States With the Most Fast Food Restaurants Per Capita

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Fast Food Restaurants Have A Stronghold In These 5 States — And They’re As Unhealthy As You’d Think

Fast food. Americans crave it. Love it. Count on it for a quick bite, an easy fix, a jolt of comfort food that’s right at their fingertips. Although not all fast food is unhealthy, much of it lacks an abundance of nutritional quality, even though it can pack a bunch of calories. Is it possible that the prevalence of fast-food restaurants is contributing to America’s ever-increasing obesity problem? By cross-referencing  state restaurant numbers available from data storehouse site Datafiniti with a map of adult obesity rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s clear to see that states with the most fast-food joints per capital almost always have correspondingly high obesity rates. These are the states where you can quickly grab a burger and fries but excess weight might not be easy to shake.

1. Alabama

Fast-food rate: 6.3 restaurants per 10,000 people | Obesity rate: over 35%

Alabama has the largest ratio of restaurants to residents in the country: Every 10,000 residents has an extra McDonald’s or Subway to choose from when they’re craving a fast-food fix. Unfortunately, the availability of cheap, easy, and not particularly nutritious meals has led to one of the worst obesity rates in the country; over a third of Alabama’s residents are considered obese.

2. Nebraska

Fast food rate: 5.4 restaurants per 10,000 people | Obesity rate: 30% to 35%

One of Nebraska’s claims to fame: This state is home to the unhealthy reuben sandwich, packed with cheese, Russian dressing, and a mountain of corned beef laden with fat and sodium. Little wonder that the Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases through Dietary Molecules received an $11-million grant last year that will allow it to continue its research in the years ahead.

3. West Virginia

Fast-food rate: 5.3 restaurants per 10,000 people | Obesity rate: over 35%

You know you have a fast food and obesity problem when celebrity chef Jamie Oliver spends the first season of his “Food Revolution” show trying to improve eating habits in the city of Huntington. A 2017 CDC study found that just 7.3% of West Virginians are eating sufficient amounts of fruits, and only 5.8% are eating enough vegetables — the worst rates in the U.S.

4. Oklahoma

Fast-food rate: 5.3 restaurants per 10,000 people | Obesity rate: 30% to 35%

Oklahoma is the birthplace of Sonic Drive-In, always in demand for its retro styling and burgers bursting with saturated and trans fats. What’s more, you don’t even have to expend any calories walking up to the counter to place an order — staff members on roller skates will deliver your meal right to your car. The company loves to say that its famous cherry limeade is made with fresh fruit, but they leave out the part that says a small-size drink contains 38 grams of sugar — the entire recommended daily allotment of sugar.

5. Tennessee

Fast-food rate: 5.2 restaurants per 10,000 people | Obesity rate: 30% to 35%

Grocery stores are hard to come by in Tennessee; in February of 2020, a state senator’s bill to combat “food deserts” in the state passed in a Senate sub-committee. According to the bill’s sponsor, 1 in 5 Tenesseans has to travel for miles just to buy a carrot. But the state did found its own fast-food chain, Krystal, back in 1932. Today, Krystal serves calorie-packed items like junkyard loaded tots (tater tots covered in cheese, jalapenos, bacon, and ranch dressing). If you’re looking to cut calories, it might be best to say “later” to these taters.

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Sandra Murphy

Sandra Murphy

Holds a master's degree in professional writing and has more than 15 years of experience writing for national and international entities.

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