To Your Health
May, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 05)
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By some estimates, you would have to walk for seven hours straight to burn off the typical fast-food chain's large "combo meal" with soda, fries and a burger. Think of the upside: If you choose healthy foods, you can "super-size" without the guilt.

Resist Taste-Bud Temptations

Consumers spent a whopping $476 billion eating out in 2005, nearly 5 percent more than in 2004, and spending continues to rise. Is this simply a matter of convenience? The fact is the demand for tasty food drives the fast-food industry to produce high-fat, high-calorie foods. We as consumers have to take responsibility and start listening to our minds, rather than our taste buds.

According to USA Today, Burger King sells around 100 Whoppers for every Veggie Burger it sells, and about 10 Whoppers for every salad. Sadly, fast food junkies prefer fried chicken sandwiches 10 to 1 over grilled chicken. Most fast-food chains conduct heavy consumer testing, and the people have spoken: The greasier, the better.

Some burger chains have gone so far as to plant real people at the drive-through order board to further expedite the handling of your order. Restaurant chains now have special "preferred" parking spaces with dutiful employees running out to deliver your food as you drive up. The problem is that it reinforces a culture of taking the easy way out, both in terms of the food we choose and how much we have to move to get it.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that the average family spends 40 percent of its food budget on fast food. Even though fast food is a fact of life for most, there are still ways to make healthy choices when you're on-the-go. For example, when ordering pizza, load it with veggies instead of meat, and request light cheese. An easy way to incorporate more fruits and veggies is to leave the lettuce and tomato on sandwiches or burgers. While combo meals offer excellent value, the calories are off the charts. Instead, consider ordering a salad with light dressing on the side, a chicken sandwich or even a kid's meal. Be sure to skip the extras like mayonnaise, special dressings, croutons, cheese and bacon, and milkshakes. This way, you can still enjoy your food in a hurry, without the hundreds of additional calories.

Restaurant Dangers

After a long work week, you deserve a treat, right? Many people treat themselves to a nice dinner on the town at least one night a week. Approximately 47 percent of the money Americans spent on food in 2005 was spent at restaurants as compared to 25 percent in 1955, according to the National Restaurant Association. If you're trying to eat healthy, decadent restaurant meals can challenge your will power. But there are nutritious options if you know what to look for. If you show up at the restaurant starving, chances are you'll devour the basket of bread on the table before your meal arrives. Skip the bread, or at least try a whole-wheat variety. If you order a salad, request the dressing on the side, and use it sparingly.