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    Healthy Fast Food

    Healthy Fast Food

    When you’re hungry and on the run, fast food can really hit the spot. It’s cheap, tasty, and, best of all, convenient. But it’s also loaded with calories, sodium, and fat—often enough in one meal for an entire day.

    Fast food menus are tricky when you’re watching your weight or your health. Finding a healthy, well-balanced meal in most fast food restaurants is a challenge. But there are always healthier options hidden among the diet disasters. You just need to know where to look and how to order.

    Can fast food really be healthy?

    The truth is that it’s extremely difficult to follow a healthy diet when you’re eating regularly at fast food restaurants. Fast food is typically high in trans fat, saturated fat, sodium, and calories. And it also tends to be low in nutrients and almost totally lacking in fruits, vegetables, and fiber.

    That doesn’t mean you have to avoid fast food entirely. It’s OK to indulge a craving every once in awhile, but to stay healthy you can’t make it a regular habit. The key is moderation—both in how often you frequent fast food chains and what you order once you’re there. There are always choices you can make that are healthier than others. The following tips and menu recommendations can help you stay on track. Just remember that even the healthiest fast food options often have other nutritional drawbacks such as high sodium. So try to keep fast food to the occasional treat.

    Try to keep your entire meal to 500 calories or less. The average adult eats 836 calories per fast food meal—and underestimates what they ate by 175 calories. So don’t guess! Most chains post nutritional info both on their websites and at the franchise location. Take advantage of this information.
    Opt for foods that are lower in fat and higher in protein and fiber. Look for items with more good stuff, like fiber, whole grains, and high-quality protein. Also aim for options that are relatively low in saturated fats. And steer clear of all items that contain trans fats.
    Bring your own add-on items if you really want a health boost. Even when you order wisely, it can be pretty tough to get enough fiber and other important vitamins and nutrients from a fast food menu. If you plan ahead, you can bring healthy sides and toppings like dried fruit, nuts and seeds, carrot sticks, apple or pear slices, and cottage cheese or yogurt.
    Watch your sodium intake

    High sodium intake is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends that adults stay under 1500 mg of sodium per day, and never take in more than 2,300 mg a day. Unfortunately, that’s tough to do when eating fasting food, even when you’re eating lower calorie meals. Your best bet: plan ahead if possible and eat low sodium in the meals leading up to and following your fast food meal. However, you can minimize some of the damage by requesting that your burger or meat be cooked without added salt

    Additional Resources and References

    Many fast food chains post nutritional information on their websites. Sometimes, these lists are confusing and hard to use, but they are the best source for accurate, up-to-date information on their menu options.

    Many other websites and apps provide nutritional information, often in easier to use formats.

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