- Food and Cooking
Why Eating Fast Food is Bad For You
My Love Affair with Fast Food
I don't know about you, but there are times when I just crave certain fast food items. It's almost like a love affair - the specific item first appears in my mind, perhaps stealthily inserted by a comment or commercial - coaxing, beckoning, seducing me.
The very thought of partaking of this seemingly delectable food lingers in my subconscious brain, always ready to spring into the light of consciousness. It only takes a few days of this intellectual assault for my resistance to wear down to almost nothing. It is then that I give in to the craving.
When I was younger, I could eat fast food with abandon - and I often did. As I grew older, I noticed that my system could no longer handle the frequency of visits to fast food havens. I also noticed that I had to be more aware of how much fast food I ate. As I grew older I gained wisdom - along with a slower metabolism - and an awareness that fast food, as tasty as it was, may not actually be good for me.
What follows are some of the things I discovered about why fast food was bad for me.
Top 5 Consequences of Fast Food
Weight Gain. If you think you can lose weight while on a diet made up of of fast food, you are likely mistaken. Even the so-called "healthy" choices offered by the majority of fast food restaurants could be easily considered unhealthy. For example, McDonalds® Premium Southwest Salad with dressing weighs in at a hefty 530 calories and 26 grams of fat. Or the Chicken Ranch Taco Salad at Taco Bell® with a whopping 910 calories and 54 grams of fat. People who think they are making sensible, healthy choices by ordering a salad could still gain weight if eating these types of fast food salads.
Poor Nutrition. The energy density in fast food is typically very high while the overall nutritional value may be very low. Fast food tends to be high in carbohydrates which have been known to interfere with the brain's ability to control appetite. This simply means that fast food offers about 65% more carbs than the amount typically founds in a non-fast food diet. While fast food may have some nutritional value, they typically have much more fat, carbs, sodium, sugar and calories than food prepared at home.
High Sodium Intake. Even though some fast food restaurants may actually offer low-sodium fare, be aware. There is a lot of sodium in the condiments, sauces, dressing or other add-ons. For example, the low fat balsamic vinaigrette dressing offered by some fast food restaurants may have as much as 3600mg of sodium in a single packet. The recommended daily allowance for sodium is roughly 1000mg for every 1000 calories, or a maximum sodium intake of 2400mg per day for adults. Read fast food nutrition labels carefully - just because a food has a "light" label does not necessarily mean it is low in sodium - especially when adding condiments, dressing or sauces.
Cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends a daily limit of 300mg of cholesterol. If you're battling to keep cholesterol down then fast food is not going to be your friend in this fight. A typical fast food hamburger can have as much as 150mg of cholesterol, more in larger burgers. Add bacon, cheese and heavy amounts of condiments and the cholesterol level can easily exceed the recommended daily allowance in a single meal. Even a typical fast food chicken salad may contain as much as 90mg of cholesterol with dressing.
Increasingly Poor Health. Here's the thing about fast food and health - while fast food may seem cheap now, it may cost you much, much more in the long run in terms of healthcare. Fast food is typically loaded with fat, sodium and sugar which are thought by many experts to be addictive. Just a look at all the young kids eating diets made up of mostly fast food and you see some are developing diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol at a very young age. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know eating low-quality food high in unhealthy ingredients is going to have an effect on people's health - especially over the long term.
My Fast Food Awakening
I knew I had to supersize my education about fast food. I discovered that finding accurate and complete information takes some work and research. For example, I thought most fast food salads were a fairly healthy choice.
I discovered the Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Crispy Chicken with Ranch Dressing at McDonalds® had 540 calories and 1500 mg of sodium. I even thought everything at Subway® was a "healthy" selection - Jared told me so. What Jared didn't tell me is that the low-fat 12-inch Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Terryaki sub contains about 1500mg of sodium.
The Bad News About Fast Food...
Alternatives to Fast Food...
Super Size Me: Facts About Fast Food
In this age of easily acquired information, there is just no excuse for not learning about the food you eat. I began to awaken to the fact that I might have an issue with fast food when my health started adding on a few pounds each year. As I got older, I could begin to see that all that fast food consumption was beginning to catch up to me. It was time for me to get educated about fast food.
Here are some interesting facts that I discovered...
• 1 in 4 Americans eat at a fast food restaurant every day
• Americans spent $3 billion a year on fast food in 1972. Today: $110 billion is spent on fast food each year
• Most eaten vegetable in America: French Fries
• 1,000,000 animals eaten every hour in America
• 6 in 10 people in the U.S. are considered overweight or obese
• Obesity is declared a global epidemic according to the World Health Organization
* Surgeon General David Satcher stated that "fast food is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic
• Obesity has been linked to Coronary Heart Disease, Hypertension, Adult Onset Diabetes, Stroke, Osteoerthritis, Endometrial Cancer, Colon Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Breast Cancer, Asthma and many other serious health conditions.
Regular Portions Are Not Regular Portions
One of the first things I learned is that fast food places are offering these super-sized portions on the regular menu. That simply makes it easier for people to order more food without appearing to order more food. Here's an example: Instead of ordering 4 regular size Chalupas, I could now order 2 XXL Chalupas - I was only eating 2 instead of 4. In some weird rationalization, I had convinced myself that I was actually eating less food.
So I did some more research and got the information on one of my favorites - the Taco Bell® XXL Chalupa. This over-sized behemoth registers a whopping 650 calories, 39g fat and 1300mg of sodium. Add 3 hot sauce packets and another 300g sodium (1600 mg sodium total per XXL Chalupa). Order two and that's 1300 calories, 78g of fat and 3200mg of sodium - just for 2 XXL Chalupas. Add a Super-size 32oz Pepsi® for a grand total of 1700 calories and 3350mg of sodium for just a single meal. To maintain a healthy diet, the typical adult should consume about 2000 calories, 65g of fat and 2400mg of sodium each day.
I could now see how bad this one single fast food meal was for me.
So, I decided to change my fast food eating habits and follow Jared's advice. I went to Subway® and ordered a 12-inch Buffalo Chicken Sandwich - a pretty good choice considering the last meal I had was XXL Chalupas. While this sandwich only has 7g of fat and 600 calories, it is loaded with almost a whole days worth of sodium - 1970mg. Add a soft drink and chips - well, you see what's happening here.
Something had to change for me and I knew ending my affair with fast food would be a big part of that change.
How many times per week do you eat fast food?
Fast Food and My Responsibility
Things had to change and they had to change fast. For me, fast food was no longer a staple in my diet. I knew that wholesome foods would now be a part of my life. I also knew this would require more time and effort on my part. I wanted to live longer, see my kids marry and maybe play with my grandkids one day.
I realized that eating properly could add years to my life and would help me to have a healthier lifestyle free from most diseases. I made the connection between continuing to eat fast food and my deteriorating health. I decided that fast food was bad for me and it would no longer be a part of my life.
As for you, dear reader - you must make your own decision. I wrote this article to help shed some light on the reasons I made my decision about fast food. I hope you will at least start educating yourself by reading the nutrition labels for the food you put into your body. At least that's a good place to start. Best of luck to your on your journey!
Further Reading About This Topic at Amazon.com
Some Good Sources of Information on Nutrition and Fast Food can be found at these websites...
Get the facts on what you've been eating for years at fast food restaurants! Fast Food Nutrition.org has the nutrition facts for over 3,000 menu items from the most popular fast food restaurants.
- Best and Worst Fast-Food Salads
Looking for a healthy, low-calorie salad? WebMD 'Recipe Doctor' Elaine Magee lists her picks for the healthiest (and unhealthiest salads) from top fast-food chains.
- Fast Food and Health | Nourish: Food + Community
The fast food diet has serious long-term effects on our health and well-being. Dr. Nadine Burke encourages us to nourish ourselves through conscious food choices.