Does “Fast Food” Have to Equal “Fat Food”?

Did you stop at your favorite drive-through on the way to work today—or are you planning a quick jaunt to a local fast-food restaurant on your lunch hour?

Ongoing research increasingly confirms that maintaining the right body weight is one of the key factors in healthy aging. Carrying extra pounds increases the risk and severity of many health conditions, such as heart disease, arthritis, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. Staying active is an important part of keeping at a healthy weight…but recent studies confirm that no matter how active you are, if you take in more calories than you use up, you will gain weight.

As you know, the term “fast food” might as well be “fat food” in most cases! But here are some tips for making that a less lethal trip:

  • Order your hamburger plain instead of with cheese, bacon or fatty sauces. There are still plenty of toppings that won’t push you over your fat limit, such as ketchup, mustard, onions, pickles, and lettuce.
  • Avoid giant burgers with large patties or several layers of meat. And if you can’t resist french fries, choose the smallest size. Some chains will let you order a child’s meal, which in many cases has more sensible portions and healthier choices. You might even score a cool prize!
  • Choose your beverage wisely. Did you know that a 32-ounce sugared soft drink has almost 500 calories? That’s almost one-fourth of the daily 2,000-calorie allowance for an active woman over 50! Stick with water, ice tea, low-fat milk or diet soda.  And remember: a milkshake doesn’t count as a beverage, weighing in at 1000 calories for a large chocolate malted.
  • Chicken is healthier than red meat, right? Wrong, if the chicken is breaded and deep fried! Remove some or most of the breading before eating—or better yet, select a skinless grilled chicken sandwich instead. And the same thing goes for fish.
  • If you’ve opted for a salad instead of a burger, remember that cheese, creamy dressings, bacon topping and “crispy” chicken may add more fat than you’d get in a cheeseburger! Order your salad with grilled chicken instead. And try the “fork dipping” method, coating your fork with a bit of dressing before taking a bite rather than dumping the entire dressing packet on the salad. Better yet, ask for no-fat dressing if it’s available.
  • If you aren’t sure about the fat, calorie or sodium content of menu items, ask to see a nutritional value list, which can help you make your decision.

Bottom line: your dietary needs don’t change just because you went through a drive-through or are sitting under a pair of golden arches rather than in your own kitchen. Even if you love fast food or at least its convenience, start making wise menu choices now. Your heart will thank you!

To Help You Choose…

Calorie Count.com has an extensive collection of nutritional information for many fast food chains. Bookmark the site, and check it out before ordering that next triple cheeseburger combo!

NutritionData.com offers similar information for a number of chains, and a graphic representation of the nutrients.

Copyright © AgeWise, 2013