My struggle with American food culture – The Orion


A cheeseburger and fries from IN-N-OUT BURGER. Photo by Hiroto Nakajima, taken on September 3

A month has passed since I first arrived at Chico State from my home in Japan. At first, I wondered if I would have a good relationship with the environment at Chico. Luckily, I started adjusting to the American lifestyle with the help of my roommates. However, I still struggle with American food culture, especially fast food.

“Fast food is part of the American diet and has been associated with high calorie intake and poor quality diets,” according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I wonder how to adapt to the large number of easily accessible fast food options. How to regularly eat healthy foods?

Fast food outlets are popular for saving money and time. According to data from IBIS World, the number of fast food restaurants in the United States has increased, despite the influence of COVID-19 on the fast food industry in 2020. In fact, I have seen restaurants fast food outlets and fast food products everywhere since arriving in the United States

Fast food is readily available at Chico State, not only in the campus dining hall, but also at select nearby establishments. I often use the dining room and the market for lunch and dinner. I regularly eat fast food like burgers and pizza. In fact, I eat so much pizza that one of my friends calls me “the pizzaiolo”. I surely know that these foods are high in calories and not good for my health. However, I feel like it may be easier to look away.

When I was in Japan, my diet was completely different. I cooked Japanese cuisines to save money and because they are good for your health. That’s not the case here. I’m only staying in America for a year, so I don’t care as much about what I eat. Here, it seems that everyone eats fast food often and I feel like I’m starting to forget about the healthy lifestyle I practiced in Japan. Some people may think it’s okay to eat fast food regularly because everyone around them does it. Americans are used to eating fast food in the United States. According to data found by the CDC in 2018 regarding fast food consumption from 2013 to 2016, 36.6% of adults in the United States consumed fast food on any given day.

This number is even higher for young adults between the ages of 20 and 39, as 44.9% consume some kind of fast food every day. He wrote that fast food restaurants can save consumers money and time that would typically be spent cooking. Additionally, the CDC says obesity rates are a serious problem in the United States. The prevalence of obesity increased from 30.5% to 41.9% between 1999 and 2017. The CDC also warns that obesity is linked to conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes type 2 and some types of cancer.

In my home country, there are also many fast food outlets and restaurants. In my experience, I have found that many Japanese students are more likely to cook for themselves at home than American students. Of course, some Japanese students are eager to eat fast foods like Cup-o-noodles or burgers to save time. However, most of them cook Japanese cuisines like Nikujaga and Miso soup. It saves us money because cooking is cheaper than eating out in Japan.

Considering all of this, I understand why I was so surprised by the different culture of fast food in the United States.

I think it’s important to think about how to approach fast food culture here. Fast food is essential to American food culture, but these products are often high in sugars and calories and can threaten our health.

Unlike my home country, the United States has more expensive food but meal preparation takes just as much time. The problem is whether we prioritize time and money or our health.

Personally, I think eating healthy foods is more important for your well-being than prioritizing money or time. By eating nutritious meals regularly, you will protect yourself from future illnesses and health problems. There are so many healthy options that are often overlooked, with many products you can cook and eat for relatively little money.

I think it’s a good idea to try healthy foods from other countries. By exploring healthy meals from around the world, you can learn about their unique cultures.

An example is a meal from my home country’s cuisine, “Nikujaga”, something Americans might call a meat and potato stew. If you are interested, you should try my homemade recipe.

For now, fast food is popular not only in the United States, but also around the world. There are many fast food restaurants in Chico State, but eating too much fast food has been proven to cause health problems. We should rethink our relationship with fast food culture and remember to eat healthy foods in our daily lives.

Hiroto Nakajima can be reached at [email protected] or @hiroto_nakajima_1120 on Instagram.


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