The True Cost of Takeout: Why Most Convenient Food Is Unhealthy

Fast food is often seen as the epitome of unhealthy takeout, but even “healthy” takeout options may not be as good for you as you think.

The cost of takeout can be divided into two categories: the monetary cost and the health cost. 

Both of these costs can be significant, as the monetary cost of takeout can add up quickly, especially if you are buying meals on a regular basis. The health cost of takeout is often much higher than people realize, but sometimes you won't notice this one for some time. The two leading causes of death across the world are heart disease and stroke, which are two diseases where diet plays a major role (12).  
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But there is another cost of takeout that is often overlooked: the environmental cost. More specifically, the excess packaging and plastic. It is estimated by the EPA that 29% of all greenhouse emissions come from packaging, granted, not all of this is food, but having excess and unnecessary packaging definitely perpetuates this issue. Not only that, but food packaging is attributable to about 47% of municipal waste (1) .  

This is why more and more people across the globe are switching to meal prep delivery services, which provide fresh, healthy, and sustainable food options that are affordable and convenient. 

If you are looking for a healthier, more sustainable, and more affordable option for takeout, meal prep delivery is the way to go.

What is Convenience Food?

Convenience is the norm for those with full-time jobs, families, and countless other responsibilities. 

It’s hard to find the time to cook a healthy meal from scratch, especially during the work week, for lunch and even dinners.

So many people rely on convenience foods like fast food, takeout, and other heavily processed foods. In fact, a 2022 study conducted by the National Restaurant Association showed that 54% of adults say purchasing takeout or delivery is essential to the way they live, including 72% of millennials (2). 

The problem is that these foods are often high in calories, fat, and sugar and low in important nutrients (3). Eating this way consistently can lead to weight gain, obesity, and other health problems.

Fast food, such as burgers, fries, and soda, is one of the most common types of convenience foods. It is quick, fairly cheap, and easy to get, but it is also high in calories, fat, and sugar.

A single fast-food meal can easily exceed the daily recommended intake of calories, fat, and sugar, and it is often lacking in important vitamins and minerals. They can also easily tempt you to overeat and drink with specials and combos, “you want to upgrade that for .99 cents and get a large fry and soda?” –sound familiar? 

Takeout is another common type of convenience food. It can be (slightly) less expensive than eating out at a restaurant, but it can still be high in calories, fat, and sugar. And, like fast food, it is often lacking in important nutrients.

Doordash, Postmates, and other food delivery services have made it even easier to get takeout, which can make it even harder to resist the temptation to indulge in unhealthy foods and add-ons to your meal.

Heavily processed foods like boxed meals, frozen pizzas, and microwaveable dinners are also common convenience foods. While these may be the most affordable option, they share the same problem as other highly processed foods with a high caloric count and low nutrient density.

Empty fats and carbs will give you very little energy and can actually lead to weight gain and other health problems over time.

Why Convenience Food is Often Unhealthy

There are a number of reasons why convenience food is often unhealthy.

For one, these foods are often processed, which means that they have been through a lot of different steps before they even reach your plate. This isn’t inherently bad, but processing can strip away some of the nutrients that are naturally found in food, and it can also add unhealthy ingredients, like additives and preservatives.

Processed foods are also typically high in calories, fat, and sodium. They may taste good and are okay in moderation, but they're not providing the nutrition your body needs to function optimally and prevent chronic diseases. 

Processed foods are also typically high in calories, fat, and sodium. They might taste good at the moment, but they're usually lacking in important nutrients your body needs to function optimally and prevent deficiencies and chronic diseases. 

If you're looking to improve your health, it's best to limit your convenience foods.

Top 5 Reasons Most Convenience Food is Unhealthy 

1. The Goal Is Taste-Focused

Taste-focused meals only look at the immediate future, not the long-term effects of the foods we're eating. This means that ingredients like salt, sugar, and fat are often added to these foods to make them taste better. But, these ingredients can have negative effects on our health if consumed in excess consistently, including obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. (4,5,6,7

Eating healthier begins with your mind and requires some psychological change in order to achieve. These changes involve listening to more than just your taste buds and looking at the foods you're eating in terms of how they will affect your health down the road.

2. Convenience Foods Are Often Processed

Processed foods are those that have been through a lot of different steps before they even reach your plate. This processing can strip away some of the nutrients that are naturally found in food, and it can also add unhealthy ingredients, like additives and preservatives.

3. Additives and Preservatives

Additives and preservatives are added to food to extend its shelf life. However, these chemicals can be harmful to our health and have been linked to a number of different health problems, like cancer and allergies (8, 9). The best way to avoid additives and preservatives is to eat whole, minimally processed foods.

4. Convenience Foods Are Often High in Calories

Processed foods are typically high in calories, fat, and sodium. They might taste good in the moment, but they’re not doing your body any favors in the long run. If you’re looking to eat healthy, it’s best to avoid convenience foods as much as possible.

5. They Can Be Addictive

Certain convenience foods can be addictive, thanks to the combination of sugar, fat, and salt that they often contain (10, 11). This can lead to a vicious cycle of cravings and overeating. 

If you find yourself reaching for these foods on a regular basis, it’s best to try to break the habit by eating adding in more nutrient-rich foods instead.

What Is a Healthier Convenience Option?

Meal prep delivery services are a healthier convenience option. These services provide healthy, pre-portioned meals that are delivered to your door.

This means that you can have healthy meals on hand without having to cook them yourself, so you can continue to work hard, play harder, and live your life to the fullest without sacrificing your health.

The caveat is that you still have to think ahead, well, just once, to set up your subscription. Once your subscription is set, your meal will automatically be delivered weekly unless you pause, skip or cancel!

Pre-portioned meals allow you to control your portions, so you can be sure that you're eating the right amounts and types of food. This can help you to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight while still ensuring you're full, satisfied, and not skimping on the taste factor.

Healthy convenience options like meal prep delivery services from Trifecta give you the best of both worlds: the ability to have healthy, delicious meals without having to spend hours in the kitchen! 

Still, deciding how to limit your fast food intake? Check out our thorough comparison of two top contenders replacing takeout for people. 
Meal Kits Vs Meal Prep Delivery