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Growing Up on Fast Food Essay

Most Americans have eaten at a drive-in restaurant, diner and/or fast-food restaurant in their lives. Customers frequent these establishments for its convenience and affordability. Part of the fast-food lure is to satisfy the body; another part is a family sitting down and enjoying a meal together.

Many people back in the 1950s and 1960s did not understand food safety and its dangers. Food was cooked in butter or lard instead of Trans oils, vegetable oil or margarine that are used today. Foods in the past were loaded with fat and cholesterol, which made consumers early candidates for cardiovascular diseases, stroke and other health issues. Food may have tasted delicious, but that came with a heavy price.

Consumers of today are more educated concerning the risks and rewards of eating out and how food is prepared. They still face similar obstacles as their parents and grandparents did generations ago. How is the food made? What ingredients are used in making the selected dish? Is the place where the food is grown/processed/made reputable? Any of the aforementioned questions that are answered in the negative should be cause for concern.

 Recent examples in the U.S. include the peanut recall. In that case, the product was tainted at the manufacturing plant. The items were put out for mass consumption, and that decision lead to many people getting sick and others dying. The Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) voluntarily recalled peanuts that were manufactured in either Georgia or Texas for fear that consumers would be exposed to Salmonella poisoning. (FDA, p.1)

Although the outbreak did not affect jars or peanut butter commonly found in supermarkets, the tainted supply went to institutions and other establishments. (MSNBC,

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p.1) This meant restaurants could have received the contaminated peanut butter. Where hundred of people were injured and a half-dozen people died from Salmonella poisoning, this could have been even more tragic if not for the recall. (1)

The news becomes important since many restaurants offer peanut and jelly sandwiches on their kids menu. It is a comfort food for many people—for the young and young-at-heart. (Phantom Gourmet, 2009) Having that option taken away would have been tough for restaurant owners who would have removed that item off its menu and the patrons who would have ordered the sandwich. (Phantom Gourmet, 2009)

This is where the fast food industry can either be a friend or foe. They offer many choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Items range from bacon and eggs in the morning to prime rib in the evening. Many places like diners are open 24 hours, so people can get what they are craving any time. Being able to order what customers want when they want entices people to eat out.

Another reason people go out to eat is the restaurant’s atmosphere. Certainly a fast-food facility such as McDonald’s will have a different motif than a diner, which will have a more distinctive ambiance than a mom-and-pop restaurant. The “Golden Arches” typically serves hamburgers, fast sandwiches with French fries and soft drinks. Kids are usually seen playing in a designated area. Not a place for people without kids who want to sit down to a quiet meal.

The problem comes as much of the food is either fatty to begin with or comes with condiments that are also high in fat, calories and other things that can expand a waistline or harden an artery. Fast food companies are adapting to the way Americans eat by offering salads, parfaits and other healthier choices. McDonald’s has spent billions of dollars in advertising these menu changes (McDonald’s Corporate, p.1)

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Diners have been around this country for decades. Most people have one either in or near their town. These establishments offer good food and reasonable prices. That is often not the primary reason patrons flock to the diner, however. The restaurant set up is the main attraction. Some places have rally nights featuring vintage cars and motorcycles from the 1950s and 1960s.

Other places house 50s-era memorabilia with photos of Singer/Actor Elvis Presley, Actress Marilyn Monroe, Actor James Dean and advertisements for Coke products that were very inexpensive in those days. Try getting a bottle of coke for a nickel today—it will not happen because of the cost of making the item and most companies use plastic instead of glass. There is less of a safety risk involved with plastic and it is cheaper to produce.

Then there is the modern convenience of take-out or drive through. Being able to take home a bag from a fast-food place is certainly convenient and one does not mean unloading the family of the car. A menu is set up outside where people can give their orders, drive up to the window, pay the server, get their food and drive off to their next destination.

Sounds easy in that the food still comes out fast (and correctly, one hopes), but what the experience lacks is people enjoying the food. Sure, the family sits in the car eating their hamburgers and French fries, but at the cost of getting the car dirty, having to throw out the garbage later and being cramped in a car seat without the benefits of stretching or using the restroom if needed.

That type of convenience may be too much for some people. There is no wrong answer to how people dine. Time, the order itself, and other circumstances dictate if and when a person of family sits inside the restaurant, takes it out, or drives through. The bottom line for the restaurants is making sure the food is properly served to its customers so they return.

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This paper also hopes to debunk the myths surrounding fast food, how people who grew up eating at such places have adapted with the times, and how the restaurant industry has attempted to enlighten its customers about the choices they have.

Iconic restaurants such as McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken (A.K.A. KFC) had a formula for encouraging return visitors. Offer customers good food at reasonable prices and they may come back again and bring friends. Both franchises have been going strong for more than five decades because their philosophy has not changed much during that time.

Healthy Does Not Bad Tasting

One problem fast food companies had to address is the quality of the ingredients used to make their trademark dishes.  Is the meat for the burgers made at McDonald’s or Burger King the best quality they can find? Are the chickens raised for use at Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) fed a solid diet of nutrients?

Those questions and answers matter to a point. Everyone will demonstrate the excellence of their products to show they care about their customers. If they fail, then actions such as recalls (for peanuts as previously mentioned) happen. This puts the industry under negative light and those working within the industry must work harder to regain the customer’s trust. Restaurants that did not have any trouble with the recalled product will be challenged to make their products better or fall behind in the marketplace.

McDonald’s has been proactive over the past three decades in educating consumers about their foods and service (McDonald’s, p.1). They began printing up nutrition information for their customers to read if they wish. They might not like the fact a “Big Mac” sandwich has 50 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of saturated fat. (1)

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Or, a “McRib” sandwich has 48 percent of the RDA of saturated fat. (1) Clearly, these are not choices for people looking to either lose weight or remain physically fit. Their nutritional information may be found either by accessing the company website at www.mcdonalds.com or stopping in any one of their restaurants and picking up a brochure.

Eating at McDonald’s—or any fast food place—for a prolonged period of time can have detrimental consequences. Morgan Spurlock wrote and directed a 2004 film about the fast-food industry, “Supersize Me!” The plot was simple: Spurlock would eat nothing but the contents of the McDonald’s menu for 30 consecutive days. He had to order everything off the menu at least once and had to supersize his order if asked. He would also refrain from exercising during the one-month period. (Spurlock, p.1)

His point was to demonstrate the hazardous effects of eating out at fast food restaurants. Watching the film makes people cringe as he begins to gain too much weight, lose energy in wanting to do any real activities. Because of his McDonald’s diet and his lack of exercise, Spurlock not only gained a whopping 24½ pounds in 30 days, consumed a pound of sugar a day on average and his cholesterol rose an unbelievable 65 points from when this experiment started. (Spurlock Quotes, p.1)

Besides the obvious physical ailments that befell Spurlock during his thirty days, there were also the psychological aspects. He said during the movie:

“I nearly doubled my risk of coronary heart disease, making myself twice as likely to have heart failure. I felt depressed and exhausted most of the time, my mood swung on a dime and my sex life was non existent. I craved this food more and more when I ate it, and got massive headaches when I didn’t. In my final

The movie was nominated for an Academy Award had had quite the reaction from moviegoers. Although McDonald’s officials denied the moved at the time, they scrapped the supersize option several weeks after the movie was released. (Wikipedia, p.1) They also offered its customers healthier alternatives such as salads. Spurlock said those choices contained more sugar than a bag of cookies. (1)

Spurlock accomplished what he set out to do: find the causes of overweight people in the US and the bigger problem of obesity in this country. McDonald’s and the rest of the fast-food industry had to take note that their foods, if taken as much as Spurlock had, would have devastating effects on people’s health and well being. Nobody suggested that families eat every meal at restaurants. That logic would be expensive as well and unhealthy and would not make much sense.

His body changed for the worse after his 30-day McDonald’s binge. It took five months for Spurlock to lose the weight he gained during that period (Spurlock Quotes, p.1). He suffered from liver damage, high blood pressure and other damaging ailments while performing this experiment. Moderation for anything is the best course of action when attempting to so something. That McDonald’s food was not healthy struck a chord, that Spurlock damaged his body making a point struck an even louder chord.

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