Because of how busy the modern lifestyle happens to be in the developed world, many families find themselves taking a trip to their favorite fast food restaurant more often than they would care to admit. According to information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 45% of a family’s food budget goes toward eating out somewhere. In 1977, that rate was at just 38%. That means the average household is spending upwards of $6,000 per year just to eat outside of the home.
Although the occasional evening of fast food products will not adversely impact your health, having a habit where you eat burgers and fries constantly can be problematic in a very short period. People who eat fast food products regularly often suffer from headaches, experience dental distress, carry extra weight, and have high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
There are also issues of insulin resistance, blood sugar spikes, and high salt intake that can become problematic when embracing the offerings of the fast food industry. That’s not to say that every product offered by a restaurant is bad for you. It just means that the individuals who tend to eat items made by this industry consume about 190 calories more than those who do not.
There are several advantages and disadvantages of fast food to consider if you need to have a quick meal. These are the key points to consider.
List of the Advantages of Fast Food
1. Fast food gives you the option to eat something instead of skipping a meal.
Although intermittent fasting has become a popular way to manage a person’s weight in recent years, skipping meals is rarely a good idea unless you have a specific purpose in doing so. According to NHS UK, the best way to lose weight and then keep it off is to reduce the number of calories you consume while increasing the number that you burn through exercise. Skipping a meal can cause fatigue, end it may mean that you lose some essential nutrients.
Choosing a healthy fast food meal that includes no fried foods, fruits, and vegetables can help you to gain what you need to finish your day without snacking on high-sugar or high-fat foods to satisfy your cravings in the future.
2. Eating fast food items helps you to manage a schedule more effectively.
The average family in the United States is spending about two hours in the evening managing their afterschool activities. That means there could be very little time to cook at home. Because the fast food industry is available in almost every community, you have the option to manage your schedule without going hungry in the process. Choosing a meal like this takes 50% less time than it would if you were to try to make lunch or dinner at home. It may not seem like much, but 15-30 extra minutes in a tight schedule can be quite valuable.
3. Fast food products make it easier to reduce hunger problems in the community.
Fast food items are one of the most affordable food products that you can find in the world today when you compare its cost to the number of calories that you receive. Although you wouldn’t want to eat three fast food meals every day, having a couple of bucks can get you enough food in one meal that your body can use to produce energy. Most fast food restaurants average about 300 calories for every $1 spent in the U.S. on food items.
That rate is four times higher than what you would find with healthy grab-and-go items at the grocery store. If you were to stick to organic and fresh produce for your calories, then it could be ten times higher in price when compared to fast food. For a family living paycheck to paycheck, eating out really could be the cheapest option.
4. You can have an expectation of excellent service with every order.
When you choose to eat at a fast food restaurant, then you have an expectation of familiarity with the products that are on the menu. Although there are some regional and international variations that you will find with global chains like McDonald’s, you can also expect to find specific items on the menu at every location. That means you know what your food should look like when served, how it will taste, and what your expenses will be.
Fast food restaurants often work with the same vendors across their entire chain of restaurants, including franchises, so that you are essentially eating the same item. That means it can be easier to manage food allergies, expenses, and hunger expectations.
5. The fast food industry provides you with the nutritional information of each item.
One of the most significant complaints about the fast food industry is that the menu items they serve are high in calories. Although there is some truth to this issue, most restaurants offer a clear calorie count on their foods so that you can make a smart decision about what you choose to eat. The entire catalog of nutritional information is available to you upon request as well. Most providers also publish this data online for you to review at any time.
That means you have access to all of the information needed to make a good choice about what you choose to order from the fast food industry.
6. There are more healthy choices at fast food restaurants today than ever before.
You don’t need to go on a calorie binge if you decide that a fast food meal is your best choice today. There are several restaurants which provide you with healthy options on the menu so that you can meet your health and wellness expectations. Good Housekeeping reviewed all menu items from 2018 to list the best 31 items that you can order from American restaurants, with these choices as their top options.
- The Chicken Cool Wrap from Chick-Fil-A contains 360 calories and 13g of fat, giving you lettuce, red cabbage, carrots, chicken, and cheese in a flaxseed flour flatbread.
- Papa John’s offers a Mediterranean veggie pizza that comes in at 180 calories and 7g of fat per slice, featuring black olives, onions, mushrooms, and banana peppers.
- Denny’s provides a loaded veggie omelet if you want more of a sit-down experience, giving you 490 calories for breakfast with 14g of fat with an English muffin and fruit.
- Burger King’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich without mayonnaise gives you 360 calories, 7g of fat, and 26g of protein without breaking the bank.
7. You can order a complete meal with smart choices for less than $10 each.
The problem with fast food ordering is that many people tend to go with the cheapest or easiest option because of the demands of their schedule. If you take the time to plan your order in advance, then you can make smart choices that are still very affordable, including premium or custom food items. Remember to order sandwiches without mayo and take away the processed cheese for the best benefits here.
If you decide to order from the value menu, then it is possible to come away with a sandwich, a side, and a beverage for under $5.
8. The fast food industry provides a significant economic boost to most communities.
The BBC asks an important question: how could a fast food chain ever make money from a burger that costs $1? When you start looking at the scale of sales for the industry, especially in the United States, then you will see a lot of foot traffic contributing to plenty of service options. If customers buy lots of discounted items, then the sales of add-ons creates a profit margin that wouldn’t be there otherwise.
This advantage can sometimes backfire, as it did for Burger King in 2009. Franchisees sued the company because of a required promotion that forced the independently-owned companies to sell a double cheeseburger for $1 even though it cost $1.10 to make – but the courts ruled in favor of Burger King because of the verbiage in the franchising agreement.
9. It is an affordable way to experience new or different food choices.
When Americans start thinking about fast food options, then they are typically looking at burgers, sandwiches, and fries. Different cultures have a unique perspective on what a quick meal should be. You’ll find noodle dishes, soups, grilled pork, and plenty of other food options to consider if you explore the various quick-service restaurant options in each community. You will find Chinese, Mexican, and Italian items are routinely available at the same speed that a burger joint offers.
List of the Disadvantages of Fast Food
1. Fast food can have an adverse impact on the cardiovascular and digestive systems.
Most fast food products, which include the sides and drinks that you order with the main meal, are usually laden with carbohydrates and have very little, if any, fiber. When the digestive system breaks down these foods, then the carbs release as glucose into the bloodstream. This process creates a higher sugar level, which then causes the body to release more insulin.
Insulin is responsible for transporting sugars throughout your body to the cells that need it for energy. When your body uses or stores the glucose, then your blood sugar levels return to normal. Eating fast food products will create spikes of sugar intake that can create problems with the insulin response, increasing your risk of diabetes, weight gain, and insulin resistance.
2. You will eat more calories when consuming fast food frequently.
Most fast food meals contain high levels of added sugar. Not only does this mean that you will consume extra calories with your meal, but it also means once you’re eating will contain less nutrition. The American Heart Association recommends that all people should have 150 calories or less of added sugar per day, which equates to about 9 teaspoons. If you were to consume a fast food beverage, then you’d hit that recommended limit without eating anything else.
There are high levels of trans fat found in fast food as well. There is no amount that is considered to be healthy or good for your body. It increases your bad cholesterol levels, lowers your good ones, and increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Pastries, pizza dough, cookies, and fried items all contain this fat.
3. People who eat at fast food restaurants underestimate their calorie intake.
Even when consumers are trying to watch what they eat, dining at a fast food restaurant can cause someone to underestimate their calorie intake by over 20%. This data includes individuals who choose healthy items from the menu and make conscious efforts to avoid trans fat, sugar, and sodium from the menu. Although more calories is less damaging than more unhealthy fats or high salt numbers, it can still promote weight gain if you are eating fast food products on a regular basis.
4. Eating fast food can lead to issues with edema, bloating, and swelling.
When you decide to eat a fast food meal, then the combination of salt, sugar, and fat can lead to problems with water retention, which is known as edema. This disadvantage is what causes some individuals to feel bloated, puffy, or swollen after they are finished eating. It can also promote higher blood pressure numbers, which could be dangerous if there is an issue of heart disease developing.
About 90% of adults underestimate the amount of salt that they consume when they choose a fast food meal over a healthier option. Surveys indicate that the average consumer misses the mark on their sodium intake by over 1,000mg per meal. Since the American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300mg of salt per day, you could have half of your daily recommended intake by eating just one meal.
5. Regular fast food consumption can lead to problems with obesity.
If you are eating too many calories from your fast food meals, then a common outcome is to see an increase of weight. Without moderation, this disadvantage can quickly lead toward obesity. People who are severely overweight have a higher risk of experiencing respiratory problems, including shortness of breath and asthma. Extra pressure is placed on the heart and lungs, making the symptoms show up even if there is very little exertion.
If you notice a change in your breathing when all you were doing is walking, climbing stairs in your home, or performing household chores, then it is time to take a closer look at your health and your overall eating habits.
6. There are adverse effects on the nervous and reproductive systems.
When you decide to eat fast food products, then you can satisfy your hunger for a short period. The long-term results from this choice are usually less than positive. Individuals who eat processed foods from this industry are 51% more likely to develop depression or depression-like symptoms at some point in their life compared to those who eat fast food in moderation or avoid the items entirely.
The ingredients which are found in the fast food industry items could also have an impact on adult fertility. Many processed foods contain phthalates, which are chemicals that can change or interrupt how hormones act in the body. High exposure levels to them are known to create reproductive issues that can even lead to birth defects in extreme cases.
7. Fast food chance change your hair, skin, and nails.
Your food choices can also impact the appearance of your skin, but it might not be the foods you expect to cause problems. Pizza, burgers, and chocolate used to bear all of the blame for the problems like acne, but the real problem comes from the number of carbohydrates that you consume. Foods that are rich in carbs will lead to spikes in blood sugar numbers, and it is this sudden jump that can trigger a breakout.
Adults and children who eat fast food products at least three times per week are also more likely to develop eczema. You can also adversely impact the development of your hair and nail grows over time.
8. It can have a negative impact on your skeletal system over time.
When you eat fast food products or processed items regularly, then the sugar and carbohydrates in those items can increase the amount of acids which are in your mouth. Their presence can cause your tooth enamel to break down, allowing bacteria to come in and create cavities.
The higher risk of obesity also comes with problems that include muscle mass issues and bone density problems. Individuals who are severely overweight are at a higher risk of falling or breaking bones. Even if you only eat 1-2 fast food meals per week, you must focus on exercising to build muscles so that your skeletal system receives the support it needs. Then choose healthy foods whenever possible to minimize bone loss.
9. Pricing issues can come into play with the fast food industry.
The next time you visit your grocery store, go back to the meat section to see what the cost of a small ribeye steak happens to be. Then walk over to the produce section to see what it would cost to purchase a potato. Throw in a bag of frozen vegetables that you can steam in your microwave. There’s an excellent chance that your total cost for that meal would be between $7 to $9.
What consumers fail to realize is that they pay for convenience when visiting a fast food restaurant. It might take more time to prepare a meal at home, but you’re not going to spend more money on those items unless you’re always shopping on the $1 menu. That’s why one of the fastest ways to grow a savings account for many families is to reduce the number of meals that they eat outside of the home.
10. You must review the quality of the food independently.
Fast food menu items go through mass-market shipping, production, and freezing processes to reduce the cost of each product. Some companies promote using fresh, never frozen beef and similar products, but that also means you might pay more than you would at another location. All of this processing reduces the quality of the foods eaten, increases calorie counts, and could limit your access to the fiber, protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables that your body needs.
Verdict on the Advantages and Disadvantages of Fast Food
There are times when a fast food meal is your best option. If you have a busy schedule and no time to make something, then grab-and-go items can provide a cure to your hunger without causing your budget to take a significant hit. As more restaurants add healthier, low-sodium choices that do not impact your health as adversely as traditional items do, then this choice isn’t as problematic as it could be.
The problem that consumers face with the fast food industry is one of moderation. Eating at a burger joint a couple of times per month is a very different health experience then having 3 to 4 meals there each week.
The advantages and disadvantages of fast food must first look at the health impacts before any other concern because of how dangerous these meals can be over time. Almost any other option is a better choice than fast food for your regular eating habits because of the high levels of fat, sugar, and salt found in most items. Use it with moderation, get some moderate exercise every day, and eliminate the sugary sodas from the equation to minimize the impact of this choice.
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.