You are what you eat—that’s a saying that has been passed down for many generations. Although eating a burger might not make you a burger and eating spaghetti might not make you long and noodly, there is some truth to that saying.
The American diet has a common trend: too many calories. The average American consumed roughly 1,850 calories a day two decades ago. Since then, the daily diet has risen by about 300 calories, which is theoretically enough to add about 31 extra pounds to a person’s weight every year. In addition to that, the ongoing obesity epidemic in America points to a simple truth: we’re consuming too many calories.
Of course, calories aren’t the only problem with food. Having calorie-dense foods is a great way to get energy from the meals we eat, so what gives? Why are we suddenly consuming so many more calories and putting on so much weight? It has to do with the availability of our food, the type of food that we eat and also how it’s being advertised.
#1: Cutting down on fast food
Americans are fond of fast food—there’s no denying that. When we take a look at television advertisements and online promotions, all we see are delicious looking burgers that ooze melted cheese, tacos stuffed with greasy meats and spaghetti that is loaded with cheese and cream. The price isn’t the issue either, as many families are resorting to fast food from both restaurants and frozen varieties that are readily available at supermarkets.
We buy fast food not only for the taste and price but for the convenience too. Busy individuals simply don’t want to spend time on cooking, so they pass by their local fast food spot on the way home and tuck into a comforting meal before they relax for the rest of the evening. It’s ingrained in our behaviour because it’s simple, it’s fast and there is no preparation involved. You simply go to a store, pick up your food or pop a box into a microwave for a couple of minutes.
This is one of the major reasons why the obesity epidemic has swept across America: because we simply don’t make the time to cook food anymore. One of the things that a lot of people don’t realise is that calorie-loaded foods such as burgers don’t fill you up as much as a home-cooked meal. As a result, we often feel like we can stuff a lot of fast food into our bodies because we love the taste and since it’s so cheap, we can buy a lot of it.
#2: Fast food risks
In addition to being loaded with calories and artificial ingredients, fast food is also a common vessel for food poisoning. Due to the mass production of certain foods and the questionable methods in which a lot of fast food is handled and made, there’s an increased risk of contracting a dangerous foodborne illness such as Salmonella, Shigella or Norovirus due to bad handling.
There is some new info from robinscloud.com/food-poisoning-lawsuit/ regarding the number of food poisoning cases. Around 3,000 people in the United States die from food poisoning-related illnesses, and much of that is preventable. Every major corporation in the food chain is involved when it comes to safety, but there are often many situations when food isn’t handled properly because of the demand and rush to get things made quickly and cheaply. It results in a largely uncontrolled industry that focuses on pumping out food that is neither nutritionally valuable or healthy for you.
There are some fast food locations that are much more healthy for you, such as a deli or burger location that focuses on healthy eating and fresh ingredients. However, these usually aren’t referred to as fast food and are usually called restaurants. They are undoubtedly more healthy assuming that the food itself is healthy, and there is less chance of contracting food poisoning or a similar disease. Eating from a reputable location is safer and healthier, but nothing beats the comfort of knowing what goes into your food by cooking it yourself.
#3: Get into cooking
The average American spends hardly any time in the kitchen despite it costing so much money. There are many ways to get involved with cooking on a regular basis and it doesn’t need to involve a lot of work, money or effort. Simple foods such as fried rice can be made extremely easily with leftover ingredients, and boiling pasta and adding sauce afterwards is simple and can be done cheaply and efficiently. In fact, on average it is more healthy, costs less and tastes better if you learn to cook instead of buying takeout food all the time.
One way to get involved with cooking is to conquer your kitchen. Many people feel like the kitchen is alien because they don’t use it very often. They don’t understand what the pots and pans are used for, the kitchen might be a mess, or they just don’t understand how the appliances work. It’s a good idea to declutter your kitchen tops if possible by removing all the waste and random appliances that either doesn’t work or that you don’t use. The only things you really need for a kitchen is a stove top, some pots and pan, utensils to cook with and a sharp knife. You don’t need to invest in specialised appliances like food processors and spiralizers if you are just getting started with your cooking adventures.
Next, is learning how to cook. The best way to do this is to think of what your favourite takeout meals are and break them down into their core components. If you enjoy carbonara from a local Italian place, then look up some carbonara recipes. Do you like pizza? Start making your own! You don’t need to get down to the nitty-gritty and make your own pizza dough if you don’t want to. You can buy frozen pizza bases and then add the tomato sauce and toppings as you see fit. What about sandwiches? Instead of being lazy and buying pre-made ones, just get some bread and put some filling between two slices and package it up for a healthy homemade lunch.
Part of the fun in cooking is customising your meals. Instead of eating the same flavours and combinations every day, you can change it up and add or remove things. If you make your own burgers, consider adding or changing your favourite staples to experiment. You could replace the lettuce with spinach, add mushrooms, perhaps even use a different kind of meat. There are countless options and the best way to learn about cooking is to experiment and learn from recipes.
#4: Staying motivated
Even after you obtain a passion for cooking, that’s usually not the end of your worries. Sure, you might be more open to cooking meals for yourself and even invite your friends over to sample your new creations and cooking skills, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted to go buy a burger or burrito at some point.
But that’s fine. Even the healthiest of people in the world succumb to those temptations and will indulge in a juicy burger or greasy burrito. Our bodies sometimes crave extra food or something to make us feel comfortable. If you’ve been eating a lot of fast food in your life, then your brain associates that kind of food with happy memories and comfort. That’s why a lot of comfort food in the world is based on unhealthy things.
One way to stay motivated with cooking is to plan ahead for your meals. It’s a trick that a lot of fitness professionals employ. By spending time cooking several meals twice a week, you can store those meals in Tupperware boxes and heat them up in the microwave when you’re hungry. It’s the healthy equivalent of fast food and microwave meals that you used to enjoy, only they are 100% more healthy and made at home by you. You can even share those boxed meals with people if you like, but the general idea is to remove the stress of cooking if you feel it takes too much time by preparing meals once or twice a week and storing them in the fridge or freezer.
Another way to stay motivated with your new diet is to speak with people in a similar position. There are many online fitness communities and cooking forums that discuss everything from staying in shape to healthy recipes. These are great places to find a new passion, discover new cooking recipes and also meet people who can motivate you to try new things and continue eating healthily.
Switching off the American diet involves switching off those promotions and adverts. Cheap, tacky and calorie-filled food is a convenience that has invaded our lifestyles for far too long, so it’s time to take control and start making our own meals and thinking smart about what we put into our bodies or else we’ll get sick often, we’ll put on weight, and we’ll put our health at risk for the sake of a burger.