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Why We Should Eat Whole Foods, Not Fast Food

Last week there was a shocking report in many newspapers, online and tv news reports. According to a report from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three Americans eat fast food every day. Really? Every day!

I see the vast number of fast food outlets everywhere and the long lines in the drive-through at a Taco Bell near my house but I still just can’t believe the extent of this madness. Here are some other shocking facts from the report:

  • When asked by researchers, 37 percent of adults said they’d eaten fast food at least once over the past 24 hours. That is roughly one-third of the population.

  • The respondents who admitted to daily fast food spanned socio economic levels. In fact, surprisingly, the higher the income earned, the percentage of adults eating fast foods rises.

  • Blacks were more likely to have eaten fast food on a given day than whites (roughly 42 percent vs. 38 percent, respectively), while 35.5 percent of Hispanics and 31 percent of Asian-American Americans did so.

  • Men are more likely to eat fast food at lunch than women but women are more likely to eat it as a snack. (This means additional calories on top of meal calories.)

  • Older people eat less fast food as they age, with decreases by decade. (this is a good thing).

Yet medical studies show that the more fast food we eat, the more likely we are to be overweight and have increased risk for diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and metabolic syndrome.

About 40% of Americans are obese. According to the October 3 report published as a National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief, studies have shown that fast food represents the kind of high-calorie foods contributing to health issues. Eating fast food leads to poor health and well- being but also the cost of health care.

I pondered these sobering facts as I filled a large trash bag with fast food wrappers, pizza boxes, soda and liquor bottles, and beer cans strewn along my fence line which backs up to a busy road. Unfortunately, I must do this trash sweep regularly. I must say, I took some pleasure in noticing what our local fox thinks of fast food French fries. He left his calling card on the wrapper.

If you haven’t read it, Michael Pollan writes brilliantly about some of these issues in his book, Omnivore’s Dilemma. One of his chapters discusses fast food. Eating well, making informed choices about food, he finds, can be a pleasurable way to change the world.

Indeed, we have choices in how we eat (and where we throw and how we minimize our trash). Healthier options can be just as convenient and just as affordable and delicious as “fast food”. As I mentioned in my previous blog, The Slow Food movement is an effort to return us to some of our old ways of gathering food locally, cooking “real” food and not food in cans or that has been overly processed. “Slow food” does not mean that it takes longer to cook. Though it is true, sometimes it does. But mainly it’s a healthier way of enjoying eating and, in doing so, our lives. Learn more at

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