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“And if they see me with bigmak “: Why fast food is not as harmful as we think

FAST FOOD IS CALLED TO PERFORM HUNGER, when there is no time for measured meals – such an industrial achievement would inevitably arise with the acceleration of the rhythm of life in big cities. Nowadays, associations with the word “fast food” are often negative – primarily because of the notorious damage to health and cheapness. And yet not every fast food is harmful, and not any slow food is healthy. We understand why fast food is not necessary to avoid and why people should not feel awkward when meeting friends in fast food chains.

What to consider fast food
Although the first thing that most people think of is burgers from McDonalds or a packet of chips, fast food came much earlier. In ancient Rome, for example, people could almost have a snack in the tavern on the run. The invention of the sandwich is attributed to Earl Sandwich, who lived in the XVIII century, but it is hard to believe that people would never have thought of putting something between two pieces of bread and eating without getting their hands dirty. It is believed that until the end of the XVIII century, people ate outside of the house only by necessity, that is, for the sake of communication, no one was sitting in the restaurants, and by and large all the food in the establishments was fast.

Of course, fast food turned into a huge industry in America at the beginning of the 20th century: in 1921, the White Castle establishment opened in Kansas, and the first McDonalds appeared in the 1940s. The clean inside and the open kitchen, allowing customers to see the cooking process, immediately increased confidence in hamburgers – before that in the States they were considered low-quality food prepared almost from meat wastes. And then it went and went: the kitchens became such that the employees spent as little time moving as possible, a format with a lot of cash desks appeared, and then windows through which you can buy food without leaving your car. Now there are McDonalds restaurants in 101 countries, and their number exceeds 36 thousand; Subway is even more popular – almost 44 thousand establishments in 112 countries for 2018.

In any case, fast food is not only the products of giant corporations. Fast food in the narrow sense includes any kind of burger and pizza, regardless of the place and time of preparation. In the broad – everything that you can eat on the go, without wasting time serving and not using appliances, and then the list includes ice cream in a waffle cone, homemade pies or sandwiches. However, it is customary to include industrial products that are stored for a long time, that is, a burger from all the same fast food chains falls into this category, and a fresh minced burger prepared on the grill at home or in a good restaurant is no longer there. So the key criteria for fast food are reduced time for eating and cooking, the absence of cutlery or their simplification and eating outside the table.

Harmful or not
Current nutritional recommendations – from WHO to the new Canadian guide – emphasize the rejection of processed foods. In them, the amount of sugar, salt, fat (including trans fats, if they are not prohibited in a particular country) can go off the scale, and at the same time lack fiber, vitamins and protein. If you eat only such foods, not even going beyond the optimal number of calories, there may be a deficiency of some substances and an excess of others. The same Canadian recommendations say that it is important to cook on your own more often, eat slowly and have fun sharing a meal with loved ones. With this approach, the concept of fast food is even more contrary to the composition of homemade or any other “slow” food, but to the recommended unhurried format of food intake.

The creators of restaurants are aware of the peculiarities of human psychology: the amount of food eaten and the speed of food intake are affected, for example, by lighting and sound. While soft light and pleasant music make people eat more slowly and enjoy the atmosphere more, noise and bright lighting in fast food networks make people eat faster and more. People eat faster when you need to make less effort, that is, when you can eat with your hands, and not with a knife and fork. The environment contributes to overeating – during the experiment alone people ate 33% less than in the company of another person. In the company of two, three, four, five, six or seven or more people, everyone already ate 47%, 58%, 69%, 70%, 72% and 96% more. Interestingly, when in another experiment, people ate in a fast food restaurant, but in a separate room with pleasant music and soft light, they spent the same amount of money, but ate more slowly and often did not eat.

Nevertheless, it is still not worth demonizing fast food – there is no absolutely harmful and certainly healthy food. What is really important is the balance and variety in the diet – that is what a person eats regularly. An occasional snack on the fast food chain will not harm health, but it will bring joy, and in an emergency, even a can of cola and a pack of chips can save you from hunger.

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