Most of the food in fast food restaurants is high in fat, sugar and calories and low in fiber and nutrients. While some fast food restaurants have begun to offer healthier choices, you need to be careful about how often you eat at a fast food restaurant and the choices you make. Without careful consideration, a single meal from a fast food restaurant could easily contain more calories than the average person should consume in an entire day.
The portions found in fast food restaurants are generally far larger than the recommended portion size for most foods. Because food costs for restaurants are relatively low, it makes sense for them to offer larger portions that make their customers feel like they are getting a great value. Over time, the over-sized portion became the new “normal.” Fast food meals also rarely contain fresh fruit and vegetables because they are more costly. Fast food meals are inexpensive and filling, but generally not healthy if you are trying to maintain or lose weight.
Make Smart Choices
If you are trying to lose weight and must eat at a fast food restaurant, be sure to Investigate all the choices available. Be selective and choose the healthiest selections. You can check the menu in advance and think about what you are going to order before you arrive. Trim calories by choosing grilled over fried chicken. Avoid the fish sandwich; it is always fried. Surprisingly, the fish sandwich has more calories than a burger. Select a child’s meal or single item option. Stay away from sweetened soda or tea.
Daily Reference Values
Since most fast food restaurants now make their nutritional information available to the public, you can compare the values of the food to the suggested daily requirements established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Based on a 2,000-calorie diet the daily reference values, you should eat no more than a total of 65 grams (g) fat; no more than 20g of that should be saturated fat. Your daily intake of cholesterol should be no more than 300 milligrams (mg). Sodium should be limited to 2,400mg. Your total daily carbohydrate intake should be fewer than 300g; you should get 25g dietary fiber. The FDA has determined that 50g protein is a healthy daily amount. Remember that these totals are daily totals, not individual meal totals.
Burn it Off
One way to cope with an indulgence in a fast food meal is to burn it off with exercise.
For example, a 155-lb. person would need to walk at 3 mph for an hour to burn off one Dunkin Donuts Chocolate Frosted Donut (230 calories). You would need to bike for 77 minutes to use up the calories you ingested from a large order of Wendy’s french fries. A 320-calorie slice of a Pizza Hut Large Hand-Tossed Style Cheese Pizza requires 39 minutes of swimming laps. If you weigh more, you would likely burn more calories. If you weigh less, you would burn fewer calories doing the same activities.
If you are trying to lose weight, you already know that excessive calorie intake can cause obesity and thereby increase your chances of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Too much salt (sodium) can cause hypertension. Low-fat foods, if they are high in sugar, provide empty calories that also contribute to obesity. While it is possible to lose weight while eating only fast food, it is not a healthy diet nor will it teach you good habits toward food and eating. A healthy well-balanced diet that adapts to your individual lifestyle can incorporate some fast food if you are savvy about your total intake of calories, sugar, fat and salt, and you maintain a good exercise regimen. Drink plenty of water and get a good night’s sleep.
Healthier Fast Food Choices
Subway offers a 6-Inch roast beef sub with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, olives, pickles and 2 tbsp. light mayonnaise. Add a water or diet soda for a total calorie count of 380.
At Burger King, you can order a Burger King BK Fish Filet Sandwich without tartar sauce and a side garden salad with fat-free dressing with water or diet soda
for 380 calories.
McDonald’s Chicken McGrill Sandwich without mayonnaise, a side salad with a half package of Newman’s Own Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing, water or diet soda make a reasonable meal choice at 390 calories. You could also get a plain hamburger, snack-size fruit and walnut salad with water or diet soda for 460 calories.
At Taco Bell, two Crunchy Beef Tacos Supreme, Fresco Style with
Mexican Rice, Fresco Style and water or diet soda are good choices at 430 calories.
You can eat at fast food restaurants; just be aware of the fat and sodium as well as the total calories.