Can you name an industry which went from $6 billion to more than $120 billion in less than 40 years? How about one whose primary advertising target is children who will grow up to be parents whose children will also be consumers?
In 1970, hungry patrons spent $6 billion on the convenience of fast food. Forty years later, fast food is a more than $120 billion industry. From where is all that money coming?
- 30% of children’s meals on any given day are fast food.
- 24% of high schools offer brand name fast foods.
- More than $10 billion are spent each year on fast food advertising.
Getting What You Pay For
Fast food is high in carbohydrates and fat, the two things which make the body feel full and full for longer. This explains why people are willing to eat what they know is bad for them. What is that getting you?
- 20% of children between the ages of 6-17 are overweight.
- Overweight adolescents have a 79% likelihood of adult obesity.
- Serving sizes are double and triple the recommended daily allowance.
Large portions are a lure for fast food. The gimmick is “Look how much you are getting for such a low price!” To a large extent, it is true.
When you choose to save money by super-sizing your meal, you are ingesting more than the daily recommended amount of carbohydrates, salt, cholesterol, sugar and fat in a single sitting. Depending on your choice of entrée, you can exceed 1,500 calories of the suggested 2,000 per day in one meal.
What are you really saving?
If you are not putting the money you save into a MSA, you are not saving anything. Americans spend more than $8 billion on cholesterol-reducing medications. This figure does not come close to the amount spent on heart disease and diabetic medications, cardiac care (after heart attack) or weight loss.
Undoing the damage fast food does to your body is expensive and time consuming. Do you want a better way?
1. Do not eat fast food today.
You may not be one who goes through the drive-thru daily. But are you one who would pour a bowl of dry cereal for breakfast or a snack? Would you grab a “healthy” granola or snack bar? Is luncheon meat with mayonnaise, hold the salad, on your white bread sandwich? Did you open a can of soup, which is really 2.5 servings? Do you need that afternoon chocolate and peanut bar to make it to five o’clock?
For today, say no. Then, do it for a weekend.
2. Not So Much
On the days when you are going to have fast food, ask for a small. The small sizes of such items as French fries, soft drinks, shakes, chips and dressed salads are closer to the recommended serving size for a 2,500 calorie daily diet. Rather than loading up on things you do not need, order the small.
Skip the cheese. Melted cheese confuses your body and takes an additional two hours to break down. By the time your body is trying to figure out what to do with the pieces, you are eating again. Your body breaks it all down into fat to store for a time when you are not eating. Be honest. Is that time coming?
Do not ever “super size”. You really do not need three times the serving size. Ever.
Eat more slowly. Your body will realize you are not hungry enough to pack away 1,500 calories in one sitting.
3. One a Week
Trade one fast food meal to a more healthful solution. Even if you are not going to cook or prepare your own food, choose a restaurant with whole foods, non-fried meats and non-fried vegetables. If you cannot pretend to be a rabbit, try better choices like low fat chicken or tuna salad served with wheat bread or lettuce. Order a piece of char-grilled salmon.
4. What about Thursday?
Plan your meals at least three days in advance. This will keep you from getting hungry with no immediate plan. If you know you have a meal planned, you can rationalize being hungry for the extra 30 minutes it will take to fix something far better for you. You will also be less tempted to drive through.
5. Not in MY car.
Stop eating in your car.
- It is dangerous.
- You need two hands to drive.
- You are not watching the road with your hand putting food in your mouth.
- Crumbs attract vermin.
- The trash.
- The smell.
6. Spend wisely.
For the price of a typical fast food meal, you can buy eight to ten servings of fruit or vegetables or three to five servings of meat. How much money can you save by shopping?
7. Brown Bag
Pack your lunch. You can control the foods and the amount you eat. Did you make something delicious and healthful for dinner last night? Leftovers are a great lunch.
8. Dinner Bell
Spending meal time across the table from someone you love can make you eat both better and less. Dinner conversation makes you eat more slowly, which makes you get full before you can overeat. The food has enough time to travel down the esophagus and trigger the CCK reflex, which sends the message to your brain to stop eating.
Cook dinner and eat with someone. Children are someone.
9. Live Longer
The minutes you save by not preparing your own food are shaving years off of your life. What do you really want to save? Do you want to trade the 30 minutes of meal preparation for 10-20 years worth of prescription intervention or a three-week intensive care hospital stay? Would you like a calculator?
10. Fewer Dishes
Throwing away a fast food wrapper may seem like the easiest way to have fewer dishes. You are looking at it the wrong way.
When you eat at home (or cook at a friend’s home), you can stop eating before your plate is clean. Once you learn how much less you really need to eat to feel full, you will stop wasting the food by cooking less. You can make a meal with far fewer dishes.
Can you make a difference? Which one of these steps are you already using? Which one will be the easiest for you to implement? Do you have the exercise routine of placing hands on the table and pushing? Name your favorite substitute for fast food. Can you make a difference in your health?
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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