A fast food nation

Food isn't the way it used to be in the past. Fast food advertising and the amount of fast food being consumed has increased. The ease, taste, and low price of fast food is a benefit for consumers which drives them to want to eat fast food over home-cooked meals after a long day. More fast food chains are opening up as the years go by, and the food is only increasing in size, becoming cheaper, and greatly advertised to appeal to the American market which is already dealing with obesity that could be coming from the consumption of fast food. Another important factor to consider with fast food is that it doesn't encourage the importance of a family meal, which could negatively impact the social habits of a family. The health, eating habits and social habits of Americans are being affected negatively by fast-food consumption.

Technology and the media has become the gateway of advertising fast food, especially to the younger population. "Young children are particularly vulnerable to media messages, as this is the age at which they learn eating habits that will stay with them for life. The key, he says, is to send your own messages about smart eating by making healthy choices and adopting good habits."(Ludwig) However, families are becoming busier and less concerned about what their children are eating, and because these children are accepting the messages that fast food is good food, they are consuming more of it. Although media and children aren't only to blame for the unhealthy eating habits that stem from fast food, parents can also control what children eat. Instead, they give in and buy unhealthy snacks for their children. Competition is big among children as they're struggling to fit in and identify with their peers, and they all want to be better than the others and have the coolest and most appealing items, even down to what they eat. Advertising towards younger children has to change as most of the advertisements towards younger children have to do with fast food, sodas, candy, and sugared cereals.

Are there any health benefits to fast food? Fast food is full of good-tasting ingredients that keep you coming back for more, but with more fast food comes more health issues. Fast food has many calories which come from fats and refined sugars, as well as high salt content coming from "common salt and other additives." (Fast Food Effects On Health) Fast food is also depleted of essential fiber, minerals and vitamins and is often served with drinks that are rich in sugar like sodas and fruit drinks. Everything amounts to nothing, only adding up to empty calories in the body which, in turn, become stored as fat. Eventually, the pounds keep coming on and it becomes harder to lose the weight, especially when one isn't physically active.

Some of the health problems associated with fast food consumption are diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease and many types of cancers, as well as the prevalence of ADHD in children. "Recent scientific studies have shown that high-calorie foods rich in fats, refined sugar and salt could reconfigure the hormones in the body in such a way that they make you crave for such foods and always leave you asking for more." (Fast Food Effects on Health) This could affect a person's health negatively by causing them to become overweight overtime. Obesity from fast food can be contributed to the high amount of saturated and trans fats which increases bad cholesterol, especially because of the food being consumed/served in large portions. Also, diabetes could be caused by the high sugar content in the sodas, sauces, deserts, and flavorings of fast food. Diabetes isn't something that should be risked over fast food; it's a lifelong health issue that requires a lot of effort on oneself, and should be considered before consuming large amounts of fast food throughout one's life.

A big risk associated with eating fast food is the presence of cancer-causing (carcinogenic) chemicals found in grilled chicken called heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which can be found in grilled meats. McDonald's, Burger King, Outback, Chick-fil-A, Applebee's, Chili's and TGI Friday's are all being sued after lab tests that revealed the carcinogen in grilled chicken products. E. Coli can also be present in the high-fat burgers served at many of these restaurants. "In 1993, E. coli was found in under-cooked burgers at Jack in the Box restaurants, leaving 700 diners sick. Four customers died and 195 others were hospitalized. In 2000, a 3-year-old girl from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, died in a similar outbreak that sickened more than 50 patrons at Sizzler restaurants." (Fanning) E. Coli can cause "lethal food poisoning" (Fanning) that comes from eating beef that isn't fully cooked. Now how appetizing does fast food sound?

Family meal time is important for a positive family relationship. It allows families to come together after a long day and express themselves to one another. It's more important during the teenage years to have family meal time.

Studies show that the more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide, and the more likely they are to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words and know which fork to use. "If it were just about food, we would squirt it into their mouths with a tube," says Robin Fox, an anthropologist who teaches at Rutgers University in New Jersey, about the mysterious way that family dinner engraves our souls. "A meal is about civilizing children. It's about teaching them to be a member of their culture." (Gibbs)

Family meals also teach "mannerism" that is important for everyday life, and according to a study done by the Harved Ed. School, has a correlation with where kids learn new words in which they found that "the kids learned seven times more words at family dinner time than they did when their parents were reading to them at night. So, they were tracking 2,000 words and kids learned 143 being read to at night and they learned over 1,000 at family dinner time." (Carter) Family dinner doesn't come easy though; the less a family eats together, the experience is only going to be worse, as conversation will be limited and food choices won't necessarily be the healthiest. Fast food that isn't meant to be eaten around a family table, but more so food that is meant to be eaten on the go or while doing other activities such as watching TV. Although there are tables in some fast food restaurants, the family is probably sitting among a crowd of other people within the restaurant which could be a distraction to any type of effort at a family dinner.

Although there aren't many benefits behind the consumption of fast food, it can be beneficial in some ways. The biggest advantage of fast food is that it saves time for busy people who don't have time to cook home cooked meals. Cooking can be a tedious process because it involves buying the ingredients for the meal, and then having to prepare the meal and clean up the mess afterward. These restaurants offer big enough portion sizes (if not more), to fill a person up decently like a home cooked meal would, and it's as simple as opening up the wrapper and tossing it out. Also, fast food is easy on the pocket for times when money is tight, but more so for a single individual every once in a while, and not frequent trips to a fast food place. Many of the options at a fast food restaurant are unhealthy, but if a person looks beyond the crunchy fries, juicy burgers, and soft drinks, then that person can choose the healthier options and still enjoy fast food. Some of these options include salads, lean meat, broiled food, fruit juices and milk.

So what are some solutions to the problem with fast food. The logical thing to do would be to ban fast food advertising, as it would take away some of the unnecessary attention from unhealthy foods. The younger age group seems to be the target of the advertisements due to the content expressed in them, such as the "Happy Meal", which could be one of the causes of the rising obesity problem in younger children. A study was conducted which showed that banning fast-food advertisements during children's programming would be beneficial is lowering the number of overweight children ages 3-11 by 18%, while lowering the number of overweight adolescents ages 12-18 by 14 percent. They found that this affected males more than females. This information was researched by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) with funding from the National Institutes of Health. Although the percentages aren't very high, any amount of change counts when trying to encourage healthier eating habits in Americans. A ban on fast food commercials could be beneficial, but it is highly unlikely that the government would get involved on banning the commercial sponsorship of children's programs in the United States. "The average child watches 10,000 TV commercials a year, the majority of which are for poor-quality, low-nutrition foods." (Lugwig) That is nothing to be proud of, and something that shouldn't be looked upon when it comes to the health of our children.

Another possible solution to the fast food problem is to introduce other choices such as, "family style eating, open seating, some level of table service, menus so customers can order based on their dietary needs , their tastes/desires" (Perry), as well as introducing more grocery stores with healthier options in areas of need. Teaching children to make healthier food choices, both in the home and at school could also help with the problem of obesity and fast food consumption. Banning fast food and sweetened drinks in schools would be a positive change that can encourage healthy eating in children. Fast food isn't the death of us, but our society could begin to take steps in the right direction to be healthier, for the sake of themselves and their children.

The consumption of fast food is a growing problem in America in numerous ways. It has a negative effect on our health, social habits, and eating habits. The obesity problem in American within children and adults is only growing, partly because of all the fast food chains we have today, and the new ones that are being introduced as the years go by. Families are becoming busier, and with fast food you don't have to think about cooking, but with home cooked meals, you do. However, home cooked meals are beneficial to being healthy and encouraging good eating habits as well as family meal time which is an advantage over fast food that should be happening more often for better social habits among families. This problem can be overcome if people put more effort into opting for healthier choices for their children and themselves.

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