If you’re in a hurry, going to the nearest drive-thru/fast food restaurant can be a quick and easy way to fulfill your hunger needs – but it can also put you on the fast-track to bad health. Fast food is high in things like saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and sodium, which can all increase your risk of developing many different health problems including obesity in addition to things like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes – especially if you eat a lot of it over time. If fast food is something you are going to consume, it’s something that should be done in moderation and not just as an excuse to get out of cooking, as it can become a habit that you easily fall into. To avoid the habit of buying fast food as a quick and easy hunger fix, I instead recommend trying meal prepping. This is something that can be done as much as a week in advance and is also a fun activity to do together with your family.

As for other reasons why fast food should be avoided, much of it contains things like chemicals, fillers, additives and preservatives. These help to improve the taste of the food and prevent it from spoiling but aren’t actually food for you. MSG, for example, is an additive that is commonly found in fast food. It not only improves taste, but also increases your desire to want more of the specific food you’re eating as it is a neurotoxin which excites the brain cells. Essentially, many fast foods have an addictive nature, which explains why you might find yourself consuming more food from a fast food restaurant than you would the food you make at home – because it’s specifically made to taste more appealing and be more desirable.

As mentioned, fast food is also high in saturated and trans fats, while it contains little to no healthy fats – which the brain needs for proper health and development, including for the creation of serotonin, dopamine, and GABA (also known as gamma-amino butyric acid.) When your levels of these various neurotransmitters become disrupted as a result of eating unhealthy fast food, this can lead to everything from agitation to anxiety, depression, and even fatigue/lethargy, and you may also notice an increase in inflammation. Unhealthy oils also cause damage to our DNA and result in us aging faster.

Fast food is also high in sugar, including white sugar and high fructose corn syrup. While you might think it’s the fat in fast food that causes one to gain weight, sugar is also one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) culprits. In addition to weight gain, sugar can also lead to other symptoms such as mood swings, fatigue, “brain fog”, skin problems, as well as things like insulin resistance, diabetes, hormonal changes, heart disease, and cancer. It is also important to note that it isn’t just food that is high in sugar, as sodas also contain it – and no, diet soda isn’t any better. In fact, soda contains even more chemicals that you would be ingesting into your body. Using sugar substitutes also isn’t helpful, as these too can contribute to weight gain

If you already suffer from digestive problems such as acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome, these high-fat, high-sugar fast foods can either make those problems worse or lead to their development.

If your biggest road block to eating healthy is because you’re always in a hurry, try meal prepping, as mentioned. There are also some healthy snacks that you can take with you on the go, such as sliced fruit and vegetables, low-fat cheese sticks, and yogurt. Speaking with a dietitian or nutritionist can also be helpful in planning meals best tailored to you and your health needs.