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Healthy Fast Food

By HealthLife Contributor
Updated: June 30, 2008
With more fast food restaurants dotting the U.S. landscape than ever before, it is no wonder why the United States is a country in the middle of an unhealthy epidemic. Twenty-five percent of Americans eat at a fast food restaurant at least once a day. For some, the food from a fast food joint is the only food they have all day. Carl's Jr. once expressed its knowledge of this fact by stating in one of their commercials that, "Without us, some guys would starve".

There are many reasons for why fast food has become a meal option for most Americans. In a country that has grown more and more busy, getting dinner from a fast food place often becomes the only option for feeding a family quickly. In addition, fast food is also cheap and affordable, making it a common choice for dinner with families on a budget or with many mouths to feed. Unfortunately, fast food is not the best food. Besides being high in salt and fat, fast food usually lacks the vitamins and minerals that are found in most other "healthier" foods.

What is a person to do when fast food serves as the only option? The answer is simple: make good choices. Today, most fast food restaurants offer healthier meal alternatives on their menus, making it possible to get a quick (and healthy) meal straight from the drive-thru. By choosing diet soft drinks, avoiding high-fat and high-calories condiments and dressings, and avoiding the dreaded super-size option, it is possible to have a healthy meal at a fast food restaurant.

Today's fast food restaurants are beginning to recognize that people are becoming smarter about the food they eat. Slowly but surely, fast food giants have begun to recognize that their customers are not just interested in a quick mea, but in a healthy meal as well. For the fast food restaurants, providing healthy food and meal alternatives represents increased profits, but the end result does also benefit the health of the customer. If your meal has to come from a fast food restaurant, consider the following tips and suggestions:
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  • Don't feel pressured - Many times, people walk into a fast food restaurant without really knowing what they want. The unprepared visitor will usually end up choosing a meal or option they are familiar with. Unfortunately, this choice usually ends up being a bad one. To avoid the pressure of having to decide on a meal at the last minute, log on to the restaurant's website and look at their menu on your own terms. Decide what you want ahead of time, then stick to your choice once you're in the restaurant.

  • If a chosen meal comes with sides or dressings, opt for the low-fat or low-calorie option. Salad dressings and condiments are usually high in fat and calories, and can make even the healthiest meal unhealthy. Ask for no mayo on your sandwich, and choose a salad instead of fries. Not every restaurant will be prepared with every possible healthy alternative, but it certainly does not hurt to ask.
The following options represent the most commonly available (and healthy) food choices for individuals dining out at a fast food restaurant. Try to stick to these as much as possible.

• Choose grilled chicken or fish instead of a grilled hamburger

• Ask for whole wheat bread or buns instead of the traditional white bread or buns

• Choose fruit or yogurt as a side, if it is available as an option

• Baked potatoes represent healthy alternative to French fries

• Ask for your salad dressing on the side to avoid drenching your greens in it

• Don't super-size your meal

• Wash your food down with diet soda or water instead of juices

• Avoid high-calorie "secret sauces" and dressings

• Stay away from dips like cheese, guacamole, and sour cream and go for the salsa
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