How the fast food of today differs in quality and safety compared to the exact same products made by the same companies just a few decades ago when we were kids.
I grew up eating a lot of fast food. My Mom didn’t enjoy cooking and so grabbing a quick meal from McDonald’s, KFC, Maryland Fried Chicken (remember that one?), Dog n Suds, A&W, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, or Taco Bell was a regular occurrence for me and my siblings.
On average, I probably ate fast food at least three times a week growing up.
If I ate so much junky processed food growing up and still managed to end up a relatively healthy adult, why on earth don’t I buy my kids fast food even once in a while?
Am I a crazy, over the top, helicopter Mom because my kids have never eaten fast food at McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, KFC (etc, etc)?
You might be asking yourself a similar question.
If you ate a lot of fast food growing up and you’re still here, why shouldn’t you let your kids eat it too?
Isn’t the fact that you’re still standing proof that this stuff isn’t that bad?
Fast Food Has Changed
The answer is that the fast food of today is not the same fast food we ate during our childhoods. Not even close.
The packaging may be the same, the buildings (and the smells) are the same, the scary Ronald McDonald clown is still the same, but the food is not.
It’s waaaaay worse. So much worse, in fact, that it really no longer qualifies as food.
You see, the fast food we ate way back when was actually food.
It was just prepared fast and served up quickly.
The fast food of today is still prepared fast and served up quickly but it is no longer food.
Here are the four major changes I’ve identified.
Most people don’t realize that McDonald’s used nutritious beef tallow, a healthy fat, to fry its french fries until the sea change in the restaurant industry some 40 years ago in favor of cheaper, partially hydrogenated (trans)fats.
People caught on to the transfat scam in the late 1990s forcing fast food restaurants to slowly change over to fats that were not partially hydrogenated.
But are these “transfat-free” oils any healthier? No, they are not.
In fact, they may be worse. Fast food french fries today are typically fried in genetically modified soy oil that has been processed via interesterification.
Kids of today are eating frankenfries with their Happy Meals, not the nutrient-loaded beef tallow fries of my fast food eating youth.
I drank quite a bit of soda growing up.
However, the soda from my youth did not contain the belly fat and inflammation triggering high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) of today.
Sodas from my childhood were made with cane sugar, not great but at least it was real.
Today’s soda is not only made with HFCS, it is genetically modified from GMO corn!
You must get old-fashioned sodas made with cane sugar and specified as such on the label to be sure you are getting a GMO-free product.
Chicken, Beef and Eggs
The chickens and cattle of today are fattened with genetically modified corn and soy feed.
GMOs didn’t exist when I was a kid and the meat I ate was never from animals consuming it.
What are the long-term effects of humans eating meat from GMO-fed animals? We really don’t know.
We do know is that the isoflavones (plant estrogens, aka phytoestrogens) from the GMO feed get into the meat and eggs of soy-fed animals.
This is called “second-hand soy”.
What do these residual plant hormones do to people who consume them? Good question, but given that a soy-fed chicken develops weeks earlier than a non-soy fed chicken and tends to be much fatter, consumption of these isoflavone-laced foods may potentially contribute to childhood obesity problems and early or abnormal sexual development.
Today, as many as 10 in 100 white girls, 15 in 100 Hispanic girls, and 25 in 100 African American girls are experiencing breast development as early as 7 years old!
In boys, estrogen mimickers can increase the chances for ADHD, urogenital abnormalities, prostate problems, and lower semen quality as adults. It also puts them at risk for low testosterone (low T) for life, which carries a boatload of health risks.
As you can see, the chicken, beef, and eggs from fast food restaurants today is of far worse quality than what I ate as a kid. While not particularly healthy, at least it didn’t have the potential to screw up my hormones for life.
Milk, Cheese and Ice Cream
The cheese, milk, ice cream, and other dairy products served in fast food restaurants today come from confinement cows eating genetically modified corn and soy and treated with the recombinant growth hormone rBGH.
This is a genetically engineered hormone injected into lactating cows so that they produce more milk. It was approved by the FDA in 1993.
According to the American Cancer Society, “milk from rBGH-treated cows has higher levels of IGF-1, a hormone that normally helps some types of cells to grow”.
While more study needs to be done, current research has found that IGF-1 level in humans is positively associated with the risk of breast and prostate cancers. (source)
Thus, cheese, milk, and ice cream at fast food restaurants today are not the same as what we ate as kids.
It certainly didn’t potentially increase the risk of chronic disease because the animals were shot up with genetically engineered hormones and eating GMO feed.
Fast Food is FAR Unhealthier Today than When You Were a Kid
As you can see, the fast food and processed foods of today are far worse than what many of us adults consumed as children.
The downhill slide has occurred slowly, so slowly in fact, that it has escaped the notice of the general public.
If you would like your children to be excluded from this vast experiment being conducted by the industrial food system with millions of unwitting participants, I would suggest finding restaurants in your area that serve fast food made the way it was prior to 1980.
We have a place like this where I live that I am happy to take my children to where we can enjoy a burger and fries the way I ate it as a kid. More and more places like this are popping up all over the country.
It is not necessary to raise your child in a bubble. What is necessary is to teach your child that not all fast food is the same and how to wisely discern the good from the bad.