For working moms who are too tired to answer the question “What’s for dinner?”, the most convenient answer would be to grab some fast food meals. They’re satisfying, quick, convenient – although not necessarily cheap and healthy.
If you’re one of those who have the misconception that subsisting on fast food on an almost daily basis is actually doing your budget favors, think again. Not only is fast food unhealthy, but it also burns a hole in your pocket if you’re not careful. Here, we will take a look at the reasons why eating fast food is not at all cheap.
Quick Stats About Fast Food Restaurants
Before counting down the reasons why fast food eating is not cheap at all, here are a few quick statistics about fast food restaurants from Statista.com:
- In spring 2014, there were 635,494 restaurants in the US.
- From October to November of 2013, about 1,380 US chief household shoppers or 34.9% of consumers said that they never eat at fast food restaurants.
- Burger King, one of the most popular fast food restaurants in the US, scored a median National Profile Index score of 68 out of 100 for the nutritional quality of all beverage items on their menus.
- For Taco Bell, the median number of calories in all menu items for 2013 was 310. For the same year, the median sodium content of all menu items was 355 milligrams.
- In autumn 2009, the number of people who visited fast food restaurants for dinner within a period of 30 days amounted to 143.46 million.
- Here’s the consumer opinion on the value for money of fast food and fast casual restaurants as of June 2014:
45% – Fast food restaurants offer better value for money than fast casual restaurants
34% – Fast food and fast casual restaurants offer equally good value for money
21% – Fast casual restaurants offer better value for money than fast food restaurants
Another interesting statistic is the reason why people eat fast food meals in the first place.
92.3% – It’s quick.
80.1% – Fast food is easy to get to.
69.2% – I like the taste of fast food.
63.6% – It’s inexpensive.
53.2% – I’m too busy to cook.
50.1% – It’s a ‘treat’ to myself.
44.3% – I don’t like preparing food myself.
41.8% – My friends/family like fast food.
33.1% – It’s a way of socializing with friends and family.
20.6% – They have many nutritious food items to offer.
11.7% – They’re fun and entertaining.
Perhaps accessibility is also another reason why fast food restaurants are so popular. According to food industry research firm Technomic, the biggest fast food brands in America according to 2011 sales are as follows:
- McDonalds – 14,098 locations
- Subway – 24, 722 locations
- Starbucks – 10,787 locations
- Wendy’s – 5,876 locations
- Burger King – 7,231 locations
- Taco Bell – 5,674 locations
- Dunkin’ Donuts – 7,015 locations
- Pizza Hut – 7,595 locations
- KFC – 4,793 locations
- Chick-Fil-A – 1,600 locations
These are defined as LSRs or limited service restaurants which include burger joints, sandwich shops, coffee shops, cafes, pizza places and more. For 2011, McDonalds earned $34.2 billion in US sales while Subway earned $11.4 billion for the same year.
Top 10 Reasons Why Eating Fast Food Is NOT Cheap
Now, here are the top ten reasons why eating fast food is not necessarily cheap:
1. The average cost of convenient food is more than twice that of healthy food.
In a 2010 study published by the Society of Teachers of Family medicine, the average total cost for the healthy food diet model was $5,019 per year. This is more than twice the price of the convenient food diet model which amounts to $10,298 per year.
In another experiment conducted by the Oakton Community College, when three meals per day was purchased by a person from a fast food restaurant, the total cost was $87 per week. When you buy all the ingredients from grocery stores, the average cost of the same number of meals when cooked at home was only $45 per week.
2. Fast food is more expensive because you are paying for convenience.
One of the biggest misconceptions that people have in relation to fast food is that they are cheaper. You might think that paying a few dollars for a burger, soda and French Fries is not that much – but try getting all your meals from the same restaurant for just three days. Every day, you will be tempted to get new, probably more expensive items off the menu.
Again, as compared to eating home cooked meals, fast food is way more expensive because you are paying for accessibility and convenience. If Subway and McDonalds have more than 24,000 and 14,000 restaurants, respectively, just imagine how much their overhead expenses are to maintain these dining establishments. In the end, such costs will be passed on to you as a consumer, so you are actually paying more.
3. Fast food leads to being overweight or even obesity.
In a 15-year study of over 3,000 people, it was found that eating fast food is linked to weight gain or obesity and insulin resistance. You’re even increasing your risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes because of all the sugar and caloric content of the fast food meals you’re consuming.
4. Fast food has a negative effect to your kids.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has an advocacy against fast food after having found out that as compared to less than 2% 100 years ago, Americans eat more than 50% of their meals outside their homes. If you’re taking your entire family with you to eat fast food, you are not doing your kids any favors.
According to studies, childhood obesity has more than doubled in kids and tripled in adolescents over the past three decades. Kids and teenagers are actually the target market of fast food ads, and whatever health consequence eating too much fast food would have on your kids, they will appear as chronic illnesses once they grow into adults.
5. Fast food is low in nutrients and fiber.
Most of the items on fast food menus are processed, and processed foods are low in nutrients and fiber. Although there are instances when synthetic vitamins and minerals are added to the recipe to what was lost during processing, these are not good replacements at all for all-natural ingredients. Processed foods are also very low in fiber because they are intentionally removed or are lost during processing.
6. Fast food sodas are loaded with sugar.
For desserts, sodas, shakes and similar menu items, fast food restaurants use HFCS or High Fructose Corn Syrup. This is a sweetener which, according to Princeton University researchers, is linked to obesity. Rodents which were given HFCS gained more weight and body fat than the ones given plain table sugar.
7. Fast food is addictive so the more you consume, the more you spend.
If you go out to eat fast food more than once a week, you are most probably addicted to eat. The more that you eat fast food, the more you crave it. In turn, the more money you would have to spend because as mentioned earlier, fast food is more expensive than home cooked meals.
8. Fast food requires less energy and time to digest.
The goal of fast food restaurants is to serve food fast, so their stock should have a long shelf life. This means that most of the items they have are processed foods, which require less energy and time to digest. The consequence of this to your body is that you also burn less energy. The result? Being overweight or obese.
9. When you eat unhealthy fast food meals, you are actually increasing your health care expenditures.
Fast food menu items are loaded with sugar, calories, carbohydrates and other unhealthy content. When you subsist on fast food, you are increasing the possibility of paying the hospital a visit because you need prescription medications, consultations and maybe even minor or major operations like liposuction or gastric bypass surgery. All simply because eating fast food is unhealthy.
10. Some fast food staples have weird ingredients.
Finally, most fast food staples have ingredients which are very difficult to pronounce, much less decipher what they’re actually made from! Chicken nuggets are said to be mechanically separated, burger patties are not made from pure beef, there are plenty of chemical preservatives and artificial coloring – the list is practically endless.
To sum it all up, the reason why eating fast food is not at all cheap is because of the consequences to your health. There is absolutely nothing wrong in indulging in greasy fries and thick burger patties once in a while. But relying on fast food for your daily meals is a big no-no. Not only will it burn a whole in your pocket, but it has huge consequences to your overall health as well.