The Hidden Costs of Convenience

Convenience foods

If I broke out into, "Ba-da-da da daaaa!" in line at the grocery store, at least three other people in my immediate vicinity would reply with, "I'm lovin' it!" without skipping a beat. And who doesn't know what the Golden Arches signify? According to a study published by Julia Ransohoff of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, "there are close to 50,000 fast food chains across the United States, with McDonalds being the largest restaurant chain" ("Fast Food," 2013). We are a nation of fast food restaurants, making meal times quick and easy for busy, working parents. Although fast food seems like a convenient, low-cost option, what is the true price?

Any time something is made quicker or easier, quality is sacrificed for convenience. When you look at the ingredient list in a traditional Big Mac, you will find high fructose corn syrup, salt, sugar, and a myriad of other ingredients that your grandmother wouldn't recognize. One Big Mac packs a total of 540 calories, 28 grams of fat, 46 grams of carbs, and 950 mg of sodium. Eating foods that are highly processed has been proven time and time again to be detrimental to health and thriving, not to mention how these foods are batch cooked, frozen, reheated, and sit under heat lamps until purchased. The chances that your food could be exposed to the elements causing any nutrients retained to break down, as well as food-borne disease, such as salmonella, are very likely. A quick Google keyword search of "McDonald's" and "salmonella" reveals a staggering number of reports about people suffering from salmonella poisoning after eating at a McDonald's. But this is the least of our worries.

The long-term damage caused to the youth of America from their frequent trips to fast food restaurants is becoming more apparent. Cheryl Fryar of the CDC, reports that "About 34 percent of all children and adolescents, aged 2 to 19, consume fast food on a given day" (Aubrey, 2015). Even more disturbing is the fact that the closer adolescents live to these fast food restaurants, the more likely they are to purchase food from these restaurants if there is no adult around to regulate them. Even worse, "children with at least one fast-food outlet within 0.5 miles from their home were 36 % less likely to consume two or more pieces of fruit daily, while those with at least one convenience store in the same buffer around their home were 25 % less likely to eat vegetables three or more times daily than children who did not have these types of stores in their neighbourhood" (He et al., 2013). I'm not sure that I can name a town in the county where I live with my family in New Jersey that is WITHOUT at least one fast food restaurant, with multiple others to choose from in a five mile radius. And it is important to realize that habits made in childhood are not easy to break.

As the obesity epidemic grows, we would be blind if we said that we see no link between fast foods and the growing waistlines of our adolescent population. Even though fast food restaurants continue to post nutritional information and make more nutritious options available, money talks, and the cheeseburger and french fries combo continues to lead in sales. It is up to us as a nation to put our money where our mouths are (literally!) and begin to turn the tide and demand that nutritious options be the only option, and maybe even slow down long enough to cook our own foods so that we have total control over what is going into our mouths, and the mouths of our children. Just because something is easy doesn't mean that it's what is best.

References:

Aubrey, A. (2015, September 17). About A Third Of U.S. Kids And Teens Ate Fast Food Today. Retrieved January 21, 2018, from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/09/17/440951329/about-a-third-of-u-s-kids-and-teens-ate-fast-food-today (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

He, M., Tucker, P., Irwin, J. D., Gilliland, J., Larsen, K., & Hess, P. (2012). Obesogenic neighbourhoods: The impact of neighbourhood restaurants and convenience stores on adolescents' food consumption behaviours. Public Health Nutrition, 15(12), 2331-9. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1368980012000584 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Paeratakul, S., Ferdinand, D. P., Champagne, C. M., Ryan, D. H., & Bray, G. A. (2003). Fast-food consumption among US adults and children: Dietary and nutrient intake profile. American Dietetic Association.Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 103(10), 1332-8. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/218410763?accountid=158302 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

 Ransohoff, J. (2013, October). Fast Food (N. Brown PhD, Ed.). Retrieved January 21, 2018, from http://www.pamf.org/teen/health/nutrition/fastfood.html (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.