You’ve worked a 9-5, you’re rushing home to grab the kids and are off to a dance recital for your youngest. You spend more time getting the kids ready to go than you spend focusing on what you’re going to fuel your body with for the evening. “Let’s run through McDonald’s on the way,” is a phrase you’re all to used to hearing.
Fast food may seem convenient while you’re running late for work, too tired to cook after a long day of tournaments with the kids, but is it benefiting you at all?
Healthy food is better for maintaining your weight, getting the right amount of essential nutrients in your diet and keeping yourself healthy. You can even eat healthy for less than it costs to eat fast food with proper planning and some time spent preparing and cooking your food. If you effectively plan out your week, meal prep for those activities, and set aside time to make sure you’re prepared, you never have to worry about running to the vending machine at work or to a fast food restaurant afterward!
Part of the problem with fast food is that the high amount of fat and added sugars increases the calories it contains without providing you with essential nutrients. This means that fast food is nutrient-poor. There are scientific studies that state that the more often people ate fast food, the lower their micro-nutrient intake was. Choosing healthy foods will help you increase the nutrient density, or nutrients per calorie, of your diet and make it easier for you to meet the recommended intake of essential nutrients!
Fast food tends to be high in fat, refined grains and added sugars, all of which increase their energy density, or calories per gram. Eating lots of energy-dense foods increases your risk for obesity. Healthy foods, on the other hand, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein, tend to be lower in energy density. A diet low in energy density helps you lose weight because you can eat more food for fewer calories, so you’ll be less likely to overeat due to hunger, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Effect On Our Health
Fast food’s most hidden evil is the amount of sodium that it carries. Too much sodium causes your body to retain water, making you feel bloated and puffy. But that’s the least of the damage overly salted foods can do. Sodium also can contribute to existing high blood pressure or enlarged heart muscle. If you have congestive heart failure, cirrhosis, or kidney disease, too much salt can contribute to a dangerous buildup of fluid. Excess sodium may also increase your risk for kidney stones, kidney disease, and stomach cancer.
While eating healthy foods could lower your risk for health problems including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer, fast food has the opposite effect. Fast food consumption increases the risk for metabolic syndrome, this happens by increasing triglyceride levels. There are studies that show that those individuals in the study who ate the most fast food had a higher risk for obesity than those who didn’t consume fast food or rarely consumed this type of food. Being obese or overweight can increase your risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Although fast food can seem to be cheaper than following a healthy diet, you can plan a healthy diet including low-cost foods that will save you money compared to a diet based on fast foods and convenience foods. A healthy diet based on generic, frozen and bulk whole foods is actually less expensive than buying fast food for every meal.
Even if you’re ordering off the dollar menu, you won’t be getting as much volume for your price as if you were eating healthy whole foods! Dairy products and vegetables were the most costly items in the healthy diet, followed by meat and fruits. This can be lowered by buying in bulk, frozen, and from local farmers markets!
Fitting Fast Food Into A Healthy Diet
A healthy meal consists of about half fruits and vegetables, with the other half of your food divided between whole grains and meats. When you go to a fast-food restaurant, look for the healthiest options, which tend to be grilled, boiled, or baked instead of fried. Start with a broth-based soup or salad with low-fat dressing since these are low in energy density and will help fill you up. Another tip is to get a smaller serving size rather than a super-sized serving of your main dish.
Vegetarian options are often healthier than meat-based entrees, as long as they aren’t fried. Opt for a sweet potato rather than a baked potato, broccoli instead of french fries, and skip the fattier toppings, like mayo sauces, cheese and cream sauces!
We try to live by the idea that everything is okay in moderation, but over time this all adds up, and your heart is the one that could suffer from clogged arteries and lack of blood supply. Make wise choices when dining out, and take time out of your week to plan meals for activities.