Fast Food

Fast food gets bashed a lot for being unhealthy and evil. I’m not going to deny the alleged evil side about fast food and the frightening farming practices associated with most food court fare, but I would like to attempt to contest the prior claim. It’s not the nutrition we should be concerned with.

Fast food is very inexpensive and has some large numbers on that nutritional information. According to the official McDonald’s nutritional information found on www.McDonalds.com, a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese (widely considered one of the worst things for you in fast food) contains 750 calories, 42 grams of fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol and 1360 milligrams of sodium. That’s a lot of food! It must be horribly unhealthy for someone, right?

Well, wait, let’s break it down. An average diet for an adult man is 2000 calories a day, and an average diet for an adult woman is 200-500 less than that. That’s the diet for exercising a normal amount (30 minutes, three times a week.) So 750 calories is only 37 percent of your calorie diet for the day. You need those so your brain keeps working and you should eat three meals a day, so 37% is right on calorie wise. You can have a maximum of 65 grams of fat a day on a 2000 calorie diet, so as long as you had a low fat breakfast (most cereals contain one gram of fat in a bowl) you have 22 grams of fat left for dinner.

The cholesterol and sodium are where it gets a bit more dicey. Both end up more than half of what you need in a day. Again, if you had a healthy breakfast this will be fine come dinner time.

I’m not suggesting that eating fast food for every meal “Super Size Me” style is healthy. But fast food isn’t as bad for you as people claim. And don’t forget that price tag. Non-combo meal deals at fast food places run the customer about one to three dollars. That’s a bargain given the nutritional information. Similar nutrition from a store can run you twice that.

Don’t forget about other meals out, either. A rack of ribs starts at 70 grams of fat and over 1,000 calories. Rib-eye steak starts 45 grams of fat and only gets more fatty (and delicious) from there. A grilled chicken caesar salad is 57 grams of fat at Applebees. Fast food actually has less fat than most other meals out.

It’s not the claims about the food being unhealthy that anyone should be yelling at fast food companies over. In fact, by doing so, we are shifting the focus away from the poor ethical practices in regards to fast food that need to be talked about. By talking about nutrition we are doing the companies a favor; they know their food is fine in a balanced diet, so claims of poor nutrition are easy to deflect for them. They would rather talk about those and have us talking about those than the ethical problems they face.

As some of the largest business consumers of agricultural products, companies like McDonald’s have a lot of potential power to change the world for the better. If McDonald’s said that they will only be selling free range meat from this day forth, major farms would have to switch over and abuse of farm animals would just about come to an end. But they don’t say that, because they would lose money.

There is a lot of research suggesting that the USA could live off a free range system of agriculture, despite what big business says, but that there would be an initial drop in profit followed by an equalization as the new system worked out its kinks. That is to say, that if fast food companies switched (and farms would switch with them, of course) then after a period of some months profits would return to normal. No one wants to take the hit to do what is right.

When it comes down to it, fast food isn’t bad for you as a part of a balanced diet; what is bad is the horrifying farming practices of today where animals are nearly piled on top of one another. Give your feedback. All of these companies say they are against factory farming, but (with a few exceptions) they never take the next step. Nothing is going to change unless big business players change, and to do that they need to hear from their customers. I’m not saying to boycott, either. A simple feedback email can change the world if enough people send them.