Fighting The Fast Food Fad

An article on the increasing trend towards fast and convenience foods and how we can and must fight this Fast Food Fad. Homemakers can play a major role in fighting this fad by providing their family with healthy, nutritious and tasty home-cooked alternatives.

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This article has been written by a friend, and was accepted for publication in the e-magazine edition of Women's Era. It has been reproduced here with her kind permission. 


When it comes to eating habits, the modern generation loses miserably to its ancestors. The traditional dinner table, where all the members of the family came together for a home cooked spread consisting of a variety of nutritional foods, is a thing of the past. Nowadays, most people eat out, or at their own times and consequently, most people do not pay attention to what and how they should or should not be eating.
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There is an increasing trend in the modern generation towards the consumption of fast foods and aerated drinks. This is the age of couch-potato television, popcorn and soft-drinks at the movies, pizzas and burgers for lunch. Thanks to our fast paced lifestyles and the skills of the advertising industry, the already popular food processing industry has got its claws wrapped around not only youngsters, but the older generation as well. With the accelerating pace of modern lifestyle, most people have no time to analyze what they eat and have easily fallen prey to this rapidly growing industry.

In today’s busy world, where men and women are always short of time, Fast foods have come as a blessing to most families. Fast foods serve as a useful standby in households where both partners work late. They are a convenient and time-saving alternative to cooking at home - and more importantly, it saves on washing up! Thus, in today’s fast paced life, this form of cuisine is rather popular with most people. 

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Mrs. Silveira*, a working mother, often finds herself with no time to pack her 10 year old’s lunchbox before the family leaves home in the wee hours of the morning. The simplest solution is to pick up a burger and a packet of fruit juice from the nearest store. She usually has to throw in a packet of potato wafers or some candy, upon her daughter’s insistence. This option works best for her since it saves on time and assures her that the lunchbox will come home empty!

Besides the convenience that these foods provide and the fact that they can be consumed rather quickly, such foods also serve as a tasty treat for most children and youngsters, who are guided more by their taste buds and the current fads of society rather than by the nutritive and caloric value of the foods they consume. Anita*, a college student, refuses to take her mother’s packed lunch to college, as she prefers to eat out with the rest of her friends at their usual favourite hangout. 

Many convenience foods are specially targeted at children. Food companies have, by various sales promotion tactics, attracted children towards the consumption of fast foods. Be it the cleverly crafted ads or the free gifts and prizes offered to draw a child’s attention, the food industry has done it all to cause a temptation in children to be consumers of their products. 

Most marketers have come to focus their attention on kids as consumers, essentially due to the pestering power that kids are famous for! It is a known fact that the modern generation of children know exactly what they want and how to get it, and this fact has been intelligently made use of by most marketers in their sales promotion and advertising strategies. It is then no wonder that names like Mac Donald’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s and KFC are so popular with so many of our children. Mr. and Mrs. Timble* frequently treat the family to a meal at their favourite joint. Their 6 year old’s choice - always fulfilled upon demand - is the Mac Donald’s ‘Happy Meal’, more for the toys that come free with it, rather than the meal itself!

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Children and teens nowadays are eating more meals outside the home since they are provided with adequate pocket money and the freedom to choose what they eat. Often these choices, which usually include pizzas, pastries, burgers and fries, cakes and soft-drinks, are foods which are packed with fats, sugars and sodium but low in nutrients; thus posing a health threat to our youngsters who seldom analyze the quality and nutritive value of the foods they consume. They are more driven by the current trends and their peers to succumb to the tantalizing variety of foods made available in the market by several fast food companies.

Despite their popularity with the masses, these bad guys of the food industry have come to be referred to as Junk foods, due to their nutritional deficiencies and several negative aspects. Fried fast foods, besides being full of artery-clogging fats, can lead to acidity and indigestion. In addition, theses foods are deficient in fiber, thus leading to constipation and irregular bowel habits. The trouble with most fast foods is that they are high in fat, salt or sugar or all three and they do not serve as a balanced meal. These foods are unhealthy if consumed as a single entire meal. A diet which consists of only fast foods is likely to be defiant in vital nutrients but high in calories, fats and sodium; thus increasing the incidence of several metabolic disorders, heart diseases and obesity.

It cannot be denied that with the advances in technology, the quality and range of convenience foods that flood the market has increased drastically. Vacuum packed meals, precooked meals, soup mixes, dessert mixes, frozen and ready to cook foods are a few examples of the time saving foods that people have come to rely upon and indulge in. However, the fact that most people tend to ignore, is that although these foods are convenient alternatives to home cooking, the price to be paid for this convenience is often too high. Besides being high priced, such foods rarely measure up nutritionally to traditional home cooked meals. In addition, they are often likely to be a source of food poisoning caused by pathogenic organisms, like Salmonella and Staph. aureus, despite the improvements in the food processing industry. Food poisoning is a more important concern in foods like chaats, bhels, samosas and other roadside foods which are prepared under unhygienic conditions.

What is interesting to note, is the increasing popularity of such foods despite the awareness of the potential hazards that these foods could cause. The rapid growth of the fast food industry, evident by the numerous fast food joints springing up all over, is inevitable, considering that most people opt for convenient and time saving alternatives to cooking at home in spite of the relatively higher costs involved. Add to this the convenience of home delivery, the free gifts, prizes and several other attractive offers made by these companies, and it is not surprising that convenience foods and takeout is so popular in most households.

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It is evident that the Fast food industry is here to stay. We have to accept that convenience foods, eating out, snacking and high-carb foods have become a part of life for the modern generation. Rather than just condemning such foods, it is up to us consumers to use it wisely. Instead of living exclusively on convenient alternatives, it would be prudent to balance them with other nutritious foods. When choosing a meal outside, it is advisable to make healthy choices. For example, one could avoid options containing cheese or mayonnaise, which are rather high in calories and it is advisable to eat smaller portions. In addition, aerated drinks are best substituted by fresh fruit juices. 

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Schools can play a significant role in curbing the fast food fad by educating children on health and nutrition. Schools themselves should stop the sale of fast foods in their canteens and provide nutritional foods. It would also be advisable to reach out to parents as well, by having a dietician explain the importance of a proper diet and offer practical advice on curbing the menace. Busy parents should plan ahead to avoid resorting to junk food and impulse buying at the last minute. When packing children’s lunchboxes it would be wise to pack nutritious foods. It would be best to avoid sugary or fried foods like sweets, chocolates and wafers. There are numerous cookbooks and websites which offer help and advice to busy parents on fast and healthy cooking, which could be helpful to many working mothers.

We cannot change the industry, but we can change ourselves. The future is in our hands and in the choices that we make. By making the right choices today we can cease to be slaves to an industry that is silently leading us to a future that is rather bleak. Let us all make a silent resolution to fight the Fast Food Fad… starting TODAY!!

So, what do you do to stay away or keep your family away from this fast food fad? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. 

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