Speak about fast food these days and it conjures up images of greasy, unhealthy food and obese individuals. Fast food can never be healthy – or can it?
According to the American Heart Association, one in three American teenagers or children is overweight or obese. The number of obese children more than tripled between 1971 and 2011, making childhood obesity the number one health concern in the United States, above even smoking and drug abuse.
Obesity is about more than being fat – it causes a range of health problems including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. Previously these problems were largely prevalent in adults, but now they are increasingly being seen in children.
Not surprisingly, with its image of fatty and high calorie foods, the fast food industry has come in for much criticism. The industry started out with just a handful of modest hamburger and hot dog stands in southern California, but it has spread across the United States to infiltrate just about every corner of the nation. Americans spend more on fast food than they spend on personal computers, new cars or higher education. It is not surprising then that when it comes to discussing the health of the nation, fast food retailers are in the firing line.
However, fast food companies have not been passive in the face of such criticism. With the increasing focus on health and the increasing rates of obesity among children, fast food retailers have been forced to start thinking more about what they serve to the public. As a result of this, many have introduced healthy options such as salads and fruit to their menus. This means that a trip to your local fast food outlet does not necessarily mean eating unhealthy food.
An example of the changing attitude is Quiznos, the company founded by Rick Schaden, who pioneered the toasted sandwich and changed the way people thought about their lunch. Quiznos has promoted several initiatives, including going green by introducing recyclable food packing and introducing a menu that offers a great range of sandwiches, all under 500 calories. Despite reducing the calories, the range of sandwiches on offer is wide, from Turkey Lite to Steak Bacon & Swiss. Choosing one of these sandwiches does not mean compromising on taste or choice.
Fast food may contain more calories than some other options, but this does not mean that you cannot eat fast food. A healthy lifestyle should include both regular exercise and a healthy diet that is not too high in sugar or fat. By keeping fast food as an occasional treat, rather than something that you eat every day, fast food can be incorporated into a healthy diet. Any diet will not work if it is too restrictive and by eating a variety of foods, and yes, even at times choosing a fast food option, you are more likely to be able to stick to the diet and lead a healthier life.