Last time, I talked about clean eating or at least making more healthy food choices. But, I know there are times when you’re hungry, pressed for time, and need to eat on the go.
Many of you don’t get much time to home cook your meals and are tempted by row upon row of fast food franchises that line our highways and fill our shopping plazas and mall food courts. What’s so bad about eating out at fast food places or going through that drive-through? I’m about to tell you so sit down.
Let’s put aside – for now – the devastating impact on the environment caused by the proliferation of the American fast food industry. I will tackle that in another blog. I want to focus on what is in fast food products and the negative effects on your health. Did you watch Morgan Spurlock’s film, “Supersize Me?” If you haven’t, and you eat at fast food restaurants, you really should see it. It’s on Netflix and YouTube. In the film, Morgan eats three meals a day at McDonald’s for 30 days. He gets a baseline health checkup from an internist, a cardiologist, and a nutritionist. They monitor his health for the duration of the 30 days. You would think that eating fast food for 30 days wouldn’t be such a big deal. It’s not a very long period of time. But, it’s enough time for it to severely impact his health for the worse. No spoilers. I want you to watch the film to see just what happens to his body. It can tell you more about the negative impact on your health than I can in this blog. So, let’s look at the problems with the meals served in the fast food industry. I’ll focus on the most popular items: burgers and fries.
Fast food companies are franchises. Each one is privately owned but source their food products from a central supplier. Think about that for a moment. All of the shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, burger patties, cheese products, buns, French fries, etc., are all being shipped from the same warehouse to all of the Burger Buddies across the country. Exact same taste at each place. Exact same food.
Since we’re talking about fries and burgers, they are shipped frozen. Any vegetables that may be added to your burger are almost always already prepped: washed, (we can only hope) shredded or sliced, vacuum sealed in plastic, and refrigerated. By precutting the vegetables and shipping them, they are already losing any nutritional value they may have had. Which isn’t much since they are grown from “Roundup-ready” seeds on big farms in the middle of America. They are also treated with chemicals that make them look fresh such as propylene glycol, which is used in antifreeze and sexual lubricants. Yummy. And, just what’s in that plastic they come shipped in? An internet search fails to yield this info. The chemicals used in vegetable preparation and their lack of nutritional value mean that the veggies on your burger don’t count as vegetables. They count as filler. Filler with added toxins.
Let’s move on to the meat. How good do you think the meat is if the burger only costs a buck or two? And, that includes all the other ingredients, the packaging, and the labor to cook, assemble, and package it. The meat comes from factory farmed animals that are brought up to maximum weight in short life cycles that are accelerated by the use of antibiotics and growth hormones. They are fed a diet of GMO grain and prior to point of sale they receive feed mixed with cement dust so they weigh more at auction and garner a bigger profit.
Not only is this a cruel life for an animal, it’s an unhealthy one. All of those drugs and toxins are stored in the flesh and fat of that animal before it makes its way to your stomach. Can you imagine how many burgers that you need to sell to make this a profitable business? A lot. More sales. More money. But, how nutritious is that burger? Not very. And, you are ingesting the drugs and toxins that went into that cow’s body as it goes into your mouth. You are also eating more than just muscle meat. Everything from nose to tail is considered meat. You got it. You are eating ground up any and every part of that animal. You don’t know which parts. Are any of them muscle meat? Or is that part of the animal sold to the butcher? Hmm… how would you even know?
Frozen and shipped French fries are fried twice before freezing. Depending on the franchise they contain the following ingredients: potatoes, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated soybean oil), natural beef flavor (hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk derivatives), citric acid (preservative), dextrose, (a simple sugar made from corn that is chemically identical to glucose or blood sugar), sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintains color), dimethylpolysiloxane (antifoaming agent), and salt. The vegetable oil used for the initial two frying rounds may contain one or more of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated corn oil with TBHQ [an acronym for the word tertiary butylhydroquinone, a fat preservative added to a dog food to increase its shelf life; also used to stabilize certain explosive compounds, and to make varnishes, lacquers and resins] and citric acid (added to preserve freshness), and dimethylpolysiloxane (an antifoaming agent). Most of those oils mentioned are genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Once they arrive at the franchise, the French fries are fried again in oil, but it’s the same oil that is used for other fried products. I wonder which ones. And, how often do they change that oil? Is it rancid? Who monitors these things? Whew! I don’t know about you but I’d prefer to oven bake hand cut real potatoes that have been tossed in a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. You can also add herbs and spices to your taste.
Okay, let’s assume I’ve scared you off of fast food. Do you think the more upscale franchises are any better? The Bluesy Tuesdays? The TGIWednesdays? Nope. Same process. All food for ALL franchises comes from their central warehouse so that you can eat the same burger or pizza or fries no matter which one you patronize. Exact same taste at each place. Exact same food.
The American Heart Association’s website recommends what to order when you go out for fast food. They haven’t updated it in over a year. It tells you to order low fat milk and grilled chicken to avoid the higher fat and sodium found in other menu items. Let’s set the record straight. Low fat ANYTHING is not healthier than its full fat counterpart. That food myth was debunked years ago by leading physicians. The New York Times just published an article that exposes the industry cover up that blames your bad diet on fat while absolving sugar. The clinical trials were paid for by the sugar industry. Low fat foods make up for the lack of the fat taste by adding more sugar, which is infinitely worse for you than fat. The added sugar causes a spike in blood insulin and is putting you on the path to diabetes.
I’d like to suggest an alternative to fast food franchise when you feel you need to eat prepared food because you don’t have time to cook. Hit the salad bar at a local grocery store or corner market. Stick to the freshest veggies. Use prepared salads like quinoa or tabbouleh for your “dressing.” Again I’d like to remind you to watch the documentary, “Supersize Me.” It’s an eye opener for fast food patrons and will cause you to rethink your food-on-the-go choices.