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Time to Eat: Weapons of Mass Consumption

Discover the consequences of your french fry cravings

 by Stephanie Berger
 published on Thursday, November 17, 2005

If you're eating fast food 13 times a week, you might want to skip your next Whopper and opt for a salad. Just a suggestion. /issues/arts/694957
Deanna Dent / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
If you're eating fast food 13 times a week, you might want to skip your next Whopper and opt for a salad. Just a suggestion.
 

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At lunchtime in the Memorial Union, thousands of students line up at fast food joints for their midday meal. But using the excuse that there aren't any healthy food options around campus won't get you much sympathy from Tina Volpe or Deanne Wilson, who both have dramatically different ideas about what constitutes a healthy diet.

Volpe, author of the recently released "The Fast Food Craze," says her years spent living on a farm and researching factory farms has made her a vegetarian who is turned off fast food forever.

"I saw my pet pig hanging from a tree and the other animals I befriended being killed for food," Volpe says.

Not only does Volpe say fast food is terrible for your body, she adds that the fast food industry is responsible for the cruel treatment and slaughter of billions of animals each year.

But according to Wilson, a registered dietician at the Student Health and Wellness Center, fast food is not necessarily bad for students when eaten in moderation as part of a varied and healthy diet.

"My nutrition philosophy is no foods are bad in theory," Wilson says. "To say absolutely never to eat fast food, that to me, seems pretty dramatic."

Wilson says eating fast food more than once a week can be bad, but that the most important concept is balancing your diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, yogurt, milk and healthier choices like grilled chicken and deli sandwiches. She adds that all of these items are available in the Memorial Union.

"On campus, people don't look around enough to see what's available," she says. "It's not true that there's just junk food."

But Volpe adds there are other dangers to fast food.

"The epidemic of obesity is so high in the United States today, and it's caused by this kind of food," she says. "If you care about your health, and you care about what's going to happen in your future, stay away from it."

While Wilson says choosing fast food restaurants' healthier options, like salads and baked potatoes, is a great idea, Volpe says that fast food restaurants are filled with improperly cooked meat and untrained employees who don't wash their hands, spreading disease to anyone who eats there.

Volpe says the only healthy way to eat is vegetarian.

Wilson says a vegetarian diet can be healthy, but isn't necessary.

Both Wilson and Volpe agree that it's a good idea to vary the foods you eat and to check grocery and health food stores for quick, easy and healthy alternatives to fast food.

Despite all their advice, some students choose to eat fast food on a regular basis.

"We have it once or twice a day, probably thirteen times a week," says biology freshman Tom Norton, while munching on a Whopper and fries at the Memorial Union's Burger King. "We don't really worry about our health because we've got other things to worry about."

Norton's friend, architecture sophomore Brian Daugherty, says that although they work out at the Student Recreation Complex together, they still don't live a healthy lifestyle.

"I think we have the worst diet we possibly could have," he says.

Journalism junior Spencer Ho works at the Memorial Union's Salsa Rico Mexican restaurant on the weekends. He says he thinks the food could be healthy in moderation, especially if people choose vegetarian tacos, rice and beans. But he also says that he sees a lot of the same people eating there every time he works.

"It's not the unhealthiest place in the world, but if you ate there every day you still wouldn't be healthy," he says. "It's huge portions that people probably shouldn't finish."

Wilson agrees portion size is an important part of a healthy diet. She says the difference between a regular Whopper and a Whopper Jr., for example, is 300 calories and 20 grams of fat.

"You don't have to deprive yourself and eat only celery, but limit your portion size," she says.

Realistically, Wilson says she knows that college students won't always make healthy choices. But she says in the end, it's all about moderation, listening to when your body says it's hungry and stopping eating before you're full.

"It's neat that we have control over our own destinies when it comes to health," she says.

Reach the reporter at stephanie.m.berger@asu.edu.



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