While eating at a fast food chain like McDonalds or Burger King, we just wonder what food eating would have been if fast food were not available. Well, one thing is for sure, there would have been fewer incidences of obesity. Change in the eating habit and food consumption pattern of Americans has increased serious health concerns. More and more Americans eat out avoiding homemade food, increasing their consumption of fast food provided by restaurants.
Some critics believe that federal policy to increase the cost of healthy food has led to the increase in consumption of the cheaper alternative i.e. fast food (Monsivais, Aggarwal and Drewnowski 1472). Therefore, for the middle class whose eating habits has already increased consumption of outside food finds it more cost effective to consume fast food that is more cost effective, thereby, moving towards an unhealthy eating habit.
Others believe that fast moving lifestyle and paucity of time has increased consumption of fast food. Whatever be the reason behind the growth of consumption of fast food be, they inflict serious health issues. Fast food chains provide mouth-watering food at a very reasonable price therefore, increasing of the same for the normal American, but at the cost of serious damage to their health. Fast food increases kidney problems, hypertension, and diabetes (Heal Talk).
Therefore, many believe that such unhealthy eating patterns have heightened health concerns (Harnack, French and Oakes 2). Another issue that arises is nutritional content of fast foods such as burgers, pizza, or French fries. Calorie content of these foods is much higher than a regular meal cooked at home and lacks a large share of the nutritional content.
Therefore, fast food has three-fold effect on its consumers – it increases unhealthy eating habit, increases health hazards, and does not provide adequate or balanced nutritional needs of the human body. I believe that increase nutritional regulations can control the widespread menace that fast food is creating. This essay argues that there should be increased nutrition regulations on fast food restaurants because fast foods encourage unhealthy eating patterns, increase the risk of disease, and are nutritionally unsound.
Unhealthy eating habit
Fast lifestyle and a constant lack of time for routine tasks, like, eating food has increased preference towards fast food that can be squeezed in-between meetings, school and ballet class, or work and soccer. Paucity of daily time has reduced the number of households that have a meal together regularly (Williams). Another trend observed is increased preference towards packaged or frozen food.
Therefore, fast food as the name itself suggests gave rise to a consumption pattern among people where in they eat meals faster and intake a lot of calorie, trans fat and sugar. As the brain takes 20 minutes to register if it is full, a normal adult ends up eating more while eating too fast (Williams).
Ironically, people state paucity of time as the reason behind consuming more fast food, but actually, they end up consuming more food (Williams). Fast food eating habit in the US started in the 1950s and today, an average American consumes at least three burgers and four servings of French fries every week (Mifflin).
Americans have slowly moved towards food that contain more added fats, oils, dairy fat, and sugar per capita serving from 1970 through 2009 (USDA). In terms of calorie intake, the maximum calorie provided in per capita calorie intake by food categories, maximum calorie intake occur from caloric sweeteners, flour and cereal products, and added fat and oil (USDA).
Americans spend up to $140 million on fast food each year and there are 250,000 fast food chains in the U.S. (The Healthy Eating Guide). The numbers show an alarming shift of the nation’s eating habit that has moved majorly towards fast food, eating out and other frozen packed food that lack gross in basic nutrients and cause serious health problems.
How do we stop this trend? An initiative to provide nutritional calorie count in the menu and the display board shows that people tend to order less the item that accounts for higher calorie. Therefore, nutritional information provided to consumers can actually reduce the consumption of fast food items.
Adverse Health Effects
Research has shown that fast food consumption has a serious effect on the dietary quality and health of children in the U.S. (Bowman, Gortmaker and Ebbeling). Presently 36 percent of the U.S. population is obese and half of the population is expected to become obese by 2030 if the current eating habits continued (The Healthy Eating Guide).
In 1960, 44.8 percent of the U.S. adults aged between 20 years and 74 years were obese that increased to 66 percent in 2004. All this relates to the increase in fast food consumption and change in dietary habits of the majority of the population. Excess weight has led to other related diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, strokes, cancer, and kidney problems.
Further, research has shown that this issue with obesity and health is more among the people belonging to lower income groups (Drewnowski and Darmon 901). Financial disparity is a major issue that causes impediment to the access of healthier diet (Drewnowski and Darmon 900). This may be due to the lack of regulation that can control both the nutritional effect of food choices and cost of food available.
Further, many of the fast food available does not provide any nutritional guidelines in their packaging and the consumers are actually unaware of the health hazards that it may cause. Therefore, proper regulation is required that would adequate information regarding the nutritional effect. Further, regulatory measures must be taken to make hazardous fast food dearer than healthier food options in order to induce a change in dietary habit.
Lack of Nutrition
Fast food alternatives available today fail to meet the nutritional balance that the body requires for healthy living. The first problem is a complete lack of control over the cooking procedure of fast food that causes the problem. Usually they are cooked in a lot of oil or butter and there are hardly any options available therefore making the food high on trans fat. Further, it also encourages overeating as the servings come in larger portions.
These also lack in fresh fruit and vegetables therefore taking out two of the healthiest and mineral rich item from the meal. Usually fast foods are rich in fat, sodium, and sugar increasing tendencies of high blood sugar, blood pressure, and heart diseases. Therefore, fast foods fail to provide the key ingredients of a balanced diet such as essential vitamins, protein, and iron. However, it provides fat and carbohydrate harmful to the body in abundance.
Fast food has changed the eating habit of average Americans. Eating out has become more common than homemade food. Fast food has changed the healthy eating habits of the Americans increasing the content of fat, oil, and sugar in per capital serving showing an increase of fast food intake.
On the other hand, increase of fat, oil, and sugar in diet has increased incidences of obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, cancer, and kidney problems. Fast foods lack nutritional benefits required for a healthy body and are cause obesity. Policymakers must be concerned about these health issues that face America, as there are a large number of Americans who are affected due to the increased consumption of fast food.
Therefore such policy as proper nutritional information regarding fast food on packaging, less targeted advertising towards children and adolescents, increased quality check on nutrients provided in the fast foods, and menu labeling can decrease the health hazards related to fast food or reduce its consumption.
Bowman, SA, et al. “Effects of fast-food consumption on energy intake and diet quality among children in a national household survey.” Pediatrics, 3(1) (2004): 112-118. Print.
Drewnowski, Adam and Nicole Darmon. “Food Choices and Diet Costs: an Economic Analysis.” Symposium: Modifying the Food Environment: Energy Density, Food Costs, and Portion Size. NA: The American Society for Nutritional Sciences J. Nutr, 2005. 900-904. Print.
Harnack, Lisa J, et al. “Effects of calorie labeling and value size pricing on fast food meal choices: results from an experimental trial.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 5(63) (2008): 1-13. Print.
Heal Talk. Unhealthy Eating Habits: Fast Food Chains. 2 March 2011. Web. 23 February 2012
Mifflin, Houghton. “Fast Food Nation.” 2000. New York Times. Web. 23 February 2012
Monsivais, Pablo, Anju Aggarwal and Adam Drewnowski. “Following Federal Guidelines To Increase Nutrient Consumption May Lead To Higher Food Costs For Consumers.” Health Aff August 2011 30(8) (2011): 1471-1477. Print.
The Healthy Eating Guide. Healthy Eating Statistics: America’s Obesity Crisis. 2011. Web. 23 February 2012
USDA. “Loss-Adjusted Food Availability: Spreadsheets .” 13 July 2011. Economic Research Service. Web. 23 February 2012
Williams, David E. “A nation’s eating habits.” 24 March 2006. CNN Health. Web. 23 February 2012