Fast Food in the Diet: Implications and Solutions for Families

Introduction

It is hard to disagree that a major part of people’s everyday life is dedicated to food. Most people worldwide perceive good and tasty dishes as a reward for their hard week or an expression of love for their close ones. However, just as many people love delicious food, most Americans do not want to waste time preparing it. That is one reason why in the U.S., fast food is omnipresent. In her article called “Fast Food in the Diet: Implications and Solutions for Families,” Jayne Fulkerson discusses the causes of Americans choosing prepackaged food, the consequences of avoiding healthful eating, and the possible solutions. Thus, though this industry has a significant influence on adolescents and adults because it offers available, convenient, and tasty meals at a low price, this reliance has to be addressed by increasing access to healthful products and reducing the availability of fast food.

Americans and Fast Food

The obsession with prepackaged foods among the United States residents of all ages is growing every year. The problem is aggravated by the fact that adults typically do not want to change this convenient but bad habit and, consciously or unconsciously, instill it in children and adolescents. Several important factors drive the rise in popularity of fast food, and a number of reasons exacerbate the need to address this problem as soon as possible.

The Reasons for Americans to Rely on Prepackaged Food

To begin with, fast food is easily available across the country, which is a major contribution to the issue. According to Fulkerson, “over the last couple of generations, our society has changed and incorporated fast food into our daily lives,” making it accessible twenty-four hours a day (252). Resisting high-sugar and high-fat snacks become more challenging if one sees them in every grocery store, supermarket, and even gas station. Moreover, many Americans are forced to live a fast-paced life and only have time to buy convenient food at the nearest corner store and eat it on their way to work.

Another reason lies in people’s inability or unwillingness to cook meals themselves. According to Fulkerson, factors contributing to this reason may vary. First, some people are not experienced in preparing food and may be ashamed of not having professional skills. Avoiding this by buying prepackaged meals helps such people maintain their self-esteem (Fulkerson). Next, some Americans, especially those who work a lot, perceive cooking as a waste of time. Thus, they do not want to spend hours preparing dinners every day when they can get meals from a local supermarket and be with their children instead.

Finally, other contributing reasons are marketing strategy and prevalence of cafes and restaurants. Fulkerson notices that “there are over 200,000 fast food restaurants in the U.S.,” which is an abundance one finds difficult to resist (253). Such cafes spend extended amounts of money on making people buy their food; only in 2008, “$1.7 billion was spent marketing unhealthy foods,” while much smaller amounts of money go to health food advertising (253). It is no wonder most Americans prefer eating fast food instead of home cooked meals.

Problems with Preferring Fast Food

It is hard to disagree that specific problems arise from Americans’ choice of fast food. To begin with, Fulkerson suggests that in the U.S., large sizes of portions have become typical. Parents do not teach their children “how to identify appropriate amounts of food and the types of foods that will help them grow in a healthy way,” which may lead to misperception of meals, overeating, and various eating disorders (253). Thus, this is a significant problem that worsens over time.

Following this factor, it is essential to discuss the adverse influence of excess consumption of fast food on diet and health. The author mentions that “studies of adolescents have shown that greater consumption of fast food (once per week versus less) is associated with significantly higher percent body fat for both adolescents and adults” (253). Overeating fast or prepackaged food noticeably increases the odds of becoming obese or overweight and having a higher body mass index (BMI) (Fulkerson 253). This, in turn, may lead to the development of gestational diabetes or other severe medical conditions.

Reasons to Solve the Problem

Considering the issues mentioned above, it is possible to determine the reasons to decrease Americans’ consumption of fast food as soon as possible. In case people start eating less prepackaged and convenient meals, it will be more likely for the percentage of obesity or eating disorders among adolescents in the country to decrease. After that, it should be easier to advertise healthy foods and increase people’s awareness of healthy eating habits.

Possible Solutions

Since there is a problem with Americans’ excess consumption of fast food, there should be appropriate and practical solutions. The article’s author offers and discusses some of them, though there are more things that may be done to address the problem. Nevertheless, even if the methods are efficient and promising, they will not have any positive effect in case people themselves are not ready to change their eating habits.

Solutions Offered by the Article’s Author

As mentioned in the introduction, there are two major solutions proposed by the researcher. When discussing problems with prepackaged and convenient meals, Fulkerson insists on “reducing access to these unhealthful foods and increasing access to healthful foods” (254). According to the author, “SSB taxes may be the most impactful on obesity prevalence” (Fulkerson 254). Simultaneously, fast food TV advertising oriented to children should be banned so that fewer adolescents are influenced by marketing strategies.

For those people who are aware of calories’ importance, menu labeling in fast-food restaurants may also help either eat less or choose other, healthier options. Further, according to the author, specific interventions and programs that teach cooking skills to families are likely to increase the number of parents preparing food themselves. Finally, Fulkerson states that “specifically for families, easy access to healthful and affordable foods can be accomplished by using farmers markets and gardens and promotion programs already exist” (254). These interventions prove that solving the fast-food consumption problem is possible and may be achieved soon.

Other Ways to Improve the Situation

Despite the fact that the interventions offered by the author seem to be effective, there are other possible solutions to the problem. First of all, there is a positive example of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act introduced by former first lady Michelle Obama. It was a rather useful and beneficial intervention making schools mostly serve healthy food, including whole grains, dairy and protein products, vegetables, and fruits. Thus, another similar national program should be quite helpful in promoting healthy habits among students, who, in turn, may bring them home and positively influence their parents.

What is more, there should be another compulsory lesson at schools where students will be taught about healthy dieting and eating. Children and adolescents need to learn that cooking may be fun and does not necessarily take too much time or require expensive ingredients. All students should be taught how to prepare basic and nutritious meals, as well as learn about the importance of the balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. This knowledge gained in primary school and consolidated in high school is likely to have a positive effect on students’ future eating habits.

Another possible solution is again to increase people’s awareness of the harmfulness of fast food and packaged products. A way to achieve this is to provide all such foods with information about their possible adverse impacts on one’s organism. Similar to cigarette packs having terrible pictures of their negative health effects, fast food should inform people of likely implications of excess consumption of such meals. What is more, if a pizza box, for example, says how many apples or salad one can eat instead of a slice, people will probably start thinking about changing their eating habits.

Conclusion

To draw a conclusion, one may say that even though significant efforts are required to decrease Americans’ excess consumption of fast food, it is an entirely achievable purpose. All the mentioned reasons for people to prefer prepackaged food, namely, easy access, inability to cook themselves, lack of time, and marketing strategy, may be addressed by specific interventions. Generally, they are focused on increasing access to healthful products, reducing the availability of fast food, and making people aware of the implications of excess consumption. These solutions may help reduce overeating, obesity, and other health problems among Americans of all ages.

Reference

Fulkerson, Jayne A. “Fast Food in the Diet: Implications and Solutions for Families.” Physiology & Behavior, vol. 193, 2018, pp. 252–256.

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