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Fast Food Facts
What is fast food and why is it so popular?
Fast food, junk food, processed food, ready-meals - Whatever label you give it, it all comes down to the same thing - food that's been through the factory and had much of its goodness removed. Fast food is quick, convenient and usually inexpensive and hence children, teenagers and busy youngsters are easy target. However, it is little known that fast food is inexpensive because it is usually made with cheaper ingredients such as high saturated fat meat, refined grains with added sugar and fats, etc
Is fast food bad?
There is no such thing as a 'bad' food. All foods can fit into a healthy meal plan. It's true that fast food is usually high in fat, calories, cholesterol and sodium, but eating fast food every once in a while is not going to cause problems. If we eat too much fast food over a long period of time, though, it can lead to health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.
If you are having fast food more than once a week, try to make healthier choices. Here are some tips:
- Choose foods that are boiled over fried, such as a grilled chicken sandwich instead of fried chicken or chicken nuggets
- Choose soups that are not cream based. If the name of the soup includes the word cream, such as 'Creamy Tomato Soup', avoid ordering it
- Have low-fat salad dressings instead of the full-fat kind
- Have a salad or soup instead of fries
- Use yoghurt, mustard or ketchup instead of mayonnaise
- Order smaller portions - the smaller the portion size, the lesser the calories
- When ordering a burger or sandwich, select leaner meats like grilled chicken instead of fried items such as burgers or steak and avoid adding cheese
- Choose water, low-fat milk, or diet sodas instead of regular sodas, fruit drinks, milkshakes or whole milk
- When ordering pizza, add veggies instead of meat, and get thin crust instead of deep dish
- If fruits and veggies are available, try to add them into your meal. For example, have lettuce and tomato on sandwiches or burgers
- Vegetable items are usually lower in fat than the meat dishes but can still be high in total calories
- Most appetizers are deep fried and some can hold more oil resulting in excessive calories. Switch to soups instead
- Stir-fry dishes are the best choice for lower calories
Essential Fast Food facts
- Laden with additives and unhealthy ingredients
A quick look at any food label will show you a long list of ingredients. We need to improve our ability to read and interpret food labels, which will help us make informed choices. More often than not, these foods are loaded with fats, sugar, salt and artificial additives. Many of these food additives, can have serious effects on long-term health. The fact that many children have diets high in processed foods underlies in the massive increase in childhood obesity
- Essential nutrients are missing
It's not just what's in fast food, which is alarming. What fast foods leave out, has just as bad an impact on health. Fast foods usually do not contain the following:
- Fiber, which is essential to keep the gut working properly. Processing methods remove most of the fiber originally present in the food. Long term low fiber intake can lead to serious health problems
- Vitamins and minerals in fast foods are lost due to processing and refining, which is often carried out at high temperatures. Some processed foods have added vitamins and minerals - often because those that were there to start with have been lost in processing. Others have very little or even non-existent nutritional value
- Bad for health
The dire effects of diets which rely too much on fast and processed foods are listed below:
- Lethal diseases - cancer, heart diseases, diabetes - are linked with poor diet and overweight
- Obesity in children and adults has reached a record high and continues to increase
- Lack of certain essential nutrients (like iron) can cause behavioural problems in children and can affect their ability to learn
- Long term fast/processed food (ab)use can lead to numerous other problems in children - caries prone teeth, dry skin, bad breath, constipation, digestive problems, headaches, poor concentration, depression, tiredness, anaemia - the list goes on and on
- Lacking flavour and texture
Junk foods are bland because processing wipes out subtle differences in flavour, appetizing fragrances and aromas. You have a well-flavoured meal in front of you, little knowing that this is due to added artificial flavours, colors and aromas. Yet the flavours never taste like food freshly prepared, from fresh and simple ingredients
- Not as fresh as they seem
Some processed foods pretend to be fresh - salads, which are doused in chlorinated water before packing. It's kept looking good, maybe for days and days on end, by added preservatives
What can you do?
Healthy eating and fast food can't exist side by side. As you switch to a healthy diet, one by one the fast foods must go:
- Learn to understand food labels. If you're looking for healthy food, labels hold the key. Read them and start seeking for healthier alternatives
- If you can't always avoid eating junk food, learn to choose the more healthy fast foods
- As you gradually eradicate unhealthy foods from your diet, replace them with simple, fresh foods and encourage your friends to do the same
- Help your family to start shopping differently, buying fresh foods more frequently, relying less on foods which have a long shelf life because they're full of artificial preservatives and buying for just few meals, at a time. Over a few months, you'll find that it's not that time-consuming and you and your family is actually enjoying planning and eating healthier meals
- In time, processed foods that used to seem appetizing will lose their appeal, as your palate becomes attuned to fresher, purer flavours
-Be realistic. Sometimes with friends you'll still have a burger or a ready-meal. Relax. Healthy eating is all about balance. As long as most of the time you're eating good, nutritious food, that's fine
Once you know the fast food facts, you'll never the feel the same about the foods in junk food joints again. Start gradually changing the way you eat and you'll enjoy food more and feel better, as well as give yourself, your family and friends massive health benefits which are long-term. You're not alone in this. Half the world is trying to do the same. But remember you can make it happen, only if you try. Your time starts NOW