Dec 10

Fast Foods 101

We are living a fast-paced lifestyle that’s technology driven, and everything needs to be done yesterday – convenience is the way to go, but our health is suffering as a result. Fast food outlets are everywhere- deliveries made easy and special promotions seal the deal. Colourful packaging and popular animated figurines make it harder for kids to resist. We all know fast foods are not the best option, but why?


Upgrading a medium meal to a large or supersize one is seen as getting more bang for your buck and almost feels compulsory in this financial state we find ourselves in. Portion distortion jumps to mind! We are consuming a lot more food and calories than we need to and these larger portions are becoming the norm.


Special promotions are making it more affordable and healthy eating is being labelled as expensive. Apps and delivery services make it easily accessible and so convenient but this holds detrimental consequences for our health. The fact is that fast foods are designed to make mass production easy, cost-effective and a big emphasis is placed on the speed of the service. This habit leads to the consumption of less nutritious meals and weight gain in the long run. This type of diet also contributes to lifestyle diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

Sugar, salt and fats

Fast foods are normally highly processed and contain lots of sugar, refined carbohydrates, salt and unhealthy fats. Again, empty calories that have little nutritious value. The refined carbohydrates and sugar cause blood sugar levels to spike frequently and may alter the body’s natural insulin response – that can cause insulin resistance or even type 2 diabetes. The high sugar content can cause dental cavities as the acids produced from the sugars weaken tooth enamel. High salt (sodium) intake can cause headaches, high blood pressure and water retention leading to bloating or swelling. The unhealthy fat (trans fats or trans fatty acids) found in fast foods increases the bad cholesterol (LDL). High blood pressure and increased cholesterol levels are big risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

One can make simple changes and better choices to limit the calories consumed when ordering fast foods, because let’s face it life does happen.

  • Choose one or the other: The burger or the fries – not both.
  • Leave the trimmings off: Less is more! Leave the cheese, bacon, mayo and onion rings for another time. This can really increase the calorie content of a meal without adding much bulk – empty calories that lead to unintentional weight gain.
  • Don’t upgrade your sides… you will end up supersized yourself.
  • Skip the soda for a water or (last resort) make it a sugar-free option.
  • For kids, milkshakes should be a treat on its own (think outing ideas) but not with a meal. Juice should be diluted with water as a juice box can easily contain 5 to 9 teaspoons of sugar. Choose corn rather than chips (and tomato sauce). Chicken fillets rather than beef burger patties. Grilled instead of fried. Choose burgers with garnish to add some fibre or ideally a side salad with a vinegar base dressing. You are the parent, you read the menu and place the order, YOU can do it!
  • Be aware of hidden fats and salts in sauces – cheddamelt is not your friend. Tomato sauce is loaded with sugar and salt and sneaks in unnecessary kilojoules. Tomato-based sauces would be a better alternative to creamy ones.
  • Order the pizza with the most vegetable toppings and choose a lean protein option like chicken. Ditch the salami, pepperoni, bacon and extra feta. Add some fresh avocado, chillies and rocket leaves instead.
  • Desserts should be savoured on special occasions and even shared amongst the table. Choose options that include fresh fruit and say no thank you to the cream.

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