Vinaigrette)
  • 6 grams fat (8 grams with raspberry vinaigrette)
  • 3 grams saturated fat
  • 65 mg cholesterol
  • 620 mg sodium (810 mg with raspberry vinaigrette)
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 9 grams carbohydrate (24 grams with raspberry vinaigrette)
  • 22 grams protein

16. Taco Bell Fresco Style Zesty Chicken Border Bowl (without dressing)

  • 350 calories
  • 8 grams fat
  • 1.5 grams saturated fat
  • 25 mg cholesterol
  • 1,600 mg sodium
  • 10 grams fiber
  • 51 grams carbohydrate
  • 19 grams protein

Continued

17. McDonalds Southwest Salad With Grilled Chicken

(includes cilantro lime glaze and a Southwest vegetable/bean blend)

  • 320 calories
  • 9 grams fat
  • 3 grams saturated fat
  • 70 mg cholesterol
  • 970 mg sodium
  • 7 grams fiber
  • 30 grams carbohydrate
  • 30 grams protein

18. Arby's Martha's Vineyard Salad -- not including dressing

(includes grilled chicken, diced apples, cherry tomatoes, cheddar, cranberries, and lettuce)

  • 277 calories
  • 8 grams fat
  • 4 grams saturated fat
  • 72 mg cholesterol
  • 451 mg sodium
  • 4 grams fiber
  • 24 grams carbohydrate
  • 26 grams protein

19. Carl's Jr Charbroiled Chicken Salad (with low-fat balsamic dressing)

  • 295 calories
  • 8.5 grams fat
  • 3.5 grams saturated fat
  • 75 mg cholesterol
  • 1,190 mg sodium
  • 5 grams fiber
  • 21 grams carbohydrate
  • 34 grams protein

20. Arby's Santa Fe Salad With Grilled Chicken -- not including dressing

(includes cherry tomatoes, red onion, corn and black beans, cheddar, and lettuce)

  • 283 calories
  • 9 grams fat
  • 4 grams saturated fat
  • 72 mg cholesterol
  • 521 mg sodium
  • 6 grams fiber
  • 21 grams carbohydrate
  • 29 grams protein

Continued

21. McDonalds Asian Salad With Grilled Chicken

(includes mandarin oranges, almonds, edamame, snow peas, and red bell peppers)

  • 300 calories
  • 10 grams fat
  • 1 gram saturated fat
  • 65 mg cholesterol
  • 890 mg sodium
  • 5 grams fiber
  • 23 grams carbohydrate
  • 32 grams protein

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.


Top 10 Most Common Ingredients in Fast Food

Order a meal in any fast-food restaurant, and you'll likely walk away with a sandwich, fries and a drink. If you had to identify the ingredients of this meal, you might list beef (or chicken), lettuce, tomato, cheese, ketchup, bread, potatoes and soda. Not complicated, right? Wrong.

Burger and chicken joints don't think of the building blocks of a menu item as ingredients. They think of them as components, which are made of ingredients. For example, McDonald's famous Big Mac jingle -- "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun" -- suggests the sandwich has seven components. Would you believe it has 67 ingredients?

Clearly, fast food is more complicated than it looks. Many menu items contain processed foods, which have been modified from their natural state for safety or convenience. Processed foods tend to have multiple additives to keep them fresher longer. Across an entire fast-food menu, there are thousands of ingredients, ranging from the commonplace (water) to the exotic (xanthan gum).

Considering that some of these ingredients have been implicated in serious health issues, it would be good to know which are the most common. We've set out to answer that very question. We started with menus from five popular fast-food chains -- McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC and Arby's -- did some tallying, then cross-matched our findings with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's list of common food ingredients and colors. The result is the top 10 most common ingredients in fast food, organized by the type of ingredient and what it does.

Up first is the most common preservative.

10. Citric Acid: The Most Common Preservative

Salt has been used for centuries to preserve meats and fish. It works to inhibit the growth of bacteria cells, which lose water and become dehydrated in salty environments. Over the years, food scientists and manufacturers have discovered that other chemicals also can serve as preservatives.

Citric acid, an organic acid found in many fruits, especially limes, lemons, and grapefruits, is one of those chemicals. It increases the acidity of a microbe's environment, making it harder for bacteria and mold to survive and reproduce. It can also be used to bind to and neutralize fat-degrading metal ions that get into food via processing machinery.

What's great about citric acid is that it does all of this without harming the organisms that ingest it. It occurs naturally in all living things and is an important intermediate chemical in a metabolic pathway known as the citric acid cycle, or Krebs cycle. As a result, citric acid doesn't cause side effects in 99.9 percent of the population and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in foods and beverages [source: Driver]. Maybe that's why the chemical appeared 288 times on the fast-food menus we surveyed.

The next item on our list -- high-fructose corn syrup -- doesn't fare as well in the court of public opinion.

Citric acid has lots of company. The following preservatives also appeared frequently on the menus we analyzed: sodium benzoate (122 times), calcium propionate (64 times) and ascorbic acid (52 times).

9. High-fructose Corn Syrup: The Most Common Sweetener

Fast-food restaurants have many different ways to sweeten beverages, baked goods and condiments. Sucrose, or sugar, reigned as the traditional sweetener for years until food scientists began to synthesize sugar substitutes. Saccharin arrived first, followed by aspartame and sucralose.

A more significant revolution came in 1957 when two scientists worked out a process to manufacture high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Since then, HFCS has evolved into the sweetener of choice, finding its way into a myriad of foods and beverages. In our survey of fast-food menus, the chemical appeared as the first ingredient almost twice as much as sugar.

So what is it and why is it controversial? The process to make HFCS involves changing one simple sugar -- glucose -- in cornstarch to another simple sugar known as fructose. The product, a combination of the two simple sugars, is just as sweet as sucrose, but much cheaper to process. It also acts as a preservative, extending the shelf life of foods. No wonder it's one of the most ubiquitous ingredients in fast food.

Unfortunately, some research has shown a link between HFCS and obesity. At the very least, many beverages and processed foods made with this corn-derived sweetener are high in calories and low in nutritional value.

Color additives, like the one we're about to cover, also have bad reputations.

8. Caramel Color: The Most Common Color Additive

When it comes to the psychology of eating, food has to look good if it's going to taste good. That's why fast foods contain color additives -- to prevent the loss of a food's inherent color, to enhance color or to add color when it doesn't exist naturally. Hardly a single fast-food menu item doesn't have at least one artificial color buried somewhere in its ingredient list.

Common additives include Yellow No. 5, Yellow No. 6 and Red No. 40. According to one source, Red No. 40, which finds its way into jellies, pastries and those neon-red maraschino cherries perched atop your Chick-fil-A shake, is the most widely used food dye in America. This same source says Yellow Nos. 5 and 6, which provide the golden glow to cheeses, pudding and pie fillings, and soft drinks, are the second and third most common food colorings, respectively [source: Women's Health]. But when we analyzed the ingredients of five popular fast-food menus, we found caramel color to be even more common.

Caramel color is the dark brown material that results from carefully heating food-grade carbohydrates. Just think of the color of sautéed onions (a process known as caramelizing, by the way), and you'll get a good idea of this particular hue, although it can range from reddish-brown to light yellow. Contrary to what you might think, caramel color has no significant effect on the flavor profile of the finished product.

The same can't be said of the next item on the list.

Red No. 40 even sounds like it might be bad for you, which is why fast-food chains and food processors are always looking for other, more natural additives, like annatto. The additive comes from the Central and South American plant Bixa orellana and can look yellow if it has more of a carotenoid pigment known as norbixin. If it has more bixin, another closely related pigment, it can look reddish-orange. Annatto appeared 59 times across the five menus we surveyed.

7. Salt: The Most Common Flavor or Spice

In terms of frequency, salt -- or sodium chloride -- appeared more times on the fast-food menus we surveyed than any other ingredient. It's not always first, but it's always there, even in sweet foods (shakes and sundaes, for example) that don't seem salty at all.

Fast-food chains use salt primarily to make their meals more palatable. It's paired with pepper to season hamburgers, and it's a major ingredient in bread, ham, bacon, sausages and cheese. A single slice of American cheese, in fact, contains 250 milligrams of sodium. That makes a double cheeseburger, a popular fast-food item, especially salty. The McDonald's version of this favorite contains 1,150 milligrams (1.15 grams) of sodium [source: McDonald's USA Nutrition Facts].

Most health experts warn against eating too much salt, pointing to studies that show a link between sodium and high blood pressure. The government recommends a maximum of 6 grams of salt per day for adults, 5 grams a day for children between ages 7 and 10, and 3 grams for children between 4 and 6. Compare that recommendation to a typical family meal from KFC, which delivers a whopping 5.2 grams of salt per person [source: BBC News]!

Even if you cut down your salt intake, you have to be on the lookout for other sources of sodium. Our next ingredient is a prime example.

6. Monosodium Glutamate: The Most Common Flavor Enhancer

Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, earned its reputation in Asian takeout kitchens across America, but almost all fast-food restaurants use the flavor enhancer to some extent. Interestingly, MSG has no distinct taste itself. Instead, it amplifies other flavors, especially in foods with chicken or beef flavoring, through processes that scientists don't fully understand.

MSG is the sodium salt of the amino acid glutamic acid and is just one form of glutamate, a chemical that exists naturally in many living things. In fact, Asians historically used a broth made from seaweed as their source of MSG. Today, the food industry obtains the white powder through a fermenting process involving carbohydrates such as starch, sugar beets, sugarcane or molasses.

The safety of MSG has been in question for many years. In 1959, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classified MSG as a "generally recognized as safe" substance. Then, in the 1980s, researchers began to wonder whether chemicals in the glutamate family could harm brain tissue based on studies that revealed glutamate's role in the normal functioning of the nervous system. An extensive FDA-sponsored investigation has since determined that MSG is safe when consumed at levels typically used in cooking and food manufacturing, although two groups of people -- those who eat large doses of MSG on an empty stomach and those with severe asthma -- may experience a set of short-term adverse reactions known as MSG Symptom Complex.

No such complex is associated with the next ingredient on our list.

5. Niacin: The Most Common Nutrient

It seems strange that fast-food chains would add nutrients to our extra-value meals. Doesn't food already come with a natural supply of nutrients? Broccoli, for example, contains significant levels of many essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, K and A. Of course, broccoli isn't generally found on a fast-food menu. In the place of fresh fruits and vegetables are scores of highly processed foods. Manufacturing these foods often has the unwanted side effect of eliminating key vitamins and minerals, which then have to be replaced in a process known as enrichment. Fortification is the companion process, which adds nutrients that may be lacking in the diet.

Wheat flour is one of the most common processed items in the world of fast food. It is used to make plain buns, sesame seed buns, corn-dusted buns and specialty buns of all shapes and sizes. The wheat flour found in all of these bread products has been enriched with several vitamins and minerals, including riboflavin, folic acid and iron. But the most commonly added nutrient is niacin, or vitamin B3. Niacin is water-soluble and constantly eliminated from the body through urine. That means you need a continuous supply of the vitamin in your diet. But you don't need to eat bread products to get your recommended daily allowance. Poultry, fish, lean meats, nuts and eggs also contain plenty of niacin.

Up next is another ingredient that enjoys widespread use in fast-food fare.

4. Soybean Oil: The Most Common Oil or Fat

Drive around America long enough, and you're bound to see a soybean farm. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 75 million acres (30 million hectares) of farmland were used in 2008 to grow soybeans, resulting in 2.9 billion bushels of crop [source: U.S. Soybean Industry Statistics].

What happens to all of those soybeans? Many are crushed and mixed with solvents to extract soybean oil -- a fast-food staple used for deep-frying and as a key ingredient in margarine, pastries, cookies, crackers, soups and nondairy creamers. Some ingredient lists describe it as soybean oil, others as vegetable oil.

Soybean oil contains several unsaturated fatty acids, which means their component molecules have fewer hydrogen atoms. Unfortunately, unsaturated fats don't have long shelf lives. Hydrogenation, or forcing hydrogen gas into soybean oil under extremely high pressure, eliminates this undesirable characteristic. But it also leads to the creation of trans fatty acids, which have been linked to heart disease.

Scientists have recently developed varieties of soybeans that produce oils low in unsaturated fats. As a result, this new and improved oil doesn't require hydrogenation. Fast-food restaurants are slowly embracing trans-fat-free soybean oil, although hydrogenated oil is still widely used.

Food processors also use soybean oil as a starting point for other additives, including the two closely related ingredients we're about to cover.

Soybean oil appeared 355 times in our tally of fast-food ingredients, but it wasn't the only oil we found. Cottonseed oil made 86 appearances, followed by canola oil with 62 appearances and corn oil with 38. Canola oil, by the way, comes from the canola plant, a crossbreeding experiment from the 1970s.

3. Mono- and Diglycerides: The Most Common Emulsifiers

Cooks and food preparers have been working with emulsions -- two or more liquids that can't normally be mixed together -- for a long time. Fortunately for our taste buds, they've discovered several substances that encourage liquids to overcome their unwillingness to combine. These substances are known as emulsifiers.

Egg is commonly used as an emulsifier, but most food manufacturers today use glycerides obtained from palm oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil or tallow. Vegetable oils and animal fat contain mostly triglycerides, but enzymes can be used to break down triglycerides into mono- and diglycerides. These are the ingredients you see so frequently on fast-food menus.

Mono- and diglycerides allow smooth mixing of ingredients, prevent separation and generally stabilize food. You can find them in ice cream, margarine, baked goods, whipped topping and certain beverages. Luckily, glycerides pose no serious health threats, although they are a source of fat. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has classified them as a "generally recognized as safe" substance, indicating that experts consider them safe as food additives.

Next up, we have one of the most versatile ingredients in all of fast food.

2. Xanthan Gum: The Most Common Stabilizer or Thickener

In the 1950s, a chemist working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture began conducting research on an interesting new molecule. The chemist was Allene Rosaline Jeanes, and the molecule was dextran, a giant molecule made of thousands of sugar building blocks. Jeanes had great difficulty finding large quantities of dextran until a soft drink company came to her with a bottle filled, not with refreshing root beer, but with something slimy and viscous. Jeanes discovered that the bottle had become contaminated with a bacterium that produced dextran as a byproduct of fermentation. She isolated the bacteria cells and suddenly had a mechanism to produce all of the dextran she needed.

Jeanes also discovered another similar molecule that would become known as xanthan gum. Also produced by a bacterium -- Xanthomonas campestris -- xanthan gum is widely used by the food industry as a thickening agent. It's especially useful in salad dressings to help keep components like oil and vinegar from separating. Xanthan gum is not an emulsifier, however. It works by stabilizing emulsions, increasing the viscosity of the mixture so that the oil and vinegar stay together longer and so that spices stay suspended.

Xanthan gum also creates a smooth, pleasant texture in many foods. For this reason, it appears in ice cream, whipped topping, custard and pie filling. And the really good news: It's not associated with any known adverse effects.

Our final ingredient is not as exotic as xanthan gum, but it rules the roost when it comes to fast food.

1. Chicken: The Most Common Meat Product

We're just as surprised as you to list chicken, not beef, as the most popular fast-food meat, and to be honest, this one is tricky. In our analysis of several menus, chicken appeared as the first ingredient more than beef, pork or turkey. But that's a little misleading because many fast-food chains have more chicken-based menu items than beef. For example, McDonald's features chicken sandwiches, chicken nuggets, premium chicken strips, chicken snack wraps and a full line of premium salads topped with, you guessed it, chicken. If you talk consumption, though, you get a slightly different result. McDonald's bought 663 million pounds (301 million kilograms) of chicken in the U.S. in 2007, compared to 795 million pounds (361 million kilograms) of beef [source: Hughlett].

The future, however, is chicken. McDonald's 2007 purchases of chicken were up 59 percent from 2003, while its beef purchases were up just 10 percent over the same period [source: Hughlett]. Numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture bear this out: Chicken consumption more than doubled between 1970 and 2004, from 27.4 pounds (12.4 kilograms) per person to 59.2 pounds (26.9 kilograms) [source: Buzby]. Most of this growth can be traced to fast-food chains, where people like us step up to the register and order fried or grilled chicken -- and a hundred other ingredients that transform farm-fresh poultry into the fast-food chicken that we hate to love.

If you're not running out now to get some chicken mixed with citric acid and xanthan gum, keep reading for more fast-food knowledge.


Nixon told Insider he's been working on re-creating recipes since 2008 and has traveled from Perth, Australia, to the US to get his hands on fast-food menu items he can't get at home

He said he's been to California, New York, Chicago, and Florida all in the name of trying different chain restaurants for ideas, and likened his process of reverse-engineering recipes to "unlocking a code."

"You take what's worked, you change what didn't work, and you do it until you think you've gotten it right," he said.

Since he first started, Nixon has recreated recipes from fast-food joints like Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out. He's also tackled recipes from chain restaurants like the cheddar bay biscuits from Red Lobster.

Nixon said his hope is to help home cooks and their guests create special memories. It's rare someone will remember all the times they went to McDonald's, he said, but they will remember that time someone made them a Big Mac in their kitchen.

He also wants to get people into their kitchens and excited about cooking.

"The endgame for me is to get people reconnected with their farmers market, with their butcher, with their grain grocer [. ] I think that's something we've lost," he said. "It's something special we should still hold onto."


California: In-N-Out

Enjoying perhaps the best global brand recognition of any restaurant on this list, at least for the moment, what began life as a simple burger stand in suburban Los Angeles has become the unofficial ambassador of Southern California culture, the ceaselessly-smiling brah of the burger world, and the first thing many visitors will experience upon arrival. The last few years have shown continued growth for the closely-held private company, and while prices may appear to keep ticking up, In-N-Out remains one of the best (and most delicious) values in the business. (In-N-Out)


More About Recipe Software Programs

I love my kitchen… and I like to cook. But my #1 requirement is that recipes have fewer than 7 ingredients (or arrive on my doorstep via a food delivery service). My absolute favorite thing about being in the kitchen is trying out new gadgets, cookware, and storage containers! I'm SUPER organized in the kitchen (and everywhere else) and I have every gadget I could possibly need neatly and compactly tucked away until I need it. I share only the simplest recipes (which is great for people who don't like to cook), along with time-saving food tips and cooking tricks (that will save you time and money). When I'm not cooking, cleaning, or organizing my kitchen… you can find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites).


Nutritional Value of Baby Food

Research has found that homemade baby food is healthier than the store-bought ones. A study published in Archives of Disease in Childhood helps parents decide between homemade and store-bought food.

Store-bought baby food contains two vegetable varieties per serving, whereas home-cooked baby food may contain three or more. Home-cooked baby meals exceed the protein, fats, and calorie recommendation than store-bought food. Also, home-cooked meals have 26% more energy and 44% more protein and total fat than store-bought food.

Commercial baby foods contain less protein than home-cooked baby foods. Increasing the protein content increases the cost, so manufacturers may use fewer nutrients.

Commercially-made baby food has a low proportion of seafood-based products and a high proportion of red meat-based products. However, it is recommended for a child to have more oil-rich fish products and less red meat-based products.

Ingredient Variety vs. Nutrition

The findings of a study published in Archives of Disease in Childhood says that commercial meals provide a greater vegetable variety per meal and home-cooked meals provide six to seven percent more nutrients than commercial meals.

With that said, parents shouldn’t completely rely on commercial meals for their child’s nutrition. They should maintain a balance between home-cooked and commercial meals to provide the child with a varied, nutritious diet.


The 29 Healthiest Fast Food Orders You Can Get at Every Chain

Surprisingly, it's not always a salad that has the lowest calories.

If you need to grab a quick meal on the go but don't want to totally blow your healthy eating plan, it's still possible to hit the fast food drive-thru. Many fast food chains have improved their nutrition game in recent years, making good-for-you choices easier than ever. By introducing more veggie-forward and low-calorie meals like salads and bowls, these chain restaurants have started to think outside the typical cheeseburger-and-fries fare.

This is awesome for folks who are concerned about weight gain or are simply trying to make healthier choices, and provides better options for people who live in areas where fast food chains are the main affordable option&mdashone study found that the higher percentage of Black people who live in an area, the easier their access to fast food, as compared with areas with proportionately fewer Black residents.

No matter where you are chowing down, start by loading your meal with as many healthy vegetables as possible, whether that means adding extra peppers to your pizza, asking for mushrooms on (or in place of!) your burger, or scooping some salsa onto your burrito bowl. Some chains even have ordering hacks that can help you further lighten up your meal. For example, ask for your Taco Bell order "fresco" to nix the calorie-laden dressings, cheese, and sour cream. Strategizing the best items to order before you get to the register or ordering window can help you make smarter choices. Next time they only nearby option is fast food, or you simply get a craving for your guilty pleasure of choice, we'll help you order with confidence. These low-cal breakfast, lunch, and dinner options all get the stamp of approval from a registered dietitian.


Watch the video: 10 ΠΑΝΑΚΡΙΒΑ ΛΑΘΗ που έμειναν στην ιστορία - Τα Καλύτερα Top10 (November 2021).