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Cutting Back Fast Food For Greener Lifestyle
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Eating fast food in a regular basis is not uncommon for many Americans. I could not find a specific number, but I would guess the average person in America consumes anywhere from 2-3 meals a week meals from a fast food restaurant. Not only is the majority of fast food not healthy for you, it is also having a major impact on our environment. We really need to cut back on our fast food consumption and change our lifestyles so we don’t continue on the rapid decline of our health.

Fast Food
Photo by nexus_icon.
Why So Popular?

A main reasons that most would say as to why they consume so much fast food is the taste, the cost and it’s quick. All three are true, but none are a good reason in my mind why fast food needs to be so often.

Have you ever wondered why fast food tastes so good even though it is so inexpensive? The biggest reason is that beyond just the poor quality foods are often used. Even beyond the meat and carbs that make up the items you are eating, there are so many additives in fast food. I found a great article called Surprise Ingredients In Fast Food that goes in great depth as to what exactly is in our fast food. Things like MSG ( monosodium glutamate), trans fats, artificial colorings and flavors and a variety of preservatives.

MSG is a food additive that adds meatiness to many foods and has become a popular ingredient in many processed foods. You may not see monosodium glutamate explicitly on the ingredient list, but it is in there in different forms including autolyzed yeast extract. You may have heard a lot of the negative press about trans fat, but fast food chains still use it heavily in frying and in many of their products. And why do they add food coloring to so many foods? Just so they make it more attractive to the consumer.

Take McDonald’s for example. The majority of the items on the menu have some additive in it to enhance the flavor. The scrambled eggs alone have MSG, partially hydrogenated oils and so many preservatives. It just doesn’t make sense that they add so many things to eggs considering they normally only require beating and cooking. Even there coffee and salads have similar ingredients. Just because salads seem like the “healthy” choice when going to a fast food restaurant, they usually aren’t. The dressing or meat are usually the main reason as salad is just not as healthy as advertised.

Even though I singled out McDonald’s, they are not alone. Some of the more popular fast food chains that are just as bad include Burger King, KFC, Wendy’s, Taco Bell and even Subway. Just because they may claim their food is healthy, doesn’t mean their food doesn’t contain an enormous amount of preservatives and additives in them.

Health Concerns

Just as I mentioned above, fast food restaurants use some of the worst ingredients that make up their products and drown them with tons of additives to enhance their flavor and appearance. On top of that, they usually give large portions to make it seem like a bargain. With so many people eating fast food so often, it should be no surprise that our country is currently facing an obesity epidemic. Approximately 60% of Americans are overweight and 25% are obese. I know some of the statistics may not be completely accurate, but I am not surprised at them at all.

There are so many diseases that come along with being overweight or obese. Stroke, heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis are a few of the major problems that can occur. The more weight your body holds, the more work it has to do, putting more strain on your heart and other organs. The ingredients I described above also contribute to many of the same problems. Partially hydrogenated oils and high saturated fats increase cholesterol and increase your risk of heart attacks or strokes. The high levels of sodium and preservatives can increase your blood pressure. There has not been anything proven that MSG can cause negative health conditions, but with nothing proving that it doesn’t, are you willing to take a chance?

I am in no way attacking somebody for being overweight or obese. Just because a person is underweight or the “typical” weight for their age and height in no way means that they are healthy. There are several people I know who as thin as a rail, but have some of the worst diets. Fast food is the staple to many of these people’s diets as well.

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Along with the obesity epidemic, the health care system in our country is also suffering. With so many people on Medicaid and uninsured, our health system is suffering. Being overweight or obese due to an unhealthy diet that includes fast food is only making it worst. As many of you may know, I love to save money and prove it through numbers. I was able to find that your health care costs could increase by $19.39 for every pound a person is overweight. The cost varies depending on your age from $10.25 for individuals 25 years of age all the way up to $26.32 at 65 years old. In total, it adds up to a $127 billion cost every year.

That $1 burger may seem appealing now, but the fact that our health care system continues to increase it costs and insurance is becoming more and more expensive, is it really so much cheaper? Even though people who eat fast food may not feel the immediate impacts of their decisions, the rest of society is feeling the burden. With higher insurance rates comes lower salaries because companies have to pay higher insurance rates. Also, our health care system is suffering financial problem and an overwhelming number of people needing more and more care. This only makes the care we receive when we do need have a severe illness much worse.

Environmental Impacts

With the health concerns associated with fast food, the horrific impact it is having on our environment often gets pushed into the background. Everything they sell seems to be over-packaged and often made from non-recyclable materials. Just think back to the last time you went to a fast food restaurant. They give you 50 napkins, tons of unnecessary condiments and there are no recycling bins to be found anywhere.

It’s surprising that foamed polystyrene is still heavily being used in fast food restaurants. The foam plastic is a burden on our landfills. It just never goes away and has some major negative impacts on marine wildlife. Even the materials that can be recycled are still ending up in landfills. So much so that only 35% of cardboard and plastics end up going to recycling facilities. Let’s hope that many of these restaurants begin changing the materials they are using so that all can be recycled. They also need to start carrying recycling bins or do a better job in recycling. Their current numbers are pretty sad and just shows that they care more about increasing their profits.

Healthier Lifestyle

If you are eating fast food on a regular basis, it’s time to reconsider your currently lifestyle.

Work Less

Time is a huge factor in our lifestyles that needs to be changed. People are working longer and longer hours than ever and fast food seems like a good choice. Unless you have a wonderful spouse that will have a healthy meal waiting for you when you get home, is it really worth it to make a few extra bucks? Not only do you have more stress in your life working more, but you are becoming more unhealthy through horrible eating habits.

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Make Meals at Home

Start making more meals at home. The big misconception is that you have to spend hours preparing and cleaning up a meal that it is not worth making it yourself. That is further from the truth. If meals are planned properly throughout the week and you use minimal utensils, it can take about the same time as going out to a restaurant. It’s also far cheaper to eat at home. It may seem cheaper to buy fast food, but making a hamburger or chicken sandwich is just not that expensive and can easy to make on your own. Healthier meats and better ingredients can also be used to ensure that they are far better for you.

Healthier Fast Food

When you are on the run, fast food may be the only option. Not all fast food establishments are unhealthy and some use more sustainable materials in their packaging. I sometimes eat at Noodles and Chipotle’s that use fresher ingredients. Even if you do have to go into some of the more common fast food restaurants, you can inquire about the ingredients that are in each item or choose healthier options. Also, watch your portion sizes and try to avoid the side items like fries and sodas.

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Please share how often you currently eat fast food and any local fast food restaurants that are healthier and/or use sustainable practices.

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