The all too familiar story: no time to cook, kids are late for soccer practice and McDonald's is on the way. Since it will not take more than a few minutes to shoot through the drive through we'll do the fast food stop. Or all too familiar story number 2: lunch hour at work and I need to pick up my dry cleaning, fill a prescription, and take the car to get gas and find time to eat. Sure enough Taco Bell is on the way and they have a drive through as well. These real life situations play out for all of us, millions of us, everyday. Since time has become one of our most precious commodities the sacrifice we make is often in our diet.
And yet it does not need to be this way. By following a few healthy practices you can still go to your favorite fast food chain and, 30 years from now, live to tell about it. The key is knowing what to select from the menu and balancing that meal with the rest of the day's food intake.
Choose Your Menu Items With Care
Choose a main dish item that is low in fat. As an example, when faced with the choice of a bacon cheeseburger or a regular hamburger, the regular hamburger wins every time. In the battle of the regular hamburger or the grilled chicken breast sandwich the chicken wins hands down. Why? Here's an example:
Wendy's Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich has 360 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 0 trans fat. Compare that to the Wendy's Big Bacon Classic which has 580 calories, 29 grams of fat and 1.5 grams of trans fat. Put either choice with a medium fry and you have added another 440 calories and another 21 grams of fat. Choose, instead, the Baked Potato with Sour Cream and Chive and you add 320 calories and 4 grams of fat – a better choice indeed.
Choose side salads and salad bar vegetables as these provide extra vitamins and add dietary fiber. In addition they fill you up without adding lots of extra calories. Be sure to use low fat or non-fat dressing or better yet, a simple vinaigrette dressing. More dietary fiber can be found in the choice of whole wheat or whole grain buns and rolls.
If your sweet tooth kicks in have fresh fruit or frozen yogurt. Or go for the reduced fat ice cream versus the shake. Again an example, this time from McDonald's: 16 oz. Triple Thick Vanilla Shake has 550 calories and 13 grams of fat. The Vanilla Reduced Fat Ice Cream Cone has 150 calories and only 3.5 grams of fat. Granted the lower calories alternative is not as decadent but it also will not clog your arteries by increasing your cholesterol intake and it will satisfy the sugar craving.
Watch Your Portion Size
Portion control is also a key element to successful fast food dining. Although many restaurants have discontinued the super size trend, most portions are simply more than we need to consume. These large portions look like real value when viewed in the monetary sense but when measured by way of their contribution to weight gain and its complications they are simply not worth it.
Choose the smallest size possible especially if you are having hamburgers or fried foods.
Share large or high items with someone else.
Eat half your order and take the rest home. Yes, I know we are provided to clean our plates because there are children starving in China. At least that's what many mothers over the years have been heard to say. The fact is being a member of the Clean Plate Club will also get you entry into the Fat Club, the High Cholesterol Club, and if your really fortify the Heart Disease Club.
Remember These 3 Key Points
1. Reduce total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
2. Increase intake of whole grains
3. Eat more fruits and vegetables
Fast food is one of the great innovations of the 20th century. Here in the 21st century we need to manage how we take advantage of its limitless access. To do so will maintain a balance between food as satisfying fuel that keeps our human engine running and toxic waste that will eventually lead to shorten life spans.