Why do so many Americans live off of fast food and junk food? It is designed to taste good, is often cheaper than eating healthy, and is convenient. Unfortunately, this habit has led to an obesity epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third (35.7%) of US adults are obese. The CDC also indicates that medical costs are higher for people who are obese, which is one of the leading causes of preventable death.

Why Mass Produced Food is Bad for You

In order to produce food on a large scale, many restaurants have added extra preservatives to their foods, antibiotics to farm animals, and fillers to compliment natural ingredients. These are all unhealthy and can lead to serious health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

According to National Institutes of Health, after 15 years, those who ate at fast-food restaurants more than twice each week compared to less than once a week had gained an extra ten pounds and had a two-fold greater increase in insulin resistance (a risk factor for type 2 diabetes). Even with healthier food choices being added to fast food menus, there is still a high concentration of fat, calories, and sodium. You are not going to get very many nutrients from a fast food meal, but you are guaranteed calories. In fact, you can consume – or even exceed – your daily calorie limit with just one fast food meal. Not to mention that the fats you eat at a fast food restaurant or from junk food are likely unhealthy fats – saturated fats and trans fats.

Dollar Menus

Today’s economy makes it harder for many people to eat healthy. Dollar menus are a huge enticement to frugal-minded consumers. The brain processes the decision of spending money on food similarly to getting a bruise or biting your tongue. The reaction is immediate, the result feels unfair, and you create an immediate aversion to the “thing” that caused the pain.  This is how we often see the dollar menu. It makes no sense spending $4 for a healthy turkey sandwich when a perfectly good chicken sandwich at McDonald’s is $1.

What is Mindless Eating?

It’s easy to eat mindlessly at a fast food restaurant. You’re given large portions of food designed to taste good and become cheaper the more you order of it. As you may already know, you can easily get through a large fry without even looking down at your plate or bag. Often catching yourself reaching for more when all the while, it’s all gone. Many people eat mindlessly just because food is available or because they are unaware of proper portion sizes.

Many fast food restaurants have set a standard for larger portions. Becoming more aware of mindless eating can help prevent further weight gain and unhealthy eating habits. You can practice mindful eating by paying attention to portion sizes located on the nutrition label of food packages. Use smaller plates and glasses when eating. This way your plate will fill up faster, making it less tempting to heap too much food onto your plate. You can also put aside half of your meal at restaurants to take home and eat later. Avoid doing other activities while eating, such as reading or watching TV.

The Bottom Line

Food is an important part of life and health. It should be valued as such. Meaning: Dedicating time to become educated about food as well as investing financially into healthier options makes sense. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into fast food’s psychological gain at the expense of your health and waistline.