Eating out often will demolish your health and wallet

by John Anderson

Artwork courtesy of Staff Artist Rob Piper

I know you’re busy – we all are. Between classes, work, extracurricular activities and socializing there is hardly room to breathe, let alone eat. If you’re like me, you consume whatever you can whenever there’s time. If that means the drive-through at Jack in the Box at 2 a.m., so be it.  If you’re not feeling a burger, La Casitas is right next door. Both are inexpensive, easy and right on the way from Parking Structure 3 to class. The decision is so easy it is almost subconscious; eating out is effortless.

Our infatuation with dining out, especially fast food, reflects our hyper-accelerated lifestyles.  Cooking has become something of an annoyance instead of an eagerly anticipated part of the day.  We multitask, rapidly combining nourishment with completing vital chores on our to-do lists.  Our food culture is spiraling into a morass of expedient dining options instead of evolving into something delicious and steeped in tradition.  So next time you beeline for East Commons after class, stop and think about the reasons you eat fast.

Let’s take a second to examine our oft-repeated behavior of cruising to the closest fast-food place instead of back home to make a sandwich.  At 99 cents for two tacos, Jack in the Box is too good of a deal to pass up.  And what about a McDouble, fries and a drink for $3? Sold. Add one more to the billions served.  Part of the mouthwatering allure of eating out is how insanely inexpensive it is.

McDonald’s panders to the budget-minded among us, wanting us to believe eating its plastic-like culinary options are the most economical way to fuel our bodies. If you were to go to the store and buy all of the components needed to make a double cheeseburger, you might be scared off by the price tag on your basket — but you shouldn’t be.

If you dice up the total to equal the portions found in a single McDouble, the price is much more encouraging. I found that one can replicate a double cheeseburger for around 99 cents.

You might even be able to lower the price with some thrifty shopping.  Savings become much sharper when we look at imitating “finer” dining options.  In the end, all restaurants need to turn a profit to survive — you will almost always pay more at a restaurant than you would cooking for yourself.

Let’s set the money issue to simmer and move on to health.  Morgan Spurlock seared the dangers of eating at McDonald’s into our minds with his 2004 documentary, “Super Size Me.”

He described  —  somewhat gruesomely — the negative health effects of eating nothing but fast food for a month. Despite Spurlock’s intellectually nourishing dissertation, McDonald’s stock prices have been steadily climbing since the film’s release.

Not surprisingly, as fast food companies continue to increase profits, our nationwide obesity rates are rising to a boil. I know, I know, you’ve heard it all before, but chew on this: Fast food doesn’t have to be unhealthy, and it doesn’t have to come from a restaurant. Oftentimes the healthiest things you can eat are the simplest and least expensive to prepare. If you’re hungry after school, consider boiling up a sweet potato and garnishing it with a bit of sour cream instead of scarfing down orange chicken from Panda Express. Not into potatoes? Steam up some vegetables and dump melted cheddar all over them.  Your choices are as expansive as your creativity.

“But John, what if I don’t know how to cook?” That is no excuse.  There is a cornucopia of cookbooks on the market aimed at people with little to no cooking ability.  They make the daunting task of fixing a delicious meal as simple as bowling with bumpers.  These are skills you will be using for the rest of your life, so in the interest of self-preservation, start experimenting.  Treat it like a hobby, the more you cook the better chef you’ll become.

Join me in this challenge: Reduce the number of times you go out for food by minimizing it to once per week.  Instead of going to Subway, barbecue with your roommates.  Avoid Sub Connection and bring a homemade sandwich masterpiece to school. Make a move and ask that girl or guy you’ve been awkwardly flirting with if they’d like to make a culinary magnum opus sometime this weekend.  Cook something, take a breath, enjoy the people around you, and most importantly, enjoy your food.

–John Anderson is an international security and conflict resolution junior.

–The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.

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