Fast food can be incredibly tempting at times. You know it's not diet-friendly and that you shouldn't be eating it, but when you're in a rush, stressed or having serious hunger pangs after a long day, the lure of a burger, fries and sugary soda can be hard to resist. Resisting the temptation is worth it though, as not eating fast food has many benefits, not just for your health, but for your waistline and wallet, too.
Most fast food options are loaded with calories. Pizzas, burgers, fries and fried chicken are calorie-dense and while you might try to cut back on calories elsewhere to make up for them, this tactic isn't the smartest. Many people look at the calorie counts on fast food menus and think they don't look too high, but they forget to add in the side orders and drinks, according to Leta Shy of FitSugar.com. By avoiding fast food and eating meals made at home, you can more easily focus on eating healthier, lower-calorie options for weight loss or maintenance.
No More Unknown Ingredients
Make a burger at home and you can use just a few basic ingredients -- a lean beef patty, whole-grain bun, lettuce, tomato and maybe some mustard. Pick a fast food burger, however, and you have no idea what's really in it. Fast food products are often mechanically separated, use a variety of animal parts and can contain monosodium glutamate, chemical preservatives, artificial coloring and many other unnatural nasties, notes nutritionist Claire Gallam of She Knows Food & Recipes.
It's a myth that fast food is cheap. Eating at a greasy burger joint or picking up a couple of on-offer pizzas may be cheaper than dining out at a posh restaurant, but you can cook a meal for the whole family for less at home. A fast food meal for a family of four can cost between $23 and $28, writes food journalist Mark Bittman in "The New York Times," but for that amount of money you could feed four or even six people with a home-made dinner of roasted chicken, vegetables, a side salad and milk.
Avoiding fast food not only helps lower your calorie intake and the consumption of mystery ingredients, it also supports your general health, too. Fast food is notorious for being high in sodium and saturated and trans fats. Too much sodium increases blood pressure and too much fat increases blood cholesterol, which are two factors for increased heart disease risk. The daily recommended intake for sodium is 2,300 to 2,400 milligrams while saturated and trans fats should respectively be limited to less than one and seven percent of your total daily calorie intake. Many fast food restaurants have menu options that exceed these amounts.