Fast food has become a staple for nearly every American’s diet. The relatively inexpensive and quick food option seems like a great alternative to cooking at home, but is it really better?
Approximately 37% of American households eat fast food once a day. With that high proportion, Americans roughly spend the same amount of their income on fast food as they do on home-cooked food. Although fast food is seemingly quick and inexpensive, it does have some hidden costs as well. Fast food is relatively high in sodium, saturated fat, and calories. This high consumption of red and/or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat products, and low intakes of fruit and vegetables lead to an increase of bad bacteria in your stomach. 95% of Serotonin comes from your gut and it regulates sleep, appetite, mood, and pain. Eating fast food doesn’t only mean an increase in calories and fat, but it directly affects the quality of sleep, mood, may result in an increase in depression, and the addition of additives entices you to eat more and more.
Fast food also has high transportation, packaging, and processing costs which lead restaurants to have a 300% markup price. Consumers could, in theory, make the same food as their favorite restaurants for a cheaper cost. The reason such a large proportion of Americans don’t is that most don’t like cooking at all, lack the skills necessary, don’t have the time to prepare a meal for an hour every day, and/or are lazy. There are ways of getting around this, however. To help reduce the cost and time of home cooking, Americans could meal prep once a week or try using an instant pot. They could also cook with someone else or with music to make it more enjoyable and less of a chore. An increase in home-cooked meals leads to better flexibility with dietary restrictions, better food quality, increased eating of fruits and vegetables, and decreased consumption of sugars and fats.
Home cooking leads to a better diet at no significant cost increase, while if you go out more, you have a less healthy diet at a higher cost. Eating fast food once a week to get a style of cooking you don’t normally enjoy eating at home doesn’t harm you, it only starts to really affect your body when you start eating it every couple of days or more often. Many people don’t have the time to cook every day, so restaurants should provide better-balanced meals to consumers. Another alternative to going out every night is buying premade meals from your grocery store, which are relatively better balanced and cheaper.
I found two websites helpful to those who want help learning how to cook:
Home – Budget Bytes – breaks down the cost of meals for cheap and fast at-home cooking.
SuperCook – Zero Waste Recipe Generator – allows you to input ingredients you already have at home and generate recipes based on them.