Can you afford to eat McDonald's six days a week? video

Warwick Smith/Stuff

UCOL student Jack Townend eats McDonalds takeaways up to 6 times a week.

Jack Townend spends more in a week at McDonald's than most millennials spend in a month on eating out. 

The Palmerston North University College of Learning photography student chows his way through a McDonald's double cheeseburger combo at least six times a week.

"I don't spend every single dollar I have on fast food, but I'm aware I probably spend too much on it."

After mistakenly thinking the price had changed by $1.30 Townend decided it was time to calculate how much he was spending at McDonald's and found over the past two years his combo meals cost him $4243.20.

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UCOL student Jack Townend eats McDonalds takeaways up to 6 times a week.
WARWICK SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

UCOL student Jack Townend eats McDonalds takeaways up to 6 times a week.

Townend conceded his favourite meal might not be the healthiest choice, but a shortage of time between school and work meant choices made out of convenience were inevitable.

Townend's estimated $40 a week spend on takeaway is a fair bit more than what most millennials spend on fast food.

Nielsen's recent Consumer and Media Insights survey found 15- to 34-year olds collectively spend $33 million a month on restaurant meals.

Including the then pre-teens in the 2013 census who are now aged between 14 and 17 years in the 2017 millennial population, there are likely to be more than a million millennials in New Zealand, spending, on average, nearly $33 on takeaway and restaurants a month.

The survey found 80 per cent of New Zealanders ate fast food over the past month and 27 per cent ate fast food more than five times over the past month.

Foxplan financial adviser Dean Blair considers spending more than $50 a week on restaurants and takeaway to be "excessive". 

Blair said restaurant and takeaway spending should be viewed in the context of income. 

Jack Townend has spent over $4000 over the past two years at McDonald's.
WARWICK SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

Jack Townend has spent over $4000 over the past two years at McDonald's.

"If there's very little or no money left over each pay-cycle ... cutting back on spending simply by making more food at home is a no-brainer really, in my mind. But it's got to be their decision."

He said people were often spending twice as much as they thought they were spending on fast food.

Auckland University senior lecturer Helen Eyles has been studying the nutritional changes in fast food since 2003.

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Eyles said there were a huge number of factors that influenced whether people consumed a lot of fast food but it was usually it was convenience.

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"They might not have capacity to cook and find their own food, they might work five jobs, they might have a little amount of money, so we need to work with fast food restaurants to reformulate [their menus].

"Then at least people are getting less sodium then they would otherwise."

She said high sodium consumption was associated with high blood pressure which increased the chances of heart disease, and new research showed it was associated with kidney disease.

Eyles surveyed fast food restaurants in 2014 and found salads tended to be the healthiest options, but no respondents reported eating them.

McDonald's restaurants spokesman Simon Kenny said people visited McDonald's one or two times a month, on average.

McDonald's reduced the salt in their fries by 20 per cent in 2014 and has an ongoing programme to reduce the levels of sugar, salt and saturated fat in food, and add new food and beverage options.

Last year the chain announced a plan to further reduce the sugar in beverages.

 - Stuff

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