GONE are days when fast foods were strictly for pleasure. In today’s fast pace world where everyone appears inevitably in a rat race, meals from fast
foods restaurants have become the quickest and most
convenient means of filling the stomach, especially amongst
well-to-do families who find local food joints otherwise
known as “mama put” or “bucca” unsuitable.
No thanks of course to industrialization, traffic jams in large cities, economic
depression amid growing financial burdens, and growing aspirations amongst women, which, in various
homes, now translate into families enjoying less of healthy, home-cooked meals.
Not to mention children being
deprived the chance to healthy growth at a time when they
should develop all round, body, brain, cells, etc.
Comprising largely of junk foods, an expert says fast foods can be dense in calories,
sugar and salt, and therefore, cannot be considered nutritious, especially as they
tend to trigger obesity in children; a major problem
presently facing the United States for example. Reports say
about one in three American children and teens is over weight or obese, making childhood obesity the No.1
health concern among parents
in the United States.
More so is the fact that obesity is causing a broad range of health
problems- high blood
pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol
level, that previously weren’t seen until adulthood.
There are its psychological effects of low self esteem, negative body, image and depression. More
children are gradually
becoming obese in Nigeria too.
In fact, to think that with fast food, it’s impossible to
exercise control over
ingredients used and how much is used, the immediate
environment where food is cooked, what oil is used, etc.,
makes the benefits of home cooked meals inexhaustible.
But do mums feel guilty about their inability to constantly
feed their child with good, nutritious home cooked meals?
“I sincerely feel guilty
sometimes, but I really can’t help it. Even when I make
resolutions every now and then about cooking before I
go to bed so my children can take them to school, I get too tired to stick to them,” a middle aged engineer told Woman’s Own. With Ama, an Abuja-based
banker, it’s even more interesting.
“I won’t lie; it’s not easy surviving as a mum these days with career and house chores.
Hence, I order both breakfast and lunch from a trusted fast
food restaurant for my children.
“I however try to balance what
I buy them each day.
Meanwhile, they always eat home cooked meals for dinner because I cook and store in the refrigerator at weekends,”
Ama said frankly.
What’s in a serving of fast food?
According to a nutritionist and
Belgium-trained food scientist/technologist, Mrs Ijeoma Ugwu, one serving of fast food already contains the required daily intake of salt, sugar and fat; so, by the time you eat your home cooked meal later, you would have been over eating.
“That’s why when you look around, especially in
gatherings where there are well to do people, you’ll notice
children are getting more obese than ever before. It is quite alarming but the truth is that our children are getting
an excess of what they need daily simply because they over indulge in fast foods and still top up with home cooked
Fast food meals, Ugwu explained, can be marred by
unhealthy use of oil,
temperature abuse and lack of regulation.
“There is generally no check on operators. Nobody checks what oil is used. In fact, from my discovery, an oil can be used more than eight times.
Such oil has already
undergone degradation and
could carry a lot of free fatty acids already. That’s why you find so many free radicals in the body when you over
indulge in them.
“Also, there is temperature abuse. Frozen chickens for
example could be left outside the freezer for hours and then
put back into the freezer.
That’s plenty of room for contamination of food. So, with fast food, there is high
tendency for food to get contaminated either through
temperature abuse or non hygienic practices, because the
sole aim is just to make money.
Regulation however admitting that fast
foods provide the convenience needed to cope in a fast pace
society such as ours, Ugwu suggested the need for regulation.
“Nobody checks anything and there’s no standard for whatsoever