Jane Bradley: Don’t rush to condemn all fast food as terrible

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FAST food. There, I said it. Before you all rush off to cleanse yourself from the greasy after-effects of such a dirty word, let me explain.

A report out this week claimed that about half of all meals eaten out are at fast food restaurants. And this – shock horror – does not even include the likes of middle class family favourite Pizza Express, which classes itself as a “full service restaurant”.

The figure totals some 5.54 billion fast food meals annually, according to market research firm NPD – around 90 per person every year.

Of course, this news sparked an outcry from obesity campaigners jumping on their soap boxes to proclaim an epidemic – while epicures the nation over sighed and huffed and puffed over the future of the rest of the population’s diabolical gastronomic preferences.

But while it is perhaps not ideal to scoff a Happy Meal for dinner every single night, does this really mean that people are actually doing so – or that their diets are more unhealthy?

What is not clear is what constitutes fast food. Is a takeaway sandwich fast food? After all, it is food – and you couldn’t get much faster.

I enjoy cooking and often create home-made burgers – but are my own lovingly-created meals really healthier than those from somewhere like Gourmet Burger Kitchen? Probably not.

Either way, I for one, would prefer a simple beef patty to a ready made meal, packed full of E numbers and goodness knows what else and then nuked to within an inch of its life in a microwave. Similarly, sitting at a table in a cute little independent restaurant and chowing down on a huge plate of creamy pasta probably isn’t better than many fast food chains, which have been forced to mend their calorific ways. McDonald’s now serves organic milk and free range eggs, while children’s meals come with fruit.

In London, though yet to reach Scottish shores, a favourite of mine is the Hummus Bros chain – which serves various flavours of the tahini-based Mediterranean staple on pitta bread to hungry workers at lunchtime. Fast food doesn’t have to be bad food – you just have to think about what you choose.