I am always finding something interesting in the medical literature, but I have to say this one surprised even me.
A study, published by the National Center for Health Statistics, found that on any given day, over 1/3 of all adults in america aged 40 – 59 years old (37%) are consuming fast food. One out of three! That’s 85 million adults eating fast food on any given day.
And sadly, for younger Americans that number is even higher — almost half of Americans (45%) aged 20 – 45 years old are eating fast food on any given day. One out of every two of us, every single day.
This makes me feel sad for hard working Americans who are so beyond stressed that they have little choice but to drive through fast food between jobs in order to have something to eat.
This makes me feel angry at corporate America, who lures consumers in on taste and does not give a crap about their long term health, all so a few folks at the top can be so wealthy it’s almost unfathomable. Corporate America is tricking customers to trade in their health for convenience and taste. They know that close to half of our country is eating this “food” that has poor nutritional content and they are laughing all the way to the bank.
This makes me feel completely defeated as a health care provider, because I know that the only way this will change is for there to be a complete restructuring of government programs to provide actual nutritional support to its citizens. That will require legislative, structural & policy changes that prioritizes the health of it’s citizens (instead of health being a corporate venture) as well as dramatically raising wages so that everyone is able to have a decent quality of life… enough that it’s possible to slow down and prepare decent quality of food.
It also means that we need to figure out a way to make high quality food — like organic produce — much less expensive.
All of those thoughts were running through my mind as I read this study.
But one thing I wasn’t expecting is to find as I continued to read the study is that the percentage of folks who consume fast food actually increases with increasing family income. Middle income families ate more fast food than lower income families, and higher income families ate the most fast food of all. To me this suggests that saving time is the biggest reason we are choosing fast food.
And that’s not our fault, that is the fault of a system designed to capitalize on how hard we have to work and how little time we have for ourselves and our families that we would be willing to accept trading something that will save us a few minutes in exchange for poor health outcomes.
Damn. After reading that study, I sat down to make a list of foods that are so quick and easy to prepare that many don’t even require cooking and absolutely all of them provide more nutrition for your body than a fast food meal does.
Here is what I have come up with so far. I hope you will freely forward this to your friends, co-workers, and family, especially your grown children who are working so hard and need to have really easy options to can reach for — options that don’t take any more time to prepare than waiting in line at the drive up window.
Quick Substitutes For Fast Food:
- yogurt with fruit — anyone can layer some yogurt, berries and granola to make a parfait ready to eat within minutes
- nuts and nut butters — spread a dollop on veggies like carrot sticks & on fruits like apples for a protein and fiber rich snack or light meal
- veggies or crackers with hummus
- hard boiled egg — eat as is or slice and put on a piece of toast (this is my go-to dinner on long work days)
- avocado toast — as simple as toasting a piece of toast and mashing half an avocado on top (add a drizzle of lemon juice, salt and pepper if you like)
- smoothies — zero cooking, just have frozen fruits & veggies on hand and blend
- soup — find some one pot recipes you like, throw ingredients together and you can eat this all week long
- pizza — keep ingredients on hand to make yourself in 2 minutes flat: pre-made cauliflower crusts, some pizza sauce or just a sliced tomato, a sprinkling of cheese and any other veggie toppings you like, then bake.
- tacos — if you keep a can of beans, some taco toppings like lettuce and shredded cheese, and possibly even some ground beef on hand you can make a taco dinner that combines healthy protein and fresh veggies for your family in the same 10 minutes you could be waiting in a drive through
- wraps — likewise, even without cooking or heating anything up, if you can keep some wraps, veggies, cheeses, and/or meats that you like on hand, you are never more than 2 minutes away from a simple meal that is as easy as roll up and enjoy
- baked oatmeal — bake this once a week and grab a scoop for breakfast every morning
- grass fed burgers — it barely takes any more time to form a patty and cook it (or heat up a veggie alternative) than it does to wait in a drive through. Eat it with some cheese, or on a bun, or simply dip into a condiment of your choice
- veggie frittata or omelet — this is the most ambitious of the entire list and it still literally only requires whisking a few eggs, folding in some veggies and/or cheese, and cooking it. You can make a frittata either stovetop or baked and similar to the baked oatmeal — make it once and eat it all week
I hope these ideas are helpful. If you find you still miss the lure of fast food, it’s 100% not your fault, that is what our government, our healthcare system, and our capitalistic advertising is hoping for. But keep some simple ingredients on hand and you truly can eat something healthier — even cutting your fast food intake in half would make a noticeable difference to your health.
And if you find that you are eating because of emotional triggers, I want to share some tips I’ve come up with for helping you overcome that as well. Look over this list to see if you can identify which emotional eating pattern describes you best and get some tips on working with your eating patterns in a healthier way:
- FOOD IS SECURITY:
For some folks, food represents safety and security.
So when they are not eating, deep fears of safety and panic may arise.
There may be worries about food scarcity and needing to know when and what your next meal will be.
If you notice you overeat, it may be an attempt to feel secure and reassured that all is well. You may crave comfort foods such as casseroles and home cooking and baked goods, or foods that remind you of childhood.
The solution: focus on portion sizes &/or reach for high fiber foods.
If you tend to eat in this way, it is perfectly reasonable to feed your body foods that comfort it, but the goal is to have reasonable portion sizes.
Another way to provide comfort and a deep contentment to security-type eaters is to include lots and lots and lots of fiber, so that you feel full, satiated, safe and grounded for longer.
- FOOD IS PLEASURE:
For some folks, food isn’t just about the nutrition, food is about the entire experience… the smell, the feel, the texture, the flavor, the delight in chewing it.
Food is pleasurable and even sensual.
If this is your style of eating, you may find you are eating because you want the feel of food in your mouth, not because you are hungry.
You may also find a love/hate relationship with food… often pleasure-seeking eaters have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or lactose intolerance or celiac disease and need to find a balance between the foods they love and the foods their body hates.
The solution: focus on pleasurable drinks you enjoy &/or consider chewing gum.
One great idea for pleasure eaters is to enjoy drinking (coffees, teas, water, fresh squeezed juices…) or chewing gum throughout the day to experience that sensual pleasure of having sensations in the mouth without necessarily reaching for food.
- FOOD IS POWER:
For some folks, eating food is an issue of control or power.
These control-based eaters are the ones most likely to try to strictly monitor what they eat and submit to horrible restrictive diets that they absolutely hate!
Healthy eating is not about what you restrict but rather what you eat.
So for people who see food as power, diets are particularly offensive because restricting food intake feels like a loss of power or a loss of control… two things these types of eaters hate!
The solution: pick easily digestible foods &/or develop a grazing habit (eating smaller quantities more often.)
One great idea for control-based eaters is to drop the diets and instead focus on choosing easily digestible foods like soups and pureed foods that are easier on your digestive organs (liver, pancreas, stomach) and eating frequent, smaller meals, grazing all throughout the day instead of a few large meals.
Focusing on high quality foods and eating them more often, instead of restricting quantity, tends to be kinder than dieting and allows your body to feel healthier.
- FOOD IS LOVE:
Some folks enjoy food that releases endorphins and provides a rush, similar to falling in love.
Any of my blog readers who know how often I blog about eating chocolate will recognize… yep, I’m this type of eater.
Romantic foods like oysters, red wine, chocolate… it’s not so much that these eaters care about food, they care about the way the food makes them feel.
Dieting feels atrocious for love-seeking eaters and restricting food is equivalent to being dumped by a lover.
The solution: eat with others &/or make your place setting beautiful.
One great idea for love-seeking eaters is to focus on enjoying the people you are eating with more than the food — if possible, avoid eating alone (which typically leads to over-eating) and instead really focus on making eye contact with the people you are enjoying a meal with, the conversation.
This will allow you to enjoy what foods you do eat — for example, appreciating a lovely glass of wine and a small piece of dark chocolate instead of three plates full of food you do not actually love or even enjoy.
Or, focus just as much on creating a lovely place to eat as you do what foods you are eating. Add a fresh flower to your kitchen table, bring your lunch outside to eat in sunshine the middle of a work day, or browse thrift stores for beautiful, vintage glasses and plates to mix and match, or hand sew some beautiful cloth napkins to use as a treat.
- FOOD IS JOY:
Some people just love to enjoy a wide variety of foods and this is one of their wonderful strengths with eating.
My son is a joy-based eater and he is amazing at trying foods most children wouldn’t even think of… exotic foods, spicy foods, unusual vegetables that kids traditionally hate.
He is open to trying it all and gets so excited as he watches me prepare an interesting meal from scratch.
Because joyful eaters are so open to food, dieting or any type of food restriction at all feels like a huge loss and may even bring deep sorrow.
The solution: increase food variety &/or make meals from scratch.
My favorite recommendation for joy-based eaters is to focus on trying new and unusual foods to satisfy their cravings, instead of over-eating a large quantity of boring foods.
Keep a stash of different spices, hot sauces and healthy seasonings to make each bite taste exciting and invigorating instead of needing larger portions to bring joy.
Joy eaters also tend to actually enjoy preparing food, so if you are a joy eater build time into your day to focus on trying new recipes, browsing new cookbooks, and preparing healthy meals from scratch.
Joy-based eaters can feel guilty that food brings them joy — but I say this is a strength! Food brings joy! So choose your food selection based on how much joy it brings you and do not waste your time (or calories) on food that does not bring joy.
- FOOD IS ENERGY:
People that eat for energy may need lots more fats and more protein than other eaters.
These people have so much energy output that each bite needs to be calorie dense and their body knows this.
Although they get the message to feel bad about eating fats and eating dense protein (after all, eating a light salad seems so much more social acceptable) this leaves them feeling depleted and desperate for a pick-me-up later.
They may even feel a sense of shame about eating something that their vegetarian friend (who is not an energy-eater) would not touch.
The solution: focus on protein and fat rich foods.
Instead of feeling guilty, energy eaters need to know that they are honoring their bodies by feeding their brain lots of healthy fats (organic whole fat dairy/butter/yogurt or coconut, avocado, fish oil…) and protein (organic, ethically produced meats, organic eggs, organic nuts and nut butters.).
My daughter is an energy eater, and I can honestly say that she is one of the healthiest people I know. Glowing skin. Gorgeous hair. Beautiful radiant soul.
People who are energy eaters need to feel good about their intuitive food choices that make them crave protein.
Not everyone can feel their best on a strictly vegetarian diet, so please be non-judgmental towards yourself or your friends who need to eat ethically sourced meat routinely.
- FOOD IS OPTIONAL:
Does this sounds familiar: forgetting to eat, not making the time to eat, feeling dizzy because you skipped lunch, reaching for a quick snack and then getting right back to work, forgetting to hydrate?
Some folks find it easy to ignore their bodies needs or lose track of time.
While sporadic eaters are usually not so bothered by going on a diet, the danger here is that they often don’t take the time to eat healthily so that when they do eat, they are ravenous and don’t make smart food choices, or they don’t even get the needed nutritional building blocks at all.
The solution: schedule meals & drink water often.
The best thing these eaters can do is to schedule in their eating so that they eat at regular intervals, stay hydrated, and make great food choices… instead of not eating all day long and then binging in a drive through on the way home.
Another great tip is to carry water with you at all times, so that even if they you not taking the time to properly eat, you stay well hydrated.
This goes for everyone, but to sporadic eaters most of all.
Want to read more free articles I’ve written for you about eating & food? I’ve got you. Click on any of these below to be taken directly to that healing article:
I hope this article has been helpful in some way.
If it helps you replace just one meal a week, from fast food to food made at home, then I will feel really really happy.