The False Promise of Fast Food
|February 23, 2011||Posted by Lauren under Health News|
Cheap. Convenient. Perfect for the family ontherun. For years, fast food companies have promoted themselves to be everything that Americans need (and then some!). And now, they even appear to be offering “healthy” options, to cater to all those consumers who are concerned about their health while onetherun.
But, as you critical HOTR readers know, when something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Fast food companies are in the business of making a profit, not improving our health. A recent New York Times article by Mark Bittman clearly shows how they’ve even managed to mess up the most iconic wholesome breakfast you can think of: oatmeal.
“It’s a bowl full of wholesome” ~ McDonald’s Website
The article, How to Make Oatmeal…Wrong is, in a word, awesome. If you haven’t read it already, I strongly encourage you to take a few minutes and read it now. (No, really, click away from the blog and read it. I’ll still be here when you get back.) Bittman is funny and insightful. A few highlights:
A more accurate description than “100% natural whole-grain oats,” “plump raisins,” “sweet cranberries” and “crisp fresh apples” would be “oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.”
Incredibly, the McDonald’s product contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin. (Even without the brown sugar it has more calories than a McDonald’s hamburger.)
Moral of the story – fast food is not healthy. Period. And it’s not always that much more convenient either. I probably don’t need to tell you that making oatmeal at home is incredibly simple. You can do it all in one bowl/mug in the microwave if you don’t feel like dirtying a pot on the stove. Companies like McDonald’s have falsely led us to believe that they can make us food that’s better, faster and cheaper than we can ourselves. But it’s all just advertising.
Still need convincing? Here are a few facts about the fast food industry’s advertising antics. All are taken directly from Fast Food F.A.C.T.S., a site that aims to “reveal the marketing techniques aimed at children and the nutritional quality of fast foods.”
On the huge dollar amounts fast food companies spend marketing their products:
- They spent more than $4.2 billion dollars in 2009 on TV advertising and other media.
- Although McDonald’s and Burger King have pledged to improve food marketing to children, they increased their volume of TV advertising from 2007 to 2009. Preschoolers saw 21% more ads for McDonald’s and 9% more for Burger King, and children viewed 26% more ads for McDonald’s and 10% more for Burger King.
- Even though McDonald’s and Burger King only showed their “better-for-you” foods in child-targeted marketing, their ads did not encourage consumption of these healthier choices. Instead, child-targeted ads focused on toy giveaways and building brand loyalty.
On fast food companies and web marketing:
- McDonald’s 13 websites got 365,000 unique child visitors and 294,000 unique teen visitors on average each month in 2009.
On targeting teen and ethnic minority youth:
- Hispanic preschoolers saw 290 Spanish-language fast food TV ads in 2009 and McDonald’s was responsible for one-quarter of young people’s exposure to Spanish-language fast food advertising.
- African American children and teens saw at least 50% more fast food ads on TV in 2009 than their white peers. That translated into twice the number of fast food calories viewed daily compared to white children.
Don’t let the “healthy” options fool you:
- Just 12 of 3,039 possible kids’ meal combinations met nutrition criteria for preschoolers; 15 met nutrition criteria for older children.
- At most restaurants, young people purchased at least half of their maximum daily recommended sodium intake in just one fast food meal.
- The average kids’ meal has 616 calories, which is too many for most young children
For more “fun” fast food fact, visit fastfoodmarketing.org
I know people are busy, and the economy is awful. After a long day at work, it can be tempting to pull up to your nearest drive-thru and get dinner for your family that’s ready in little time, for little money. It might get you out of a bind in the moment, but please don’t believe that fast food is healthy. And honestly, eating it over the long run will ultimately do more damage to your health than buying fresh fruits and vegetables will do to your wallet.