Seldom today can one go anywhere without being bombarded by food advertisements. Whether it’s a high-rise billboard or a ten second radio commercial, food has worked its way into the everyday lives of Americans. Food has become more then a mere staple of life; instead it has found itself as a source of comfort, a cure for boredom, or an object to be consumed for no other reason then the sake of consuming it. In today’s busy society, fast food is convenient, and the convenience alone is enough to generate sales. America has recently found itself in the middle of what can be described as nothing other then a health craze, and the fast food industry has done much on its part to keep up.
Almost every fast food restaurant now offers some version of healthy food, whether it’s a salad, veggie burger, or fruit parfait. Subway boasts its “seven subs with 6 grams or less” of fat. Wendy’s now offers salads to fit all types of personalities and tastes, and Arby’s has its large Market Fresh sandwiches. McDonalds has no doubt gone the farthest with the healthy food trend, offering an “adult happy meal,” which consists of a salad, fruit parfait, and pedometer to keep track of the amount of steps taken in a day.
But much skepticism follows this sudden “healthy” fast food binge, and one is left to wonder if all this is just to good to be true. Why, almost out of nowhere, do restaurants start serving up this nutritious and life giving food? What exactly prevented them from serving these items years ago? Maybe fast food presidents have developed a conscious and are no longer able to sleep at night knowing somewhere a person is withering in turmoil as their gallbladder is ripped apart from the inside out by acidic, artificial, artery clogging food. Or perhaps it is because the fast food industry has seen a terrifying drop in sales. McDonalds reported its first drop in sales in 2002; a drop of eleven percent from the previous year. [CBS Market Watch, 2002] For the king of all fast food to report its first loss in profit ever must have been a horrific awakening for all other fast food `industries. Health is no doubt the last thing on the mind of the fast food franchises; if it were, healthier food would have been sold well before profits began to drop.
The healthy items fast food restaurants now serve may to the naked, untrained eye appear completely natural and healthy, and in a very limited case, some items are. A salad from Wendy’s, no matter what the kind, is healthy. That is, it is healthy until they give you the chili to pour on top of it, corn chips to smoosh into it, the sour cream to dowse it in, and the Sprite to wash it all down with.
McDonalds has now devoted an entire section of their website solely to health and fitness. They boast healthy food items on their menu that are good for you and can be part of every balanced diet. There top healthy choices are the Fruit and Yogurt Parfait, the Chicken McGrill, and their array of many different salads. On the McDonalds website, the ingredients listed for a Chicken McGrill are “Grilled Chicken Breast Filet, Sesame Seed Bun, Lettuce, Tomato Slice, Mayonnaise.” The ingredients sound harmless enough. Unfortunately, upon further inspection, however, this “healthy” sandwich is no better for the body then anything else on the menu. The sesame seed bun contains, among other things, enriched bleached flour, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, mono- and diglycerides, diacetyl tartaric acid esters of fatty acids, ethanol, and sorbitol. [McDonalds.com, 2005] Anyone with a dictionary could quickly deduce that these ingredients are merely a “heart attack on a bun”, or in this case, in a bun.
Burger King has taken steps similar to McDonalds, and they also now have a section of their website devoted solely to nutrition. The opening line on their nutrition page, in bold writing, states “Establishing a healthy, balanced diet is much easier if you have the right tools at your disposal.” Does Burger King honestly think they have the right tools to establish a balanced and healthy diet? Ha! One “healthy” meal from Burger King consisting of a Tender Crisp Salad with Caesar dressing, a fish sandwich, and a box of orange juice has over 1180 calories. [ bk.com, 2005] For the average working person, this is over half of their daily recommended intake value.
Apparently, to honestly eat healthy in a fast food restaurant, you must order a salad sprinkled with various veggies and no dressing-the dressing at fast food restaurants are fat and preservative packed-and a bottle of water. Nothing else. The problem with this is that humans are not rabbits; man cannot live on grass alone. We need fiber, protein, and good, complex carbohydrates to live, and we need this without a massive amount of calories, fat, sugar, and salt. It is impossible to receive this nutrition from a fast food restaurant without overdosing on something that will flop you into an early, over-sized grave. The truth about “healthy” fast food must be brought to light before Americans eat themselves right into a fat induced penguin waddle, and we all end up looking like the Pillsbury Dough boy.
Fast food is a lot of things. It is convenient, it is affordable, and it is poorly made. What it is not is healthy. Americans need to realize that just because something says it is healthy does not necessarily make it so, and that many things are health only when used in moderation, food included. Fast food, as of today, is not healthy. It is still the same artery clogging slug it was last decade, only now, it has a prettier face.