To Your Health
February, 2008 (Vol. 02, Issue 02)
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Cancer Risk

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) recently filed suit against seven major restaurants and fast-food chains in the state of California. They include: McDonald's, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Chili's, Applebee's, Outback Steakhouse and TGI Friday's. The reason for the suit is these companies are knowingly serving food containing carcinogens without a health warning to the consumer.

The PCRM commissioned an independent laboratory to test grilled chicken products from California outlets of all seven chains. PhIP (one of a group of carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines) was found in every grilled chicken sample provided for testing. Heterocyclic amines were added to the list of known carcinogens in 2005 and PhIP, specifically, has been on the California governor's list of chemicals known to cause cancer for more than a decade.

"Grilled chicken can cause cancer, and consumers deserve to know that this supposedly healthy product is actually just as bad for them as high-fat fried chicken," says PCRM President Neal Barnard, MD. "Even a grilled chicken salad increases the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer and other forms of this lethal disease."

What was once considered the healthy option on the average fast-food menu may have become the least healthy.

Healthier Solutions

A mother and young daughter enjoy a salad together. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark It's time to consider that the only way fast-food restaurants will start sharing our growing concern for healthier eating choices is if we stop buying their products. It's time to seriously consider the risk to ourselves and our children and weigh those risks against the "convenience" being offered by fast food.

As consumers we have other options. Consider the following ideas for healthier eating:

  • Prepare a menu each week and stick to it.
  • Sunday should be prep day: chop vegetables and prepare casseroles, then freeze them for future use.
  •  Consider purchasing prepared meats (boneless skinless chicken breast, etc.) that can be defrosted and quickly prepared.
  • Slow cookers are gaining popularity again and healthy recipes aren't hard to find. Prep the food in the morning and when you get home from work, dinner is ready to serve.
  • Many grocery stores are catering to our busy lifestyle but if you still want healthier choices, consider purchasing rotisserie chickens, homemade soups by the pint and bags of prepared tossed green salad.
  • Another great idea is to barter with a friend or encourage a grandparent who loves to cook to prepare meals in advance for your family. Some of the most time-consuming steps in cooking can be done in advance (chopping vegetables, etc.).

If you are a parent of infants and toddlers, you have the option to never start the fastfood track. By deciding not to go in this direction, you will find different resources that will help you to prepare healthy snacks and meals. For information on healthier meal planning and recipes, visit: recipes and

If your children are already addicted to the fast-food lifestyle, it's best to take a few months to slowly wean your family from this habit. Rather than your children thinking this change is punishment, consider approaching this new lifestyle with vigor. Why not celebrate healthy food by embracing new recipes, asking someone you know to teach your entire family how to prepare a meal, and looking for classes, Web sites and books that will expand your menu choices? If the adage, "You are what you eat," is true, as a parent you have a responsibility to give your children a healthy start.

Claudia Anrig, DC, practices in Fresno, Calif., and is on the board of directors of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, an organization that can answer your questions regarding the value of chiropractic care during and after pregnancy.