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Fast food savvy

Posted 8/21/2015

Fast-food restaurants are one of the most popular inventions ever created. The convenience the restaurants offer is hard to ignore. Many factors tempt the average American away from the work of cooking a meal, serving a meal, and cleaning up after a meal. For one thing, there are more two-working-parent families. Additionally, single-parent families are increasing in number. Many adults are finding it desirable to take classes to further their education. Children are often involved in after-school sports and clubs. In all these situations, juggling work, activities, and education can be an ongoing challenge. The ease, quickness and economy of buying fast food is an alternative that many families are happy to choose.

Although choosing meals from fast-food restaurants is an easier alternative, it is not always the healthiest choice. In fact, one fast food meal can include enough fat, calories and sodium for an entire day! For families who visit fast-food restaurants regularly, limiting fat, trans fats, sodium sugar and calories may be almost impossible to achieve. However, don’t despair. You just need to exercise your fast-food savvy. The following tips can help you make healthier choices from menus that may seem completely unhealthy.

Think small. A typical fast food meal of a cheeseburger, small fries and a 20 ounce soda will give about 800 calories or one third of a day’s intake, but if you supersize that meal, you could increase calories by as much as twice that amount.

Watch the toppings. Some toppings can really add on the calories, fat and sodium. Have dressing on the side of salads and only add the amount you want. Ask for special sauces to be left off and opt for a packet of mustard, ketchup, or barbeque sauce instead. Don’t add bacon. It tastes great, but bacon can add a lot of extra fat and sodium (up to 54 g of fat and almost 200 mg of sodium).

Don’t fry it. Frying foods adds a lot of extra fat to even the leanest item. Typically, frying a chicken breast will add 200 more calories and 20 extra grams of fat. The cod or pollack in many fish sandwiches supplies only 120 calories and less than a gram of fat. When the same fish is breaded and fried that jumps to 390 calories with 19 grams of fat.

Watch the drinks and desserts. Regular soda contains no fat but is full of calories to add to your waistline. A large serving could hold as much as 80 grams of sugar Shakes and specialty coffee drinks again provide a lot of calories because of the added sugar and fat. Fast-food fruit pies are no treat either. The average individual fast-food apple pie contains around 15 grams of fat.

Following these guidelines can make it possible to order a low-fat, moderate-calorie meal in a fast-food restaurant. Healthy choices are increasing every day. Consumers need to be aware that their food choices make a difference toward total health. To further help you identify leaner choices, fast food restaurants are now displaying the calorie content of foods and offering the nutrition facts for all their items. Use that information to help you stick to a plan that won’t add on the extra pounds.

Email or call Susan Lednicky, Nutritionist with Clark County Cooperative Extension, at 702-257-5548.

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