This dissertation is comprised of three essays that each ask the question, "what's on the menu?" in major U.S. chain restaurants, and that each answer it in a way that aims to broaden our understanding of the role of restaurants in the current food environment. Essay 1 represents the largest study to date describing the state of nutrition across a broad set of chain restaurants. Essay 2 is a one-year follow-up analysis that provides a snapshot of the evolving nature of restaurant main entrées between 2010 and 2011, before and after the passage a new national menu labeling law. Essay 3 applies a scenario analysis approach to illustrate the range of conditions under which males and females at various ages could meet U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition guidelines for sodium through changes in fast food restaurant intake alone.
This document was submitted as a dissertation in September 2012 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Jeffrey Wasserman (Chair), Roland Sturm, and Chloe Bird.
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