What are we yakking about this week?
Outsmarting Fast Food: Strategies for Eating on the Run
The media blames fast food for the obesity epidemic in America. Most fast food options include meals high in calories, fat, sugar, and salt, all bad for your health in high quantities. They're usually convenient, cheap and served quick. With the ever-broadening food choices, such places are more popular than ever. "Today, fast food is way more than just burgers and fries. In fact, you can get almost any type of food fast – from pizza and chicken dinners to ethnic fare. Regardless of the type of food or cuisine, fast food restaurants love to serve up hefty portions of foods loaded with fat and added sugars – think fries and sugary drinks," says registered dietitian Hope Warshaw, a healthy restaurant eating expert and author of Guide to Healthy Restaurant Eating. It may look like junk food is your only option on the go, but with a few tricks and tactics in hand you and your family can enjoy healthier fast food meals when in a pinch for time or energy. I happen to believe that you can still make healthy choices even if you are surrounded by seemingly bad options. Here's how to outsmart fast food.
Watch out for Portion Size
Ever notice the increasing size of modern dinnerware? Plates, bowls and cups have ballooned over the past 30 years. The same goes for portions served at all restaurants, including fast food. Portion size is one of the first items that came up in my conversation with Dr. Linda Van Horn, Ph.D., R.D., a research nutritionist at Northwestern University and an American Heart Association/American Stroke Association volunteer. Dr. Van Horn specializes in the prevention and treatment of cardio disease through diet. "Portion size combined with fat contributes to increased risk for obesity and hypertension", says Dr. Van Horn. She suggests choosing things smaller in portion and combining them with less conventional options. For example, instead of ordering a burger and fries, ask for a smaller [quarter pound] burger with a side salad. It's a matter of inquiring and making an effort. You can always have a half of a sandwich and take the rest home. Another suggestion from Felice Kosakavich, Chief Clinical Dietitian at the Workmen’s Circle MultiCare Center in the Bronx: "A kid’s meal is a good option [for adults] for portion control when on the run."
Don't Go Hungry
One of the best ways to avoid overeating or eating unhealthy foods in one seating is by eating evenly throughout the day, suggests Nancy Clark, MS RD CSSD, author of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook (nancyclarkrd.com). "Don't go hungry to a fast food restaurant. It's hard to avoid getting away with a grilled chicken. Have a second lunch in the afternoon." Nancy suggests eating healthy snacks and watching portion sizes as well.