After a seven-hour school day, an exerting band practice, and an endless shift at work, nothing sounds more satisfying than a cheap, cold, greasy, paper-wrapped double cheeseburger from that drive-through on the way home to satisfy my growling stomach. We’ve all been there, and I’m no exception. Balancing a part-time job, a social life, a relationship, a personal music project, and keeping up the old gradebook resulted in some very poor dietary habits on my part for quite a while. It wasn’t until the coronavirus lockdown that I had the opportunity to take a step back, closely examine my eating habits, and make some changes in my life.
While quick, grab-and-go, no frills or fuss takeout may seem like a viable option in the moment, there are many healthier and more nourishing alternatives when your stomach craves energy.
Since the pandemic shutdown, I’ve gained a new appreciation for two fast food alternatives in particular: cooking and eating local. These two alternatives have changed my life and, surprisingly, altered my perception of food entirely.
Cooking your own food is ideal assuming you have the time, energy, and money to do so because it can prove to be a bit costly when it comes to buying quality food. However, if you are willing to go that extra mile, it pays off. The only true way of controlling the contents of your food in terms of ingredients and nutritional content is if it is prepared by you, and for you.
I loved helping my mom in the kitchen as a wee lad. If the opportunity presented itself, I would stir cookie dough until my arm gave out, peel hardboiled eggshells until my fingers bled, or slice black olives for spaghetti night until we had enough to feed the neighborhood. As I got busy with life, I lost the time and motivation to pursue cooking, but like many others during the shutdown, I became something of a chef.
I studied nutrition quite a bit out of boredom and learned more than I needed to know about nutrients, nutritional contents, and food properties. After a ton of trial and error preparing my own meals and meals for my younger brother, I find myself cooking dinner for my family most nights.
There’s nothing more rewarding than kicking back and savoring each bite of a fresh, homecooked meal prepared by your own two hands. Things don’t always turn out perfectly but learning from mistakes is part of the fun.
With fast food, on the other hand, everything that you put in your mouth from that moist brown paper bag handed to you is a complete mystery. Cooking is a rewarding and valuable life skill that everyone should learn to do at some point in their life, but it can seem like a daunting task after a long day.
I love eating out, but after learning about food quality, my favorite fast food places don’t seem quite as appetizing anymore. Most fast food is packed full of unhealthy ingredients and has very few nutritional benefits. This was one of the main factors why I stopped eating fast food so much. The biggest driving force, however, was the shutdown itself.
Local business owners have had to face many challenges and struggles to stay open throughout the pandemic, and it’s only through local support and patronage that they can continue to operate. Eating at local establishments rather than fast food chains helps these companies survive. Local restaurants often use fresh, locally sourced foods and ingredients to make the best experience possible for their customers.
I’m guilty of enjoying fast food like everyone else, but quarantine has opened my eyes to new possibilities and superior alternatives. While I may still enjoy some cheap, convenient fast food if the mood hits me, I don’t regret my transition away from it, and I plan to continue cooking for myself and eating local first for the rest of my life if possible.
Food is one of the greatest parts of life. It’s not only fuel and nourishment for the body, but also for the heart and soul. We are very fortunate to have such amazing food available to us and should be grateful for every bite. The next time you need to refuel, ask yourself if more fast food is really what you want.