If you drive down a busy street anywhere in the world, you’ll come across multiple fast food restaurants. Selling pre-packaged foods, artificially enhanced products, and low quality meals. These restaurant chains range from Burger King and McDonald’s to KFC and Dunkin’ Donuts. Containing high doses of sugar, unhealthy fats, and added sodium, these fast food items are highly damaging to the human body. They are cheap, convenient, and fast…but at what cost? Containing excessive calorie counts yet lacking any vitamins and nutrients, you might find yourself struggling with weight problems, dental disease, bloating, acne, high blood pressure, sugar spike, high cholesterol, and shortness of breath. Regardless of the risks, studies show that Americans spend a whopping $100 billion per year on fast food.
In spite of numerous awareness campaigns organized by health groups, fast food joints are always crowded with both grown adults and children. Do you want to make a change? Try to motivate yourself and the others around you to stop the damaging habit of eating fast food by reading on about the ten unhealthiest items, their effect on your body, and substitutions you can make.
Traditional Mexican food is commonly rich in nutrients and vitamins. Unfortunately, fast food restaurants have taken out all the healthy stuff and replaced them with oil, fat, and calories. The fast food burrito is a Mexican food consisting of a wrapped tortilla filled with beans, rice, salsa, guacamole, meat, and cheese. This fast food product is highly fattening and contains around 500 calories and 15 grams of fat, half of which are saturated. The toppings like cheese and sour cream increase the amount of calories and pose a serious threat to your health.
Furthermore, the salty rice, guacamole, and salsa are high in sodium, causing high blood pressure and various heart problems. But burritos don’t need to be carb bombs. There are many healthy variations that you can easily cook at home using your own ingredients. Try the Burrito Bowl Mason Jar Salad or the Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Egg White Breakfast Burrito that are true to their roots and super high-fiber.
#9 Hot Dogs
Popularized in the United States, a hot dog is a cooked sausage served in a bun as a sandwich. Most commonly used garnishes are ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, coleslaw, cheese, and onions. The danger in hot dogs lies in their sodium, fat, and preservative content. One hot dog contains around 18 grams of fat, most of which is saturated. These saturated fats can increase blood cholesterol and raise the risk of a cardiovascular disease.
Furthermore, these fats food items contain additives called nitrites which preserve the food’s freshness. During the cooking process, these nitrites combine with the naturally present amines to form carcinogenic compounds. These compounds have been associated with cancer of the bladder, stomach, oral cavity, esophagus, and brain. For a healthier hot dog, look for the ones with less than 370 grams of sodium and no more than 3 grams of saturated fat. Try the healthier variations such as the Vegetarian Hot Dog or the Natural Uncured Turkey Hot Dogs that are also rich in flavor and poor in nitrites.
A typical Mexican dish, Nachos are composed of tortilla chips covered in cheese. Commonly served as lunch, dinner, and as snacks, nachos are one of the culprits for the obesity epidemics. The fried chips and cheese are high in fat, sodium, and calories, causing an increase in your cholesterol, weight gain, and development of heart diseases, and cancer. Having said that, there are also ways to make nachos a healthier snack by including as many fruits and veggies as possible like fresh onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and avocado. Try the home-made alternatives such as the Grilled Zucchini Nachos, the Loaded Black Bean Nachos, or the Mini Pepper Nachos that are all loaded with healthy delicious ingredients and low in fat and sodium.
Modern pizza evolved from similar flatbread dishes in Naples, Italy in the early 19th century. A flatbread topped with tomato sauce and cheese and baked in an oven, pizza is commonly sold whole or in slices, fresh or frozen. Studies show that Americans eat an average of 46 slices per year, rich in fat, sodium, and refined carbohydrates. The pizza crust is made with refined flour with low amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals. These refined grains can cause visceral abdominal fat that increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, and breast cancer.
Pizza is also high in saturated fat, containing 18 grams of fat. The added meat in the pizza further increases the amounts of fat which can lead to high cholesterol and heart diseases. Moreover, the high amount of sodium can cause high blood pressure. Even so, don’t let these information destroy your love for pizza and try cooking your own variations, using your own healthy ingredients. Make one with whole-grain thin crust, low-sodium tomato sauce, low-fat cheese, and all types of vegetables. Find healthy and delicious pizza recipes online such as the Green Pizza, the Spring Pizza, or the Smoky Corn and Black Bean Pizza.
If a mouth-watering slice of cheesecake is your most-loved dessert, you might want to look around for a new favorite. A mixture of cheese, eggs, cookies, nuts, and whipped cream, cheesecake is high in sugar, fat, and surprising as it may be, sodium. With 18 grams of fat, which is a third of your daily limit, you might want to reduce eating this dessert if you’re maintaining a healthy body weight.
A serious threat to your health, when you consume too much saturated fat it raises your cholesterol levels. Raising the risk of diabetes and weight gain, a slice of cheesecake contains 18 grams of added sugar and 350 milligrams of sodium. 18 grams of sugar is three quarters of the daily limit of 24 grams for women, and a half of the 36-gram limit for men. If you want to avoid the extra calories and saturated fat, try cooking your own kind of cheesecake, using healthier ingredients. Buy a fat-free cheese, use egg whites instead of whole eggs, and add fat-free milk.
#5 Milk Shake
A sweet, cold beverage made from milk and iced cream, milkshakes are a delicious treat flavored with chocolate sauce, caramel, and butterscotch. But exactly how healthy is this heaven in a cup? Although containing small amounts of calcium, milkshakes are rich in saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends 13 grams of saturated fats a day, while one chocolate shake contains 6.5 grams. Moreover, the vanilla shake has 9.8 grams, the strawberry one has 4, 9 grams, and the large-sized milk shake contains a whopping 12 grams of saturated fat. But if milk shakes are your guilty pleasure, the next time you run to a store order the smallest size they have. Maybe consider completely ditching these high-in-fat shakes and turn to the more naturally healthy smoothies. Try the Banana Ginger Smoothie, the Green Tea, Blueberry and Banana one, or the Apricot-Mango Madness, all full of nutrients and protein you need.
It seems like every fast food restaurant nowadays sells burgers, these cheap sandwiches consisting of a slice of meat, placed inside a bun. Often served with cheese, lettuce, onions, pickles, and enhanced with ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard, burgers almost always come with a generous amount of French fries. Economical, appealing, and easy to eat, nothing is more familiar than the taste of a burger.
Although doing a great job at feeding the masses, these burgers can have a harmful effect on your health. They are high-calories type of food that contain over 1000 calories or more if you add the fries. Raising cholesterol levels and increasing the risk of heart diseases, some burgers come with 50 grams of fat which is way over the healthy range of 18-30 grams per day. Fast food stores also use a variety of additives to preserve the meat and these unsafe substances can cause headaches, diarrhea, sweating and chest tightness.
And did you know that one burger can contain beef from hundreds of different cattle, all combined in a single slice of meat? The ground beef used in these burgers doesn’t always come from the muscle of a cow but from other waste and by-products. A burger at your local fast food store contains 500 grams of sodium while the toppings can add up to 200 more calories and 500 more grams of sodium. Even though these statistics can make you lose your appetite, that doesn’t mean you have to give up burgers for good. Try sticking with plain single burgers, order small portions of French fries, lose the bun and use a lettuce wrap. And it’s always better to go homemade, where you’ll have a total control over the ingredients. Go organic and shop at your local market, opt for lean turkey meat over beef, use calorie-free flavorings, and pass on the caloric add-ons.
#3 Fried Chicken
A dish consisting of chicken pieces that are pan-fried or deep-fried, fried chicken is commonly found at every fast-food restaurant. With a crisp coating and crust to the exterior, this deliciously harmful food puts you at higher risk for certain health conditions.
Coated in batter, the fried chicken absorbs more fat, making it high in calories. A possible weight gain treat, the saturated fat and trans fat also increase the risk of high cholesterol, heart diseases, and cancer. Deep-fried food may contain acrylamide which is a possible carcinogen. People who suffer from a kidney disease will have a hard time processing the substances in the oily soaked food. Deep frying destroys the good nutrients and what is left is nothing but empty calories. So if you have a hard time giving up on fried chicken, there are various healthier variations. Use unsaturated oils such as soybean and canola, eat only small amounts, and always pair it with fresh fruits and vegetables.
#2 French Fries
Eaten as part of lunch and dinner, French fries appear on almost any restaurant’s menu. Topped with salt, ketchup, mayo, and other condiments, they originally come from Belgium. But what can be the harm in a potato heated with a little bit of oil? Well, apparently a lot! French fries are deep-fried in oil which makes them highly rich in fat, with small servings containing between 200 and 340 calories on average. Increasing the risks of becoming overweight, this high-fat diet may injure brain cells that control body weight. Rich in both saturated fats and trans fat, the French fries may raise the level of cholesterol and increase the risk of strokes, type 2 diabetes, and heart diseases.
Furthermore, excessive intake of carbohydrates can lead to obesity, diabetes, and cancer. French fries, being rich in salt, also increase the risk of high blood pressure and kidney diseases. Just as in fried chicken, fries contain acrylamide that poses serious threats for several types of cancer. For those who are loyal fans of French fries, this is sad news to hear. But cutting on French fries will help you lose weight, look better, and feel as healthy as a horse. There are also various healthier alternatives like Seasoned Pepper Sticks, Baked Green Bean Sticks, Heirloom Carrot Fries, and Zucchini Chips. Come on then, dig in!
The second most consumed beverage in the world, soda is a delicious, grab and go convenience that is heavily promoted and advertised. Drinking carbonated water has been in vogue since 1767 and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Studies reveal that a can of soda contains 10 teaspoons on sugar, causing an insulin reaction in the body and leading to diabetes. Soda contains phosphoric acid that mixes with stomach acid, slowing digestion and preventing nutrient absorption. Most sodas also contain caffeine that is linked to certain cancers, breast lumps, irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure. Diet sodas on the other hand contain artificial sweeteners as a substitute for sugar that can sometimes be even more harmful. These artificial sweeteners have been linked to higher risks of seizures, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, and emotional disorders.
Overall, soda is nothing but empty calories with zero vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Although this is sad news to hear, limiting sugar-sweetened drinks is an important step in the right direction. Do not despair since there are various healthier alternatives such as the natural green tea, homemade water kefir, and the fermented Kombucha.