Do you want a gallon of soda with that? America’s Love Affair with Food

A SUBWAY Club 6" sandwich.

Subway sandwich, courtesy of Wikipedia

 My husband and I seldom eat fast food. In fact we only do when we’re traveling and have no other choice. On a recent trip back from Chicago we found ourselves in the car at lunch time. We decided to look for a Subway, because of all the fast food places, that has always seemed like the place where one might avoid a fat and calorie-laden meal. After all, it is Jared’s place. Well, apparently things have changed since Jared lost all that weight and since the last time we were there. Subway has joined the super-size-meal-deal-value-dollar  club just like all the other fast food places.   

We found a Subway at a combination truck stop, gas station, food mart in Indiana, aka the vice state (fireworks, gambling and cheap cigarettes. Sorry Hoosiers, that’s just how it seems to we Michiganders when we’re passing through.)  Anyway, this turned out to be more than just a Subway – it was a food mecca, with altars to all the usual fast food suspects. We stood in the line for Subway and scanned the menu for something healthy. Other fast food patrons always hate us because we don’t go there often enough to know the menu choices and take forever to order. We finally decided on 6 inch subs, chips and cookies (I know, not all that healthy) and got in line. When we went to order, we discovered that it cost less to order a sub, chips and a drink because that turned our order into a “meal” which is cheaper than ordering individual items. But we didn’t want to buy a drink, we just wanted water. Ironically, they would charge a dollar for a cup for water, but if you got the “meal deal” the soda was almost free. The server became impatient when we insisted that we didn’t want drinks, and she insisted that we were idiots because of course, more is less, at least there. So finally my husband succumbed and ordered the drink, which made his meal with the drink cheaper than mine without. So the server proceeded to hand my husband an enormously large bucket, er  cup for the soda. All it needed was a handle and we could have used it to water the garden, carry sand toys at the beach, or bring milk in from the cow barn. A bucket of soda. For one person. Along with all the other calories we were eating. Turns out when we measured it later, it wasn’t a gallon (128 ounces) after all, only 40 ounces. Whew! If you fill the entire cup as most people do, that’s about 466 calories just in liquids. And don’t forget there’s free refills. Add 300 or so calories for the sandwich (and that’s without mayonnaise or dressing), 210 for the cookie, 120 for the chips and that’s, well, we basically cannot eat for the rest of the day, and maybe part of the next day too, at a whopping 1,096 calories for one meal. So much for eat fresh.   

Well, this article is not really intended as an affront to Subway, but to reinforce what David Kessler purports, that the food industry knows that filling us up with sugar, fat and salt (remember we couldn’t pass up the chips) will keep us happy and coming back for more.  The thing is we weren’t happy. Getting out of our eat-at-home bubble into the fast food world, where thousands of Americans  are eating every day, was astonishing. Why should it be less expensive to eat more food rather than less? In our present economy, most folks are going to opt for the money-saving deal, but end up eating more than they need, which isn’t a bargain in the long run.  Sure you’ll save money at the check-out, but in the long-term, the extra calories add up. Some folks can get away with eating more, say Michael Phelps for instance. But for most of us the extra calories here and there collect over time to cause obesity and expensive health problems in the future.   

Is there a solution? One could opt to be restaurant hermits like us, and only eat fast food on rare occasions. Or buy the 1,000 calorie lunch and split it with  your companion, or take half of it home for later. The restaurant industry will frown on that one, but it’s something to think about.   

Next: more on how to circumvent overeating. 

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