Do you like hot dogs, pizza, kebab, hamburger, French fries and all those bites you munch when you check into a drive in? Then you are well deep into fast foods. Many people do love them as well, but understanding what you are taking is necessary. There are, however, some fast foods people pick form a fast food restaurant around the corner, and some do not even know much about these snacks.
Hot dog: a cooked sausage served in a sliced bun and garnished with condiments like mustard, ketchup, onions, mayonnaise, relish, cheese, and chili.
Kebab: pieces of meat, fish, or vegetables roasted or grilled on a skewer or spit. It originated in the Middle East.
French fries: invented by Belgians (surprise!), French fries are potatoes cut to short sticks and deep fried. Popular since 17th or 18th century.
Hamburger: a type of sandwich that has one or more meat patties placed in between two or more sliced buns and garnished with condiments.
Chips: Thinly cut potatoes (very thinly), heavily salted and deep fried until crispy. Legend says that they were made for the first time by a cook annoyed by his costumer who complained that his potatoes were too thick, soft and bland.
Pizza: a flat-bread baked in oven and topped with tomato sauce, cheese and various toppings. Modern pizza is invented in Italy and loved around the world.
Fast foods are said to be harmful to health and all, but above the rest, obesity is seemingly linked almost primarily to fast foods. But what is it that makes people become obese from fast foods, what contributes to their lack of control in indulging into these foods?
Unhealthy Ingredients Make Fast Food Cause Obesity
There are many types of fast food restaurants – from burgers to pizza to chicken to tacos, but despite their unique menus, the underlying content of their food is the same. Most fast food ingredients contain more energy, total fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates and added sugars than healthier food of the same weight. As a result of these less healthy ingredients, eating fast food has been found to be directly associated with both being overweight and exceeding the recommended levels of fat and sugar.
Larger Portion Sizes Make Fast Food Cause Obesity
As popularized by the 2004 documentary Super-Size Me (if you haven’t seen it, you can watch it for free here), the problem with the ingredients of fast food is further compounded by fast foods’ growing portion sizes. It’s no coincidence that portion sizes have grown in parallel with the average person’s body weight from the 1970’s through today.5
Low Cost Makes Fast Food Cause Obesity
Researchers at the University of Washington found that a 2,000-calorie diet of junk food costs 10 times less than a 2,000 calorie healthy diet. 6 This low cost of fast food encourages people to choose it over more expensive healthier food, which is a big reason that lower-income individuals are more likely to be obese.7
It may not be true that fast foods are all that bad, almost everything has its upsides and downsides, fast foods are not an exception. Blame them for all the negativity they may come with, but if well handled, such problems can be reduced if not completely uprooted, especially if you choose to make your fast foods yourself at home.
Aim to keep your entire meal to 500 calories or less. The average adult eats 836 calories per fast food meal—and underestimates what they ate by 175 calories. So don’t guess! Most chains post nutritional info both on their websites and at the franchise location. Take advantage of this information.
Opt for foods that are lower in fat and higher in protein and fiber. Look for items with more good stuff, like fiber, whole grains, and high-quality protein. Also aim for options that are relatively low in saturated fats—while not all saturated fats are bad for you, most of those found in fast food restaurants are.
Steer clear of trans fats. Small amounts of naturally-occurring trans fats can be found in meat and dairy products but it’s the artificial trans fats used to keep food fresh that are dangerous to your health. Avoid anything containing “partially hydrogenated” oil—even if it claims to be trans fat-free—or any foods that have been deep fried. While no amount of artificial trans fat is considered safe, the USDA recommends at least limiting trans fat to no more than 2 grams per day.