Fast food vs. Home-cooked food
When watching the documentary Super Size Me, I realized I’d had no idea exactly how harmful a diet heavy on fast food really was, and though I ate relatively little fast food before seeing the film, I have since made a point of avoiding it in favor of healthier foods, especially foods I cook at home from raw ingredients. However, many Americans’ schedules do not allow them this luxury, and they rely on fast food at least a few times a week, if not daily; Americans currently spend approximately $110 billion on fast food each year (Wikipedia).
For busy people, fast food makes a great deal of sense, and 25% of all Americans consume fast food at least once daily (Super Size Me). It requires virtually no waiting, costs very little, can be ordered and eaten in one’s car, and generally tastes good enough to make it an attractive choice. In recent years, the choices have become more attractive as fast-food chains expand their menus to include more than the basic fare of two or three decades ago – hamburgers, French fries, and soft drinks. More recently, fast-food chains have added salads and other, relatively healthy fare to their offerings. Thus, it has become much easier to eat more healthily while also eating quickly, contributing to the fact that 27.4 percent of households cook less than once a day (Raloff).
Fast food is also made more attractive by advertising campaigns, and the main fast-food chains spend a combined $2.3 billion annually on advertising. Home-cooked meals, while often healthier than fast food, are not marketed as widely or as creatively, and groups advocating healthier eating are at a serious financial disadvantage due to their vastly more modest budgets, which totaled only $9.55 million in 2004 (Consumers Union). Fast food companies target children in particular, which draws entire families and increases the fast food industry’s already large profits – thus facilitating more advertising campaigns.
Though fast food has made strides toward healthiness in the last several years, the fact remains that two-thirds of all American adults are overweight (Super Size Me). This fact cannot be attributed entirely to fast food, but fast food remains part of the problem. Most fast food is deep-fried, making it high in fat and calories, and it often contains a large amount of sugar (from soft drinks, milk shakes, and hamburger buns made from white flour). Even fast-food salads are questionable, since some dressings (mainly ranch and bleu cheese) contain a considerable amount of fat. One can feasibly eat fast food healthily, but the choices remain somewhat restricted.
Though fast food is generally rather inexpensive, home-cooked meals made from unprocessed foods are actually cheaper than processed foods. For example, making salads from scratch at home costs less than a third of what a fast-food salad costs (Snow), and cooking with as many raw, unprocessed ingredients as possible is generally less expensive, since one does not pay for the costs of processing or expensive marketing campaigns. However, the main drawback is time, since home cooking requires more time, effort, and being present at home, while simply eating fast food entails virtually no effort.
Both home-cooked food and fast food have their advantages and drawbacks. Fast food can be obtained and eaten quickly, thus interfering only minimally with one’s busy schedule, and while fast food have added healthier options (like salads, fruit, and yogurt), the dietary drawbacks remain. Home cooking can usually be done more healthily, with unprocessed foods with lower fat contents and more nutrients, whole grains, and fiber, though busy work schedules and the desire for speed and convenience preclude eating home-cooked meals, thus making the choice a trade-off with clear health consequences.
Anonymous. “Fast Food.” October 2005. Wikipedia. 6 November 2005. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast_food>.
________. “Food Industry Advertising Overwhelms Campaign to Fight Obesity.” 13 September 2005. Consumers Union. 6 November 2005. <http://www.consumersunion.org/pub/core_health_care/002657.html>.
Raloff, Janet. “Home Cooking on the Wane.” 7 December 2002. Science News Online. 6 November 2005. <http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20021207/food.asp>.
Snow, Jane. “How prepared foods compare to homemade.” 4 October 2005. Detroit Free Press. 6 November 2005. <http://www.freep.com/features/food/prepared4d_20051004.htm>.
Super Size Me. Dir. Morgan Spurlock. Perf. Morgan Spurlock, Alexandra Jamieson, John Banzhaf. The Con, 2004.