To Your Health
May, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 05)
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Eating consistently healthy meals at home can be a chore; hence the appeal of fast food, which is quick and convenient, and one of the few things you can still buy for under $5.

But things have gotten out of control: In 1972, the U.S. spent $3 billion on fast food; today, we spend more than $110 billion annually.

How do they make fast food so fast? In many cases, it's because you're buying low-quality, highly processed foods. A 15-year study has shown a strong link between fast food, obesity and insulin resistance. Study participants who ate fast food more than twice a week were more likely to develop obesity and type 2 diabetes. With 60 percent of all Americans either overweight or obese, there is obvious reason to limit your intake of fast food, if not avoid it altogether. But when life gets unmanageable, the convenience of fast food can be irresistible for even the most disciplined. On those days, follow these tips to make sensible fast-food choices.

Do Your Research

Which fast food is healthier: a salad with ranch dressing or a fish sandwich? While fish in general is an excellent choice, fast-food fish is usually fried, and fried anything should not be on your diet plan. A salad also has great health potential, but if it is soaked in dressing, you may as well eat a bacon cheeseburger.

Why don't people make better choices?

In part, people do not have the information they need to make healthy choices. But the information is out there. You can get a break-down of fat, calories and other nutritional information on just about every fast-food item by visiting one of the dozens of Web sites dedicated to educating the public. You also can buy a restaurant and fast-food nutrition guide and carry it with you. For example, the Calorie, Fat and Carbohydrate Counter, produced by the company Calories King, provides the following eye-opening facts:

  • A large fry has 540 calories and 26 grams of fat, but a small fry has about 60 percent less fat and calories (210 calories and 10 grams of fat).
  • A milkshake can have up to 1,000 calories.
  • A large (32-ounce) soda has about 400 calories and 30 teaspoons of sugar.
  • An order of chicken nachos has more than 2,000 calories.
  • A typical burger has around 700 calories and 39 grams of fat.
  • A piece of chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake has almost 2,000 calories and 72 grams of fat.
  • Some cinnamon rolls have more than 1,000 calories and 56 grams of fat. And that's just your breakfast!
  • One fried chicken breast has almost 500 total calories.