Opinion: Fast food slows down Americans

General Opinion Graphic

Genesis Hansen, Columnist

Cooking culture is dying, garden goodies are here to help.

Nowadays, food has become a cheap, quick and a common way for Americans to fill their tummies. Processed and fast foods have become a staple of the American diet, and we’ve forgotten the value of a home cooked meal. This style of eating is destroying our bodies, culture and bank accounts.

“More than one third of the adult population in America is obese and frequent fast-food consumption is shown to contribute to weight gain,” according to the Center for Disease Control.

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How did we get here, who is involved, and what can we do to fix it?

Restaurants have been a product of civilization since the Greek and Roman times, but were usually established to feed travelers. In 1921, White Castle became America’s first fast food joint and was established in Wichita, Kan. 

McDonald’s followed suit in 1948, while restaurants like Burger King, Taco Bell and Wendy’s got their hold in the 1950s and ‘60s. 

Quick eats businesses grew quickly in America. According to Statista, a statistics hub, the fast food industry in the U.S. has grown to be worth approximately $198.9 billion, and by 2020, this figure is forecasted to

exceed $223 billion. 

Understandably, people in food deserts and on food stamps have a different role in the industry, but one would assume that the inexpensive nature of low cost cuisine would cultivate a consumer market in the lower class, when this just isn’t true.

“Among the highest 10th of earners, about 75 percent reported eating fast food at least once in the period, compared with 81 percent for the poorest,” CNN’s Jay L. Zagorsky said. “Earners in the middle were the biggest fans of fast food, at about 85 percent.”

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey from 2007-2010, adults ranging from 20 to 39 years of age and of varying income capacities consume the largest portion of their calories from fast food. 

Contrary to popular belief, it actually becomes more expensive to continually eat processed food compared to whole foods or home cooked meals. 

“One meal at McDonald’s for a family of four can cost up to $28.00. While a home-cooked meal of whole roasted chicken with veggies, salad and milk for a family of four costs about $14.00, meals of pinto beans and rice will cost about $9.00,” according to Foods For Better Health. 

The fast food market isn’t just financially draining, but it contributes to poor

health as well.

Dr. Nancy Lach is a chiropractic physician who is passionate about healing through nutrition and  owns and operates the Nutritional Healing Center in Corvallis. 

For the past 12 years her holistic approach in nutrition response testing has focused on designing custom nutrition programs for her patients to help address issues such as thyroid problems, heart disease, muscle fatigue and more.

Lach’s work has shown how well the body heals when fruits and vegetables are integrated into one’s eating habits. 

“Food really needs to be our medicine,” Lach said.

According to Dr. Lach, the health issues we face today didn’t exist in the 1920s-40s before the rise of processed foods. People have come to believe that their ailments are normal and require medication or surgery.

“True health is taking responsibility for what you’re putting in your body,” Lach said.

Fast or processed foods are full of unhealthy fats, chemicals and other ingredients which are associated with health conditions that are serious and costly.

Angela Willson is a sophomore studying nutrition and dietetics at Oregon State University. Initially interested in nutrition during cross country in high school, Willson loves learning about the field, as well as how nutrients are used in the body and what kind of processes get them there.

“I feel like what has been hammered into my brain in the classes I’m taking is just eat things that come from the earth, instead of processed foods where you don’t know what happened to it,” Willson said.

Rice, beans and veggies can go a long way. Lach suggests utilizing potatoes as a form of sustenance because they are rich in vitamins, versatile, cheap and filling. Take some time to plan your meals, stick to your grocery list and take food from home on the go with you.

Be on the lookout for University Housing & Dining Service’s Chef Classes, which teach people basic cooking skills, tips and advice on nutrition and health, food safety and how to make meal prep easy and inexpensive, Willson said. It’s $10 to sign up, but if you show up you get reimbursed. After each class students receive a free starter kit of ingredients for some of the dishes made. 

“When you’re eating something like fast food, you’re giving your body the calories without the nutrients, so in a way you’re kind of starving yourself. It’s displacing the calories you could be getting from something nutrient-dense,” Willson said.

While fast food may be convenient, it doesn’t do what food should. Being conscious of what you eat will give you energy to do more, improve your health and in the long run, you’ll get a better bang for your buck. Healthful eating is easy, cheap and tasty.