Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why the Fast Food Industry Isn't Failing

No time to make my own
Stir Fry during the holiday rush
During the holiday rush, I find I rely on the fast food industry for a few meals. While picking up some Chinese take-away, I thought about this article I wrote some time back. I've published it here on the blog because I think it explains why I, so adamant when it comes to eating healthy, still occasionally patronize these bastions of obesity.

It seems society is trending toward a healthier lifestyle, yet the media still reports that obesity is a major health problem; over one- third of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The fast food industry is often blamed for the collective expanding waistline; its sugar, sodium and fat laden fare is too often a steady diet for too many people.
This may be largely due to convenience. After eight, ten, or twelve hours at the office, it's difficult to pass by the drive-thru window, where for mere money the food is handed to you, hot and ready. When you arrive home, you don't need to cook and serve a meal, and then clean up afterwards. You can just eat.
That convenience is hard to beat, and it is the strong suit of the fast food industry. Whether its hamburgers, pizza or ethnic take-away, your food is ready within minutes after you put in your order. You only need to pay and walk away.
The resolution to eat more healthily and cut down on fat, salt and sugar is too easily set aside when your feet hurt and your brain is muddled with stress. It's the 'fast' in fast food that keeps the industry alive.
Food-on-Demand isn't the only advantage these food factories have over home cooked meals. Fast food restaurants deliver massive amounts of food for your money. With cost-saving deals such as "3 Pizzas for 10 Dollars" and "15 Piece Bucket of Chicken for $9.99," you may actually be paying less per ounce -or pound- for the take-out than if you had to make it yourself.
Fast food is vilified for its poor nutritional value, yet the industry continues to grow. The media campaigns for healthier diets and the publicizing of studies that show the negative effects of a fast food diet have only done minor damage to the industry's bottom line. So far.
Convenience and quantity make fast food attractive, but that minor damage to the bottom line is starting to hurt, and fast food franchises are looking for ways to regain their market shares. Fresher foods, such as salads and sandwiches on whole wheat bread are making their way onto the menus. The ubiquitous 'kids meal' is offering juice in place of soda, and including fruit cups as dessert offerings.
The once popular breaded and deep fried chicken is replaced with grilled skinless chicken breast served on whole wheat buns with lettuce and tomato. Hamburgers are grilled instead of fried. French fries are cooked in vegetable oil rather than lard.
Convenience and quantity keep the industry alive, but the food factory moguls anticipate their own economic downturn if 'healthy' isn't made part of the deal. The media campaigns, the published studies and widely read books on the topic of fast food and its relation to the current epidemics of diet-related diseases are starting to have an effect.
These restaurants can churn out food factory style, but are dependent on quantity; the food is sold cheaply because so many people buy it. But the lines at the drive-thru are shorter now, and the bottom line isn't as healthy as it once was. The fast food industry isn't failing because convenience and quantity are strong motivators. But good health is starting to take the lead.

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