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Created: Oct 12, 2014
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Fast Food Hamburgers
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In today's world of deadlines and economic problems, many Americans have turned to fast food for a cheap meal on the go. But with all the options available, it is important to consider the nutritional content offered at each restaurant.

I chose to analyze the nutritional information of a sample of hamburgers from 11 fast food restaurants: A&W, Burger King, Carl's Jr, Dairy Queen, Del Taco, Hardee's, Jack in the Box, McDonald's, Sonic, Wendy's, and White Castle. The entirity of the data can be seen below:

Data set 1. Nutrition Information for Fast Food Hamburgers   [Info]
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The boxplot below of hamburger serving size (measured in grams) for each restaurant shows that Hardee's serves the largest median portion size. A close contender is Carl's Jr, but Carl's Jr's serving size is skewed right whereas Hardee's has a slight left skew. With a median serving size of 118g, nearly 200g less than that of Hardee's, White Castle clearly serves the smallest hamburger portions. Burger King had the largest spread in terms of IQR, but Carl's Jr had the largest range of hamburger serving sizes. Del Taco and White Castle had the least variation in serving sizes. This can be expected from Del Taco because they primarily market other fast foods, but it is more informative of White Castle. The less variable serving size suggests that their burgers are more standard in size and the low outlier may be accounted for by a "mini," "Jr," or "slider" option. 

Result 1: Boxplot of Serving Size for Each Restaurant   [Info]
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In terms of serving size, Hardee's outdid the other 10 fast food restaurants. But when comparing hamburgers, calories are a better indicator of nutrional content. The following boxplot presents the distribution of calories for each restaurant.

Result 2: Boxplot of Calories for All Restaurants   [Info]
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Based on the median values for all restaurants, it can be concluded that most Jack in the Box burgers have a higher caloric value. With items like "Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger" on the menu, this finding checks out. White Castle, the franchise with the smallest spread and median in serving size, continued on the trend with calories. Hardee's was centered slightly lower, but the fact that it also had the largest median serving size should not be overlooked. Hardee's had the most spread in terms of IQR, but Carl's Jr had the largest range and its Double Six Dollar Burger, the max, had a staggering 1,520 calories- 76% of the daily recommended calorie intake for adults. McDonald's, the most predominant franchise in the fast food industry, is certainly not recognized for the health content, but even their Double Quarter Pounder with cheese only dares to go so far as 740 calories. Although Carls Jr is skewed right, opposite of Jack in the Box, the middle 50% of both distrubutions are almost aligned with each other. In general, Jack in the Box and Carls Jr serve higher calorie burgers than their competitors.

Serving size, calories, and saturated fat are all important factors to consider when evaluating nutritional value. Saturated fat has been found to increase risk of heart disease when too much is consumed. Below are the summary statistics of saturated fat by restaurant:

Result 3: Summary Stats of Saturated Fat   [Info]
Summary statistics for Saturated Fat (g):
Group by: Fast Food Restaurant
Fast Food RestaurantMeanStd. dev.MedianRangeMinMaxQ1Q3IQR
Burger King18.0769238.56797851626632112413
Carl's Jr.21.63636411.047832139847122816
Dairy Queen15.5454555.29837021416723112110
Del Taco131.4142136132121412142
Jack in the Box21.5454557.29881682421930162812
White Castle7.42.302172985510594

The restaurant with the highest median staturated fat content is Jack in the Box at 24g. Hardee's and Carls Jr follow close behind. White Castle, at 8g is centered significantly lower than the other 10 fast food chains. It has little variability as does Sonic, Del Taco, A&W, and McDonalds. Their IQR values range from 2-4g.  These low variability restaurants also have similar medians at the lower end of the distribution. Sonic, Del Taco, A&W, White Castle, and McDonald's have less saturated fat content than any of the other fast food locations. Some of them, like A&W and Del Taco, are not as widely recognized as places like White Castle and McDonalds. The low saturated fat content of burgers from the more popular restaurants could be accounted for by the idea that franchises under more scrutiny by the public eye have been under more pressure to work toward a degree of balanced nutrition. Calorie distrubution should be considered once again with more emphasis on the low saturated fat restaurants this time.

Here are the summary statistics of calories for each restaurant:

Result 4: Summary Stats of Calories for Each Restaurant   [Info]
Summary statistics for Calories:
Group by: Fast Food Restaurant
Fast Food RestaurantMeanStd. dev.MedianRangeMinMaxQ1Q3IQR
Burger King752.30769286.36097608603701230500990490
Carl's Jr.912.72727279.53858930103049015207101070360
Dairy Queen705.45455148.685156705604701030630780150
Del Taco58535.3553395855056061056061050
Jack in the Box878.18182237.3106995069043011206901090400
White Castle28865.34523730017020037025032070

The summary stats reveal that Sonic, Del Taco, White Castle, A&W, and McDonalds also had relatively low median caloric values for their burgers. These places also had the lowest IQR values of all the restaurants indicating the close concentration of their respective calorie data. On the other hand the restuarants serving burgers with high saturated fat content also had high medians in caloric values. The summary stats for calories and saturated fat content show that typically, burgers with more calories have higher saturated fat content and burgers with fewer calories have less saturated fat. More calories and higher saturated fat content mean an increased risk of developing heart disease. However the data set proves that not all burgers are equally unhealthy.

What follows are the summary statistics of calorie distribution for all restaurants in the data in one table and then a histogram for the entire distribution.

Result 6: Summary Stats of Calories for All Restaurants   [Info]
Summary statistics:
ColumnMeanStd. dev.MedianRangeMinMaxQ3IQR

Result 5: Histogram of Calories for All Restaurant   [Info]
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 The distribution of all the restaurants, from White Castle to Carl's Jr, is centered at 710 calories. The mean is 29.98 calories greater than the median, a difference illustrated by the right skew in the histogram. The caloric values for burgers in this data has a range of 1,320 calories and an IQR of 370 calories. Burgers are highly variable with respect to caloric value. This is good news for many of us.

Most people are aware of the ill effects a high calorie, high fat diet can have on their health, but they continue to purchase fast food anyway. The siren song of the 5 minute, $7, Triple Double Whopper With Extra Cheese Pickles On The Side is hard to resist. But perhaps those who seek a healthier lifestyle will take solace in the fact that not all burgers are 1,520 calories and if one chooses to enjoy a burger one day there are less damaging options.


Isabella Mayorga

Period 5





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