The Actual Cost of Fast Food
We live in a time of instant gratification. Time is money, and after all, you can typically choose only to save one. Learning the actual cost of the food we consume may determine much more about the fast, easy and healthy options available and be a startling wake-up call that we may be making the wrong decisions about our time, money and health.
Many of us hop into the drive-through then take a stop at the grocery store; for obvious reasons, we’re all in a rush, but what’s the cost of the food we eat, and how will it affect us long term?
Here are a few myths about Fast Food;
Convenience: Fast food is marketed to appeal to these conveniences. However, something that is a time saver now could become costly to your health and your wallet down the road. Who wouldn’t choose an instant meal that requires no cooking or clean-up? Sign me up!
Cheaper: It sure does seem more reasonable, saves you time, in turn saving you money. However, is it cheaper? Think of a single adult eating at fast-food restaurants once a day for a month. Each trip through the drive-through costs this single adult anywhere from $5-$20 depending on where you go and what is ordered. So even at its lowest price, this individual spends ($5/day x 365 days/12 months=) $152 monthly eating just one meal out to eat daily! At most, this could cost as much as ($20/day x 365 days /12 months=) $608/monthly. Now imagine feeding a family of four with fast food. Cha-ching!
Healthier foods are unaffordable: Many foods are cheaper in unprocessed form. For example, bricks of cheese instead of shredded cheese, whole grain instead of oatmeal, or even dry beans instead of pre-cooked or canned. Frequently, these foods come with more servings per package, lasting longer. Generic brands are just as healthy as their brand-name counterparts. These often have the same quality at a lower price. Take advantage of store sales or foods that are in season. Buying those local winter vegetables instead of imported out-of-season veggies can make a big difference. Replacing meat with other proteins at least once a week can help stretch that food budget. Consider subbing out the fish or steak in one or two meals a week for canned fish, hemp seeds, legumes, or eggs.
Economic and Community Impact: The increase in fast food marketing and availability has grossly contributed to our epidemic of obesity and cardiovascular disease in the US. According to a 2018 study from the CDC, obesity affects 19% of children and 42% of adults. This predisposition makes them partially vulnerable to chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. (
https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/costs/index.htm ) Obesity costs the healthcare system up to $147 billion per year in America. A perfect example of how a one billion dollar industry directly feeds another. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19635784/)
Healthy: Many fast food items are targeted as “healthy.” However, how can you know? When you don’t prepare your food, it is hard to know what they contain. Typically made with grease and prepackaged materials, it’s hard to tell if any of that stuff is good for you. It’s been reported by the CDC that annually, 1/3 of all deaths in America are from heart disease and stroke. In many cases, the impact is only seen long term.
The continued consumption of fast food contributes to these odds. (https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/costs/index.htm#ref6 ) The easiest way to make sure you are eating healthy and taking care of your body is to prepare meals yourself and categorize fast food as a “sometimes” treat. It’s even been confirmed that the adverse effects of fast food consumption, especially in women, can later result in insulin resistance. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772793/ ) Therefore, fast food’s effects counteract any future treatment for diseases caused by fast-food consumption. It has been proven that these pre-prepared meals contain more cholesterol, fat, and sodium than recommended for meals. That being said, if you consume fast food daily, your cholesterol, sodium and other levels can be elevated consistently. It is doubtful that the protein and nutrients are also higher than usual. The more fast food you consume, the less good calories and fat you receive, replaced with sodium and fat. Therefore, the issues that you have from fast food consumption today could start to affect your life anytime from right away to years down the road.