How to Combat Fast Food Culture

4 ways you can avoid unhealthy eating and move for a healthier society

Everywhere you go in America, you can see the giant glowing signs of the fast food industry. Just pull on in and get a whole meal in just minutes: It’s an alluring offer in our fast-paced world. It’s cheap and quick, and if we are honest with ourselves, those fries are pretty much addicting. But with documentaries like Super-Size Me, we are able to view just what a fast food lifestyle is doing to our bodies and culture, and it’s not pretty.

With high fat and sugar content — not to mention giant portion sizes — the pop-in, pop-out dining world is taking a hit on our health and weight. But there is a way out. The American Psychological Association (APA) published a list of ideas presented by obesity expert Kelly Brownell, Ph.D., at the APA convention in 2001 that, if followed, could help curb the problem. From that list, we've compiled the following guide on how to combat fast food culture on a broad scale and in your own life.

Step 1: Get active

The first problem Dr. Brownell sees is a lack of physical activity. Over the years, as fast food has become a bigger part of American culture, Dr. Bronwell says, physical activity has decreased. He suggests that city planners embrace new urbanism, structuring towns and cities to encourage daily walking and biking. For an individual effort against fast food culture, Dr. Brownell recommends you increase your level of activity either through daily exercise or simply choosing your sneakers over your car the next time you decide to go out for a cup of coffee.

Step 2: Restrict marketing that targets children

Dr. Brownell recommends that all fast food and soft drinks be removed from schools and, instead, schools should put forth an effort to sign contracts and align themselves with sports-related companies that encourage healthy eating and physical fitness. He promotes placing a limit on the amount of television marketing and advertising air time that fast-food companies can use to market directly to children, and requiring equal air time for healthy messages. If you have children at home, you can personally combat fast-food culture by restricting the amount of television your kids watch and encouraging active play.

Step 3: Support the taxation of unhealthy foods, and making healthy food affordable

One of the more drastic options Dr. Brownell suggests is to call on the federal, state and local government to instate a “fat tax” in hopes to curb spending on unhealthy items. In addition to taxing fast food, Dr. Brownell asks that the price of healthy food be reduced so people feel that it is an affordable option. He believes that if unhealthy or processed foods become more expensive than their healthy counterparts, people will think twice before indulging.

Step 4: Plan ahead

In addition to supporting policy change, one small step you can take to combat fast food culture in your own life is to plan ahead. Plan your meals for the week ahead of time and pack your lunches in order to lessen the tempting lure of the quick, unhealthy fast food alternative. Knowing you have satisfying food in your lunch sack or food to make dinner waiting for you at home can make it much easier to drive past rather than drive-thru your local fast-food joint.

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