These days it’s hard to go anywhere without spotting a fast food restaurant nearby. These restaurants offer simple and inexpensive meal options when you can’t cook or eat at home. But there are some drawbacks to this convenience. Studies show that the more often you eat out and choose fast foods, the more likely you are to gain weight or become obese. This can lead to increased health risks over time. Does this mean you have to give up eating fast food? No. But you do need to start making healthier fast food choices. This includes choosing more nutrition-packed items and eating smaller portion sizes.
To begin with, don’t get into a rut when you order. Choose healthier options over less healthy foods. Try the following trade-offs.
Instead of ordering a:
Choose one of these:
Grilled chicken or turkey sandwich
Side of fries
Baked potato, cup of soup, or small salad with dressing on the side
Soda or milkshake
Carton of fat-free or low-fat milk, water, unsweetened tea, sparkling water, or other drinks with no added sugars
Burrito or taco
A lean-meat or all-vegetable sandwich wrap
Fast food isn't limited to just what’s on the menu. When you place an order, ask if you can make special requests. Most places will be glad to work with you.
Choose the medium- or small-sized options when you order main dishes, sides, and beverages. If an adult meal is too large for you, try a kids' meal. Or split a meal with a friend.
Order your burger on whole-wheat buns or your sandwich on whole-wheat bread, if possible.
Don’t add salt to your meal. Fast foods tend to be higher in salt. Too much salt raises your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.
Avoid mayonnaise, sour cream, or special sauces. Ask for ketchup and mustard on the side.
Avoid high-fat sides. If you don’t want the fries or chips that come with your meal, ask that they not be included. If you can substitute something else, ask for extra lettuce and tomato instead.
Choose fresh fruit or yogurt for dessert. Avoid ice cream, pies, and pastries. These are more likely to be high in fat and sugar.
Don’t overeat. If you’re full, ask for a takeout box and save the leftovers for later.
Put leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as you can. Any food left at room temperature for over 2 hours should be thrown out.
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