As many as 1/3 of American adults eat at pizza or fast food restaurants on a daily basis according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is despite the fact that fast food is low in nutrients and high in calories.
The figures, by extension, explain the rise in cases of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and obesity in the U.S., especially among young people.
The problem has been brewing for some time. Cheryl Fryar, one of the author’s of the study says that as many as 34% of the American youth was eating fast food every day in 2015. Fryar, who works as a health statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics based in Washington, DC, notes that it is not surprising, therefore, that the behavior has spiraled in adults.
Black adults lead the pack when it comes to eating fast food by 42%. White adults follow at 38%, Hispanic adults come in third at 36% and Asian adults at about 31%.
Fryar and her team analyzed data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2013 and 2016. The NHANES survey looked into the participants eating pattern and source of the food they ate in the last twenty-four hours. The research focused on those that described their source of meals as restaurant fast food or pizza.
Other than finding out how often American adults eat fast food, the report also sought to establish a specific trend according to sex and level of income.
Are Fast Good are Poverty Related?
You’re more likely to indulge in fast food if you have a higher income, according to Fryar’s report. Now, that’s contrary to the notion that people who earn less tend to rely on fast food because of its affordability. In fact, the CDC established that the number of adults who eat fast food on a daily basis rose with income. Up to 32% of individuals with the lowest income eat fast every day in comparison to 36% of middle-income earners. The number is even higher (about 42%) for adults who earn more.
Even though the current research doesn’t explain the reason behind these trends, past study offers helpful pointers. A 2017 report published in Economics and Human Biology, for instance, established a direct connection between more working hours, instead of income and higher affinity to eat fast food on a regular basis.
Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian nutritionist, running a private office in Los-Angeles says that’s she’s overheard people say that lack of time is the primary reason they don’t prepare their meals at home. She notes that if a person is making a substantial amount, he or she is likely to work for many hours. In essence, this implies that unless the individual carried a packed lunch to work, he or she might end up in a fast food joint. The CDC researchers found that most American adults prefer fast food for lunch, and at times, dinner. Palmer’s observation makes perfect sense, especially when you consider old people (60 and above) are less likely to eat fast food regularly.
It is worth noting that in as much the CDC was accurate about the reason people turn to fast food, it failed to disclose the specific foods individuals eat when they don’t have the time. Fryar insists that the report only reveals that Americans are eating fast food and doesn’t say whether they’re making a healthy choice or not. The study, however, singles out Panera Bread and McDonald’s as fast foods, despite the perception that one is healthier than the other.
Women Eat More Fast Food Snacks than Men
The CDC report found that even though men are more likely to pop into a fast-food chain, women are more likely to buy a snack. Sure, women may not necessary order for a big fast food meal but will go for lighter options according to Palmer.
Make no mistake about it though – snacking on fast food can harm your health. If you’re taking a break from your schedule to go to a coffee shop for a drink and a bite, you’re essentially taking in more calories. Palmers goes ahead to say that a muffin at Starbucks can pump up to 440 calories into your body.
Palmer recommends that you stick to nuts if you want a healthier snack option. You can consider buying a pre-packed, one-ounce bag or pack them in the bag. That way, you can carry your snack conveniently in your purse, car or office. The idea is to have something to bite everything time you crave for a bite. Plus, if you must drink coffee, you don’t have to pass by the bakery for a cake because you’ll be full already.
Fast Food Isn’t Always the Healthiest Option
Sure, fast food is a mainstay of the American diet, and there’s nothing wrong with. On the flipside, however, it is nor all rosy. Eating fast food comes with its fair share of harmful effects including;
• Poor diet quality – low in nutrients and high in cholesterol and fat
• Type 2 diabetes
• Heart disease
• Pollen fever
• Increases asthma risk
On top of that, the results of an April 2016 study appearing in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives suggest that individuals that ate fast food had 40% more phthalate in comparison to those who ate less. For starters, phthalates are harmful chemicals found in plastics.
Fast food can negatively harm your mood. Yes. A January 2012 study published in the Journal Public Health Nutrition says that there’s a link between eating fast food and a higher risk of depression.
The long and short of it is that you should consider the adverse effects of eating fast food before you make a stop at your favorite joint. You can’t, for instance, find protein in fast food. Therefore, consider eating other food items such as beans, chickpeas, tomato, and lettuce. Don’t forget grains such as brown rice and quinoa for carbohydrates.
How to Eat Healthily While on the Go
It is easy to fall for unhealthy foods if you don’t have a lot of time. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. Here’s what you can do;
Make Good Use of Leftovers – Pack your leftovers and carry them to work. That way, you will reduce food waste and eat healthy at the same time.
Prepare Meals at Home – Be sure to prep food at home whenever you have the time. You can, for example, set Sundays aside to cook whole grain and veggies.
Embrace One-pot Meals – Cooking your meals in one pot not only reduces prepping time but also dish cleaning time. In other words, you don’t have to worry about spending lots of hours in the kitchen. This idea works if you don’t like cooking so much.
Choose Your Foods Wisely When Dining Out – There is no problem in eating out once in a while. However, be careful with your food choice. Eat meals that contain vegetables and other healthy items.
What goes through your mouth determines your overall wellbeing. Make sure that you have a healthy eating plan to avoid food-related ailments. Stay off fast food if possible!