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Friday, October 14, 2011

Can Fast Food Ever Be Healthy?

As part of the Public Health Responsibility Deal, the government is encouraging fast food sellers to help on tackling the obesity wave by making information freely available to people who are visiting fast food restaurants. Consumers constantly under estimate the amount of calories that a serving of fast food can contain so it is hoped that the information will lead to wiser decisions.

Unfortunately that idea seems to be a Will o' The Wisp.

Triumph of Hope Over Experience.

McDonald's in New York have been providing this data to consumers since 2008. The impact? One in six diners took the time to reconsider what they were going to eat and then ordered a meal with a reduced calorie count of approximately 100. While that's fine for them individually, one in six people taking 100Kcal less per meal is going to do very little to stem the obesity wave that's currently threatening to engulf our nation. It does very little and yet it's better than any health eating strategies and messages that any government has put out since rationing during the war!

So how should we expect food retailers to respond to this challenge that's been layed down by the government? Will they put a concerted effort into producing delicious foods with lower salt, fat, sodium, MSG and fat?

Or will they simply find other additives and more ways to process the food to bulk it up so that the fat goes much further?

Forcing Fat To Go That Little Bit Further.

The government's Public Health Responsibility Deal only requires food chains to put up calorie counts, the rest of the ingredients thought to be related to hard arteries, high blood pressure, strokes, diabetes and certain kinds of cancer are left off the menu while still going into the food. Adding more filler ingredients such as starch, rusk, water or mechanically recovered tissue will draw down the amount of fat each portion contains but what will it do for the actual 'healthiness' of the food? Very little. And while the major chains enter into a food fight to see who can get their fat levels the lowest it's the other ingredients, the unknown, hidden ingredients that are going to be increased, ingredients such as salt, MSG and sugar which will disguise the blandness of the food once it's had all the fat taken out. The result is foods that were already low in nutritional value are now even lower in nutrients while being higher in unhealthy products.

The answer is to put a breakdown of all the ingredients on the menu, not only that but the RDAs and the amounts you'd need to eat to go above the upper limit of the RDA, for example a Burger King Whopper has almost a full day's RDA of saturated fat but negligible amounts of vitamins such as A, C and D or minerals.

All the while we agonise over what's to be done to solve the obesity problem the bald answer is so simple it's staring us in the face yet we just don't seem able to see it:

Consume fewer calories each day than you expend during exercise.

@DanCash loves fast food but only in reasonable amounts. For a healthy takeaway Indian food in Croydon. Indian food is thought to be among the healthiest diets available. There are plenty of takeaways in Croydon, the choice is yours.

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