The New York Times asked a good question this past weekend:

Is junk food really cheaper?

The writer, Mark Bittman, is one of the best food writers out there today. His column in the Times is excellent. His “How to Cook Everything” books are massive, well-researched and full of recipes that are simple, fresh and celebrate the quality of the ingredients. It’s a Joy of Cooking for a new generation.

As an advocate of home cooking, he naturally wanted the answer to be no. Right out of the box, he compares some simple healthful dinners like roast chicken against junk food. He comes up with a $28 tally for dinner for four at McDonald’s, but touts roast chicken with salad and milk for about $14.

Then it starts getting complicated — as is the pace of life that drives many families to fast food rather than the stove. And the balance begins to tip in favor of junk food. Families are time starved. Restaurants are more plentiful than grocery stores. A generation doesn’t know how to cook or the pleasures of doing so.

Then he gets to an argument that really resonates: junk food is hyper-palatable, juiced up by the restaurant companies with high amounts of physically addictive sugar, fat and salt. He quotes one of my own favorite sources, Dr. David A. Kessler, former commissioner of the Food & Drug Administration and the author of “The End of Overeating.”

Restaurant companies created dishes that were “energy dense, highly stimulating and went down easy,” Kessler says. “They put it on every street corner and made it mobile, and they made it socially acceptable to eat anytime and anyplace. They created a food carnival, and that’s where we live. And if you’re used to self-stimulation every 15 minutes, well, you can’t run into the kitchen to satisfy that urge.”

So the next time you eat out, fight back. Choose restaurants that offer better healthy options. Or boycott. It’s the only way things will change.