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Fast-food chains with the unhealthiest customers

While most Americans are happy with their family, friends and home life, more than one in five Americans are unhappy with their health.

According to a new survey conducted by consumer-focused information site BIGinsight, those who frequent certain fast-food restaurants are even less happy with their health than the average American. 24/7 Wall St. examined the results of the survey to identify the fast-food chains with the most-unhealthy customers.

24/7 Wall St.: Fast-food chains with the most unhealthy customers

Customers of four of the eight largest fast-food restaurants report a higher rate of being either totally unhappy or somewhat unhappy with their health than the general population. Not surprisingly, the fast-food diners who are most unhappy with their health also report other relatively unhealthy habits. Customers of three of the four restaurants also report among the lowest rates of exercising regularly among all major fast-food chains. McDonald’s, whose customers are the most unhappy with their health, has the lowest rate of customers who exercise regularly.

The four restaurants with the most-unhealthy customers also have the lowest rates of customers who watch their caloric intake. Three have among the lowest rates of customers watching their fat intakes. This behavior does not mix well with a diet that includes a number of fast-food meals.

However, not all fast-food restaurants have unhealthy customers. Chains where customers exhibit healthier behaviors, such as Arby’s, Chick-fil-A and Subway, have customers with above-average levels of happiness with their health. As Consumer Insights Director Pamela Goodfellow told 24/7 Wall St., “The difference between these consumer groups lies in what they do beyond the drive-thru: exercising, counting their calories, focusing on fat intake and watching their health in general.”

These are the fast-food chains with the most unhealthy customers.

1. McDonald’s

  • Unhappy/totally unhappy customers: 24%
  • Exercise regularly: 34.8%
  • Watching calorie intake: 34.1%
  • Watching fat intake: 33.2%
  • Watching carbohydrate intake: 21.7%

Except for Chick-fil-A, none of the fast-food restaurants skew so heavily female, with women representing 56 percent of the company’s regular customers. An alarming 24 percent of the chain’s frequent customers report being either unhappy or very unhappy with their health. Almost 30 percent of the restaurant’s regular customers report avoiding all the healthy habits measured by BIGinsight: watching calories, fat, salt or carbohydrate intake, or exercising regularly. This compares to 20 percent nationwide who report avoiding these healthy habits. McDonald’s has attempted to improve its image in recent years. It has begun automatically including apple slices and reducing the size of the fries in every happy meal.

2. Taco Bell

  • Unhappy/totally unhappy customers: 22.7%
  • Exercise regularly: 40.3%
  • Watching calorie intake: 33.9%
  • Watching fat intake: 31.0%
  • Watching carbohydrate intake: 19.0%

Taco Bell’s customers have the lowest rank in a number of health-related metrics measured by BIGinsight. Less than 31 percent of the customers report that they watch their fat intake, and only 19 percent watch their carbohydrate intake. The restaurant is second-worst when it comes to customers watching their calorie intake, as well as their salt/sodium intake. There are ways to eat healthily at Taco Bell. By ordering items “Fresco Style,” the sauce and cheese are exchanged for a “fiesta salsa.” Many items frequently considered healthy, such as salads, are among the restaurant’s highest-calorie items.

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3. Wendy’s

  • Unhappy/totally unhappy customers: 22.1%
  • Exercise regularly: 40.2%
  • Watching calorie intake: 37.2%
  • Watching fat intake: 38.1%
  • Watching carbohydrate intake: 25.4%

According to the report, 22.1 percent of Wendy’s regular customers are either unhappy or very unhappy with their health. About 40 percent exercise regularly. The average household income of a frequent Wendy’s customer is $60,468, the second-highest of the eight major fast-food chains, behind only Chick-fil-A. Just 22.6 percent of the restaurant’s frequent customers are single adults, second-lowest behind Arby’s in this category. Wendy’s offers healthy choices, including apple slices and salads. Even the salads, however, can be unhealthy, with high sodium and saturated fat.

4. Burger King

  • Unhappy/totally unhappy customers: 21.5%
  • Exercise regularly: 36.0%
  • Watching calorie intake: 26.6%
  • Watching fat intake: 32.4%
  • Watching carbohydrate intake: 19.7%

The demographics of the diners who frequent Burger King are unique in two major ways. A majority of restaurant’s customers — 58.6 percent — are men, the highest of all fast food chains. Also, the restaurant is frequented by customers with the lowest average annual household income among fast-food chains, at $52,958. Burger King’s customers watch their caloric intake the least among major fast-food chains, at just 26.6 percent. Only 32.4 percent of the restaurant’s customers watch their fat intake, the second lowest percentage. The company has made efforts to provide healthier menu items over the past year, as an attempt to expand its customer base. It continues to offer fattening classics, however, such as the 1,140-calorie Triple Whopper.