Fast food is bad for you. “I’m ok and I grew up on a lot of fast food” you may say. But today’s fast food is not the same : it’s much much faster. It’s been getting worse all the time, in spite of so-called ‘healthier options’, which now become fashionable in many outlets.
And the consequences of how we behave today, of the way we feed our kids especially, will be epidemic.
Fast food is bad for you. And here are the reasons.
Fast food often contains rubbish. Do aldehydes and acrolein, heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons sound good to you? Artificial dyes and preservatives?
New research just out this year has shown that the more you eat: “mass produced packaged breads and buns; sweet or savoury packaged snacks; industrialised confectionery and desserts; sodas and sweetened drinks; meat balls, poultry and fish nuggets, and other reconstituted meat products transformed with addition of preservatives other than salt (for example, nitrites); instant noodles and soups; frozen or shelf stable ready meals; and other food products made mostly or entirely from sugar, oils and fats, and other substances not commonly used in culinary preparations such as hydrogenated oils, modified starches, and protein isolates”, the more likely you are to get cancer . For every 10% more ‘ultra-processed’ food eaten, 12% more cancers follow. Even the ‘potential cancer-causing’ packaging migrates into the food. The grease-repellent cardboard and paper products it comes wrapped in, tend to contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, associated with cancer, developmental toxicity and immunotoxicity, just for starters. High temperatures and use of emulsified fats significantly increase their migration into your meal .
And then there are the antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is one of the main health threats facing us. As if we don’t use enough of those ourselves, many more of them enter the food chain via our meat. In 2011, 80% of all antibiotics distributed in the United States were sold for use in food-producing animals. The majority of these were given to completely healthy animals, to increase weight gain and prevent disease in the crowded, unsanitary industrial farming conditions. England’s chief medical officer warns that the world faces a “post-antibiotic apocalypse” after which routine medical operations would become too dangerous to perform because of the risk of infection .
And I’m not even talking about the destruction of the environment involved in producing all this. Heavy packaging – none of which recycled, of course – transport over enormous areas take their toll. So does the factory farming, which creates significant methane emissions and water pollution through excessive fertilization .
As Michael Pollan says in ‘In Defense of Food: an Eater’s Manifesto’:
“Avoid food products containing ingredients that are
C) more than five in number or that include
D) high-fructose corn syrup” .
It’s not easy, I know. Harder still for our children, who don’t even have memories of how you can live on potatoes and three veg, without ever dropping in at McDonald’s for a burger.
But couldn’t we just try a little bit harder? Against the onslaught of ever more clever advertising? Against the subtle wiles of those who want to make money at all costs at the expense of our very lives?
Baby steps, as always, are excellent. And for some of us, maybe even a clean break could be possible ….
veg: beet, broad beans, carrots, chinese leaves, globe artichokes, kohlrabi, cauli, cabbage, (sugar) peas, beans, lettuce, sweetcorn, turnips, courgettes, broccoli, spring onions, squash, radish, tomatoes, samphire, spinach (beet), chard, endive.
fish: mackerel is at its best in July, cheap and an invaluable source of omega 3. Otherwise: dab, black bream, crab, mackerel, clam, dover sole, megrim sole, grey mullet, flounder and American signal crayfish.
meat: lamb, rabbit, wood pigeon.
See also http://eatseasonably.co.uk/what-to-eat-now/this-months-best/.
Chinese/spring cabbage, calabrese, carrots, chicory, coriander, endive, florence fennel, kohlrabi, salad onions, (mangetout/sugar snap) peas, mooli, pak choi, turnips, black and white radish (mooli), perpetual spinach, chard, parsley, beetroot, french beans, mini cauliflower, lettuce*.
End of the month: corn salad, black radish, endive, kohlrabi. Sowing kohlrabi late in July should supply them well into the winter. They will stand in the soil until needed.
Plant: kale, sprouts, leeks, winter cabbages, broccoli, calabrese, cauliflower.
*Remember: only crisp lettuce (little gem, cos, webb) germinates well when soil temperature goes above 25°C.
KOHLRABI with CHEESE
Chop kohlrabi into 1-2 cm pieces. Cook till just tender, drain, but keep 120ml of the cooking water. Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Add flour and stir well until smooth and blended. Gradually add milk, cooking water and cheese, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted and sauce thick. Add kohlrabi and heat through. Garnish with parsley and nutmeg.
FRENCH BEANS with ANCHOVIES
Cook French beans in salted water. Sauté a large clove of garlic, chopped fine, in olive oil. Add small handful of anchovies (or small tin). Sauté them, crushing them with a wooden spoon, until they “melt”. Add more oil as you need to lightly coat all the beans. Drain beans, add to the anchovies, mix.
And French beans you can also:
toss in a little butter or olive oil; sprinkle with flaked almonds
or mix with boiled potatoes, flaked tuna, black olives and vinaigrette for a salade niçoise.
I like sautéing chard (or endive – or even bolted lettuce I expect) in oil with garlic, raisins and pine nuts. Add the garlic late, as it burns easily. Good with peas.
LAMB CHOPS with BROAD BEAN, PICKLED CAULI and POTATO SALAD
1 cauliflower, 4 lamb chops, potatoes and broad beans for 4, ½tsp cumin powder, 100ml olive oil, 30ml cider vinegar, salt, pepper, 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts, 2tbsp chopped parsley.
Break the cauli into large florets. Blanch in boiling salted water until just cooked (about 5 mins). Drain and while still hot, mix with oil, vinegar and cumin. Cook the potatoes and add the broad beans for the last 5 mins. Drain and let cool. Season and cook the chops. Remove them from the pan and rest.
Finish the salad by adding pine nuts and parsley, check the seasoning.
Leftovers will still taste fine the next day.
GREEK BROAD BEANS for 2
3 to 4 tblsp olive oil, 1 grated onion, 400g podded broad beans, 250ml water, 2 tblsp tomato puree, 1 to 2 tsp dried oregano, sea salt, pepper.
Sauté onion for 5 mins in oil, make sure it doesn’t brown. Add beans for 1 more min. Raise heat, add water, tomato puree, oregano, salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook at a strong simmer for 20-25 mins. If toward the end there’s too much water, uncover pan so it evaporates, leaving a rich tomato and olive oil sauce.
In Greece they traditionally serve a big plate of broad beans as a main course with bread to mop up the sauce, and slices of feta. Or you can have it as a side dish.
PAN-FRIED MACKEREL with POTATOES and BEETROOT
400g potatoes and 300g raw beet, cut into chunks; 3 tbsp olive oil; 4 fresh mackerel filleted or 8 mackerel fillets; pinch of cayenne pepper (optional); zest and juice of 1 lemon; 2 tbsp crème fraîche; handful fresh chives, snipped.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Put potatoes and beet in tin with oil and roast for 40 mins. When they have been cooking for 20 mins, prepare mackerel. Slash skin side of the fillets and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Heat oil in pan with zest and fry fish over high heat for 2-3 mins each side until skin is crisp. Put potatoes and beet in bowl and stir in lemon juice, crème fraîche and chives. Season and serve with the mackerel. Good with spinach.
CREAMY CHEESY SPINACH
500g spinach, 40g butter, 2 sliced garlic cloves, 75g full-flavour cheese, nutmeg, 50ml double cream.
Cook spinach for 3 mins until wilted. Tip into colander, squeeze to remove water. Melt butter, add garlic and cook for 2-3 mins until soft, but not coloured. Add spinach and nutmeg. Season; stir in cream and cheese and cook for 1 min until melted. Serve with boiled potatoes.
DAB IN A BAP, serves 1.
2 dab fillets, butter, seasoned flour, 1 large floury bap, lettuce leaves. Tartar sauce: 1-2 tbsp good mayonnaise, chopped parsley and chives, lemon juice, 1tsp mustard.
First make tartar sauce by mixing all the ingredients. Then heat butter, dust fish with flour and fry for 2 mins each side (if you leave the skin on, fry skin-side down first for 3 mins, then give it 30 secs on the other side to cook through). Slice and butter bap. Dollop on tartar sauce (or ketchup). Lay down lettuce leaves, put fish on top, close bap and eat while fish still warm.