Are you obese??? There is a 33.8% chance that you are if you are a resident of the United States of America. The Centers for Disease and Control puts the figure at one-third or 33.8% as far as obesity in the nation is concerned. Around 350,000 people die due to obesity related diseases every year. What is more alarming is that the percentage of obese children between 6 and 11 years of age rose from 7% in 1980 to 20% in 2008. Obesity has assumed the proportions of an epidemic. And fast foods have added fuel to the fire.
Plenty of colorful bill boards and ads of fast food joints with their attractive and delicious offerings are constantly tempting people. Fast food is cheap, convenient and easily available. The “Drive Ins” ensures that that one does not need to disembark the vehicle even to get the food. People are becoming obese because of lack of self-control and hard work.
Causes of Fast Food Obesity
- Fast food obesity has strikingly increased in many countries because of the easy availability of fast food in the grocery shops, gas stations and dispensers everywhere. So it is difficult to escape from the lure of these delicious advertisements and showcases.
- With the increasing accessibility of fast food and high competition among the various fast food joints, fast food obesity has become a major problem for many countries to deal with.
- Although there are genetic reasons for obesity, people are mainly affected because lack of self-control.
- The fast food joints have a compelling selling proposition whereby they upgrade your ordered food to include more options or a bigger sized soda for a minimum additional amount. This is a strategy to increase sales along with increasing consumer loyalty. But in this deal, it is the consumer who is hurt the most.
- Besides the above reasons, lifestyle also plays an important role in making people obese.
- People with high ambitions or working hard to achieve a comfortable lifestyle, many a times are pressed for time and ignore their diet and health by resorting to fast and convinient meals.
- Environment also has a great impact on the fast food obesity. Majority of people have accepted passive fast food consumption as a part of their life style.
How Can Fast Food Cause Obesity?
- Some scientists claim that fast food causes obesity by encouraging the sense of intentional overeating. A close explanation to the claim made by scientists explains that fast foods are foods with 150% more of high density energy than any other traditional meal. High density foods, experts explain, have a tendency to compel people to intake more calories than needed by the body.
- Fast foods are also said to contain high amounts of sugar, oil, flour and sodium or salt which are all significant contributors to the condition of obesity.
- Fast foods which are usually fried preparations are contributing factors to indigestion and acidity. Metabolic malfunction arising from the frequent intake of fast foods can result in uncontrolled overeating tendencies that can be the leading cause of weight gain or obesity.
- They are mostly fried in saturated or transfats. Trans-fats are man-made fats. You can find on the labels of many manufactured foods the words “partially hydrogenated”. This means that the manufacturer added hydrogen to a polyunsaturated fat, making it a trans fat. When fat becomes more saturated, it becomes stiffer and more solid as in butter or margarine. Trans-fats are also less likely to go rancid, and thus have a longer shelf-life. Eating fast foods that contain this can make you gain more weight and become more fat.
- They contain food additives or taste enhancers. Such an ingredient present in any fast food is a salt called Ajinamoto. Chemically, it is called Monosodium glutamate or MSG. Research studies have revealed that MSG is an Excitotoxin. These are substances that stimulate the cells in the brain called the Neurons. As a result, they get damaged and die. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism in humans which can separate this toxin substance from the blood and stop it from entering the brain. The region of the brain affected by this is called Hypothalamus. The damage caused to this section of the brain leads to abnormalities in the body. One such abnormality is Obesity. A research study has confirmed that the main reason for childhood obesity in the United States is the early exposure of children to Excitotoxin rich food items. Some of the other complications associated with early exposure to MSG are sleeping difficulties, impaired growth and emotional problems.
- Moreover, fast foods are deficient in fiber which are essential for proper digestion and help in preventing constipation and irregular bowel movements.
Obesity related health problems
Obesity may lead to health problems like diabetes, severe cardiac problems and various other health problems. Experts claim fast foods taken twice or more in a week can cause you to gain as much as 10 pounds at a go. Scientists and doctors have clearly exhibited that regular consumption of unhealthy food and reduced physical activity result in obesity. Along with the developed western countries, many eastern countries are also dealing with this problem. The trend of moving away from traditional and home cooked healthy diets, eastern countries like China, Japan etc. are also affected by the fast food obesity.
How are Childhood Obesity and Fast Food Obesity related?
Nearly 1/3rd of the children in the United States eat fast food regularly and there is a close relation between the fast food restaurants and obesity. This increases the risk of obesity in children. The numbers are increasing at an alarming rate and you need not be surprised because billions of dollars are spent by the fast food advertising center says Dr. David Ludwig, the director for the obesity program at the children’s hospital Boston. So, there is a close knit relation between fast food restaurants and obesity.
Dr. Ludwig further adds on saying that the intake of fast food has increased more than five-fold since the 1970. The Nationally Representative study has included boys and girls throughout the country with different socio-economic backgrounds. The highest amount of consuming fast foods were among those children with higher income levels, which included older children, boys and blacks. The lower levels were found among the people residing in the western rural areas, Hispanics but, more than twenty percent of the youngsters were still reported eating fast food.
Fast food that are being made by the restaurants had more fats, carbohydrates, sugars and few fruits, vegetables and they were non-starchy and because of their consumption they are adding 187 calories per day, which can add up to six pounds every year. The data given is based on the children who were questioned during the government surveys from the year 1994 to 1996 and 1998.
In the present, children’s level of consuming fast food is even higher and is increasing at an acclerating rate. This is mainly due to the increase in the fast food restaurants and marketing of such food since late 1990.
Watching the video below will let you correctly assess the grimness of the situation we have got ourselves into.
7 Major Fast Foods Contributing to Obesity
Here is a list of 7 major fast foods which are calorie laden, highly tempting and mainly contribute to the obesity:
It’s really difficult to resist the tempting smell of doughnuts. Basically doughnuts are fried, packed full with sugar and lot of fats. An average doughnut contains around 400 calries and other nutrients besides fat. According to many nutritionists, eating lot of refined sugars add to blood sugar fluctuations.
2. Cheeseburger with French fries
The combination may sound delicious but it is packed with a lot of saturated fats. Saturated fats are found to contribute to strokes, heart attacks and few types of cancers. A regular Mcdonald’s cheeseburger contains about 300 calories and around 240 calories are present in one serving of French fries. Beside saturated fats and calories, cheeseburgers are rich source of artery clogging bad LDL cholesterol, sodium and Trans fat. Sodium causes water retention and can lead to weight gain.
3. Chicken Nuggets and Fried Chicken
A single serving almost contains 420 calories. It is also rich in sodium and saturated fat. Research show that food cooked in highly heated oils can cause weight gain, cancer and other serious health problems.
4. Ready to Eat Lunches
Easily and most conveniently available ready to eat packages of meals are highly unhealthy. These kinds of lunches available in the market are packed with sodium and saturated fats.
5. Sugary Cereal
These cereals are highly processed and hence they no longer carry any nutrition of the grains from which they are made. Moreover, these cereals are loaded with added sugar. A better and healthy alternative for these cereals would be steel cut oatmeal rich in fiber.
6. Processed Meats
Sausages, hot dogs, bacon, jerky and lunch meats are included in this category. All these processed meats are full of sodium nitrate which is added as a preservative. According to the recent studies, these sodium nitrate act as a carcinogen causing cancer.
7. Canned Soup
Canned soups are promoted as healthy foods but they are found to have high levels of artificial preservatives like MSG, sodium and Trans fats.
Fast Food Nutrition Chart
The first and best weight loss tip anyone gives – control the intake of calories. Many children and teens of America take in many fast food items everyday, without the knowledge that they contain many calories and are the primary reason for their obesity problem. Here we give you fast food nutrition chart that explains you the calorie count of every fast food item you take normally. We expect you to stop taking these fast food items, if you are really inclined to lose weight and look smart.
|Fast Food Item||Amount||Calories|
|Fish, Battered/Fried||1 serving||210|
|Chicken, Fried, Dark Meat||2 pieces||430|
|Chicken, Fried, Wing/Breast||2 pieces||495|
|Chicken Nuggets,||Plain 6||300|
|Hash Browns||1/2 cup||150|
|Hot Dog with Chili||1||325|
|Dressing – Caesar||1 pkt||160|
|Dressing – French||1 pkt||160|
|Dressing – Ranch||1 pkt||230|
|Pancakes, Butter & Syrup||3||520|
|Desserts – Brownie||1||245|
|Desserts – Sundae, Caramel||1||305|
|Desserts – Sundae, Hot Fudge||1||290|
|Desserts – Sundae, Strawberry||1||270|
|Desserts – Apple Pie||1||260|
|Shakes – Chocolate||Regular||360|
|Shakes – Strawberry||Regular||360|
|Shakes – Vanilla||Regular||360|
All said, it is difficult to stay away from the onslaught of the fast food industry. However, moderation is the key here. Being aware about the food value of items traditionally served in a fast food restaurant and learning to choose well is important. You have to fit fast food carefully into your weight-loss plan. You may doubt whether fast food can be part of a weight-loss or healthy-eating plan. But you know the fact that you can’t have a meal that’s both quick and healthy. This isn’t really true.
Here are some keys to choose your fast food wisely.
- Keep Portion Sizes Small for Fast Food
When there is availability of several sandwich sizes, take the smallest one. You may share a serving with a friend or order half of a sandwich, if available. Avoid hamburgers with two or three beef patties. It gives more than 1,000 calories and 70 grams of fat. Instead, choose a regular hamburger with a single patty, which gives you 250 to 300 calories. Also, avoid large serving of French fries or onion rings. Instead select a small serving. It saves about 300 calories.
- Choose a Healthier Side Dish
Take healthy side dishes offered at fast-food restaurants. For example, instead of French fries take a side salad with low-fat dressing. You can also add a yogurt or fruit bowl as an option. Other healthy choices are apple sauce or apple slices, corn on the cob, mandarin oranges, steamed rice or baked potato chips.
- Take More Greens
Select a large entree salad with grilled chicken, shrimp or garden vegetables with a fat-free or low-fat dressing on the side. Avoid high-calorie salads, such as those with deep fried shells or those topped with breaded chicken or other fried toppings. Also, avoid salad extras such as cheese, bacon bits, croutons and fried chips that increase your calorie count.
- Opt for Grilled Food
Avoid food items like fried and breaded foods, such as crispy chicken sandwiches and breaded fish fillets. They are high in fat and calories. Instead, select lean cuts of meats such as turkey or chicken breast, lean ham and have them grilled or roasted such as lean roast beef.
- Do it Your Way
Go for healthier options and substitutions. For example, get reduced-fat mayonnaiseor or extra virgin olive oil or mustard on your sandwich. Request salsa along with your meal instead of shredded cheese and nacho cheese sauce. Try to go light on cream based dressings, sour cream, tartar sauce and other high-calorie condiments.
- Watch What You Drink
Your beverage may contain large number of calories. For example, a large soda of 32 ounces gives you about 400 calories. Instead of it, order diet soda, unsweetened iced tea, sparkling water or mineral water. Also, avoid shakes and other ice cream drinks, which can contain more than 1,000 calories.
Tips to customize and make America’s top 5 fast food items a little more healthier
This will help you serve it to your children with a lighter conscience and at the same time not depriving them of the popular fast food choices.
1. Hot Dog
A hot dog is a traditionally a beef frank or sausage which is served in a sliced bun. It is served with pickles, onions, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, relish and sometimes sauerkraut. 80% of a hot dog is bad saturated fat.It contains sodium nitrite, a chemical salt used as a preservative and flavor enhancer in the franks. Researchers have opined that nitrites could be carcinogenic. Processed franks have a nutritional profile which will definitely raise the risks of heart disease and colon cancers.
Instead choose a lean turkey or tofu sausage with a whole wheat bun and minimal dressing. You get a lot more lean protein from them with lesser fat than traditional sausages.
2. Cheese Burger
A cheese burger is a hamburger which has a slice of cheese placed on top of the patty. The patty and the cheese together is served sandwiched in a bun which is essentially a white bread. Condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise comes served on top of it. The meat in the patty is mostly beef which has a high percentage of saturated fat. The approximate calories per serving in a cheese burger is some where between 600-1500 calories. Your day’s worth of calories can come from a single cheese burger.
If lean white meat from turkey or chicken is chosen for the patty, then the fat content goes down substantially.Choose whole wheat or multi grain buns. If you are watching your carbohydrate intake, you can always ask the patty to be served sandwiched between lettuce leaves. Go for onions and tomatoes and stay away from high fructose corn syrup laden mayonnaise, ketchup and other such condiments. This way you can have a much healthier version of your favorite treat.
3. Pizza: Old and young alike, pizza is a favorite treat of all. Deep dish and thick crust varieties have more dough used in the crust than the other varieties. It is high in calorie and carbohydrate count to begin with. Topped with whole milk cheese and fattening meat toppings like pepperoni, bacon and sausage a slice of the pie could be well worth 600 calories. Have two slices and you have exhausted your day’s worth of calories.
Go for a thin whole wheat crust pizza and top it with lots of veggies and some low fat cheese. You can enjoy a much more healthier version of the same treat.
4. Chicken Nuggets: An absolute favorite of children, it is a small boneless piece of chicken which is traditionally battered and then deep fried. With alarming rates of childhood obesity this one snack has to come under scrutiny. It is high in saturated fats and trans fats coupled with a high sodium content. A portion of five average sized nuggets from Wendy’s have about 230 calories.
Baked chicken nuggets are a much better choice. Stay away from dipping sauces. They are loaded with sodium and high fructose corn syrup. Breading the nugget with whole grain flour or oats further improves their nutritional profile.
5. French Fries: A combo meal of French fries, cheese burger and a soda can have as much calories as two days worth of food. French Fries are deep fried sticks of potatoes. They are loaded with trans fats, saturated fats and sodium which make them high in artery clogging fats. Now coming to the potatoes, it is a starch which is made up of simple carbohydrates. They are easily broken down into sugars. If we do not use up the energy readily provided by these sugars, then they are stored in the body as fat.
Rather than white potatoes, choose sweet potatoes to make your fries with. They are an extremely good source of fiber. Have your fries baked and not deep fried.
Fast Foods can be always be given a make over. Follow the above steps and enjoy them in a healthier way.