I know this post is most likely point-less. But I’m going to say it anyway. Seeing as it is the season of fast food. And maybe I’m a hypocrite because I’ll confess right up front that during the two road trips we have planned for this summer, we will undoubtedly wind up eating at a fast food joint. And yet, I must carry on with this rant.
Please, please, please don’t eat fast food. I understand that when you have children in the car who are pulling your fingernails out one-by-one with their incessant whining while they wither away to nothing with bloated bellies and sunken eyes in the back seat, you have no choice but to pull in to the fastest food possible. You have no other option. But let’s be honest here, folks. Sometimes we choose fast food because it’s easy. It makes the kids happy. And heck, it tastes good.
But you know what else it does? It makes our country fat and unhealthy. It makes our kids develop tastes for foods that are over-salted, drenched in fat, and coated with sugar. It teaches them that eating fast food is an acceptable choice for their meal, rather than a last-ditch, there’s no-where-else-to-eat, it-might-make-us-sick, kind of option. My three kids will never eat at McDonalds without at least feeling bad about it. I’ve driven the knowledge in to them that when they eat fast-food they are eating food that is not so much food as animal by-products, lard-coated pesticide-enriched, GMO potatoes, and chemically created drug-filled sugar water.
It’s every mother’s duty to give their kids some baggage. And this is one of the carry-ons I’m loading on mine. I think it’s a good one. To be sure, you can occasionally find something nutritionally redeeming at a fast food restaurant. But my guess is your kids aren’t choosing the carrot sticks or fruit cup. And if they go for that baked potato, it’s sure to be smothered in artificially-colored cheese food products. A grilled chicken seems harmless until you ask about the chicken’s heritage and discover it was raised amongst millions of other chickens crammed in a dark, closed-in house with horrible ventilation and hopped up on antibiotics to keep it from dying from the bacterial infections that are common in such set-ups. Don’t be fooled by those lovely pictures of chickens sitting on a fence. Those chickens can’t even walk, let alone hop up on a fence because they’ve been bred to have grotesquely large breasts that prevent them from even moving. Egg to deep fryer in about 12 weeks time. If they live any longer, they’ll die from congestive heart failure because their bodies can’t support their breasts (no lie – I know someone personally who didn’t get his chickens butchered in time and this is how they died!).
If my ranting and raving isn’t enough to make you steer past those golden arches and smiling freckled-faces, consider these facts:
“With 250,000 quick-serve restaurants to choose from, Americans fork over more money on burgers, burritos, and bacon-topped sandwiches each year than what we spend on higher education, new cars, and computers combined.” (Hyman, Ultrametabolism, 60)
“The average weight of a ten-year-old boy in 1963 was 74 pounds; by 2002 the average weight was nearly 85 pounds. The average weight of a ten-year-old girl in 1963 was 77 pounds; by 2002 the average weight of a ten-year-old girl was 88 pounds.” (National Center for Health Statistics, October 2004.).
“One Big Mac is equivalent – in terms of grain produced and consumed – to five loaves of bread. But instead of feeding the hungry with grain, a lot of it is going to the waistline of people in wealthy countries – often to their detriment.” (Bittman, Food Matters 2009)
A person would need to walk 9 miles (14.5km) to burn off the 923 calories found in Burger King’s Double Whopper with cheese.
So what’s an overloaded, stressed-out mom to do? Here are a few suggestions to get you through:
- If you’re in town, go home to eat. A peanut butter sandwich or a frozen pizza are healthier choices. Besides, they’re just as quick and cost less.
- If you’re traveling – pack food. Stuff a cooler with fruit that travels well like cherries, apples, bananas, and blueberries. Toss in several bags of baby carrots. Wheat crackers, raisins, craisins, apricots, nuts, and cheese sticks are easy too.
- When all else fails, remind yourself and your kids that HUNGER IS NOT AN EMERGENCY. There are very few people starving to death in the US. Your kids can go several hours (at least) between meals. Hunger will pass and many times it’s actually habit and/or boredom that drives us to demand food.
- If you must stop, look for a place that serves fresh food quickly, instead of processed food. Chipotle Grill is one of my favorite stops and it’s quicker than the average fast food. Stopping in a Mom&Pop type place can also be quick, if you tell the server you’re in a hurry and ask what can be prepared quickly.
- Find a restaurant with a good salad bar. Don’t forget that many of the newer supermarkets have salad bars. You can even get a pound of shrimp steamed quickly and enjoy a decadent treat instead of a mashed up hamburger that will make you feel ill hours later.
- If you know you’re going to have to stop and you can’t bring yourself to pack food. Remember you have other options beyond fast food. The internet gives you the power to find restaurants on your route that serve healthy fare. And in a pinch, an iphone or GPS usually can give you information on restaurants nearby.
Here’s my bottom line. Fast food won’t kill you, if you eat it once in awhile. (It will kill you if you eat it daily – see the movie Supersized if you don’t believe me!) What’s most important is teaching our children that this is not a healthy way to eat. When we swing through the drive-thru on a regular basis, we are training our kids for a lifetime of unhealthy eating. Every mom I know loves her kids too much to want that for them. I know fast food is easy. I know our children love it (they love candy and potato chips too). But this is one of those things we must do for our children (like driving the speed limit and being nice to rude people). This is the point when we need to stop saying it’s OK even if everyone else is doing it.
Besides the health issues raised by consuming fast food, I’d like to raise another point. When we eat “fast” we are not respecting the place food has in our life. It is our sustenance. When we choke down something in a wrapper while our children duck in and out of the playland between bites of ground up chicken-parts coated in bread and fat, we aren’t paying attention to the food we eat. When we sit down and face one another and eat good food together, it is a form of communion. We need to teach our children to taste their food, to appreciate where it came from, and who prepared it. We need to teach them the power they have in choosing what to put in their bodies and about the power food has to make our bodies healthy or unhealthy. Whatever decisions they make will be apparent at some point in their lives on the bathroom scale or the doctor’s table. Teach them to make healthy, empowering choices for their bodies and their lives.
We only get one shot at raising our children. This is our one and only chance to teach our children about eating healthy and being healthy for a lifetime. It’s more than a meal and much more than fast food.
I'm a true believer in Living Intentionally. In fact, I wrote a book about it - Live Intentionally: 65 Challenges for a Healthier, Happier Life. I teach workshops on the topic and constantly seek to discover more ways to make every moment count.
I'm also a reluctantly busy mother of three remarkable children, one large partially-trained horse who seems to have a vested interest in unseating me, two bossy mares, an almost-daily changing number of chickens, one dog with impulse control issues but a sunny outlook, and 3 perfect kitties. I am blessed with an incredibly patient husband who can fix or build or tolerate almost anything. We live on 6 acres on a hillside in South Central Pennsylvania where anything left unattended ends up at the bottom in the creek (including the children).
I'm currently at work publishing a young adult novel (if you'd like to publish it, contact my agent Tina Schwartz at The Purcell Agency!!) and madly editing a memoir entitled, Cowboy Mom: How an Untrained Horse Taught Me to be a Better Parent and Person.
In my spare moments, I run, hike, cook, and drink much too much wine.