Driving on the highway, during rush hour traffic with the back seat filled of hungry faces, the sounds of a grumble become louder and louder as the car passes by a fast food establishment.
Eager to satisfy those thought-consuming taste buds, the car suddenly makes a U-turn and now the driver and the army of hungry faces all enter the brightly-lit "OPEN 24 HOURS" food chain.
The cost-effective, quick fix chain has this popular option on the menu: cardiovascular disease with type 2 diabetes and low nutrients on the side.
It is no surprise that those who consume fast food on a regular basis are more likely to develop poor eating habits and be prone to illnesses.
The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) designed a study where they monitored the eating habits, recreation and activity levels of 3,021 young adults over the course of 15 years. The study revealed that those who ate fast food two or more times a week experienced an average weight gain of 10 pounds compared to the participants who only consume it once a week. In addition, the risk of health complications such as insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes are higher in those who drink alcohol, smoke and do relatively little to no exercise.
Kids are often the target audience of these fast food establishments with incentives like toys in Happy Meals to purchase a meal. In a study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that children and adolescents who ate at fast food or full-service restaurants consumed more calories and fewer nutrients the rest of the day which was associated with the risk of childhood obesity and chronic disease.
While fast food menus are generally unhealthy, it is never too late to beat the system and become an informed healthy fast food consumer. When indulging in a tasty burger, it is important to remember that moderation is key.
This guide will provide the knowledge of how to choose healthy junk food choices for you and your family on those nights where you cave to mouth-watering, finger-licking good indulgences.
Be wary of the descriptions on the menu. Items that contain the words deep-fried, pan-fried, breaded, creamy and crispy have a high calorie count, unhealthy fats and sodium. In a survey done by the New York City Health Department (DOH), 83 percent of KFC's fried chicken meals contained slightly more than 1,500 mg of sodium while 55 percent contained more than 2,300 mg. Adults should remain under 1500 mg of sodium per day and not to exceed 2,300 mg in a day says The American Heart Association (AHA).
Water or unsweetened iced tea as a substitute for soft drinks
Colas and fruit drinks contain a significant amount of calories and fat. To lower the risk of heart-disease, water is always a safe substitute along with 100 percent fruit juice, 1 percent fat milk and diet sodas. Opting for these drinks can save the consumer 450 calories says Cleveland Clinic. For those who are not keen on water, add some lemon to give it a kick of flavor or choose unsweetened iced tea.
Customize fast food
Consuming fast food doesn't mean the option of customization is out. Be conscious of the calories and fat that salad dressings, spreads and other condiments contain. The preparation of how the foods are made can be a hit or a miss at these fast food establishments. To be in control of the sauce intake in foods, ask for vegetables and main plates to be served without the sauce or on the side. Even then when the sauce is used, be sure to only dab a small amount with a spoon. Broiled or steamed alternatives are often available for foods that are fried or cooked in oil or butter.
Hamburgers are the staple plate in fast food establishments. Eating healthy means you can stay fit and have your hamburger too. These juicy, beef burgers do contain a high saturated fats but it is often what adorns the beef patty that is most dangerous to the human body. Single patties, 3-4 ounces, like Burger King's Whopper Jr. with 260 calories; 11 g of fat; 4g of sat fat and 0g of trans fat or lowest calorie fast food intake burger, Kid's meal hamburger with 220 calories; 8g of fat; 3g or sat fat and 0g of trans fat at Wendy's. Remember pick from the children's menu or junior size, skip the cheese, bacon, mayonnaise or special sauce; stick to the basics like ketchup or mustard.
Skip the fries. Fries can add 210 calories to a kid's meal and 610 calories to a large meal. The difference can range anywhere from 1.5 to 5 grams total fat and 1.5 to 5 grams of saturated fat says Cleveland Clinic. Opt for a side salad with light dressing instead which comes in at 130 calories; 8g of fat; 1.5g of sat fat; and 0g of trans fat at Wendy's. Burger King's Kid's Apple "French Fries" only has 70 calories; 0.5g of fat; 0g of sat fat and 0g of trans fat.
Do not overindulge in the consumption of fast foods. Listen carefully when your body tells you it's full. Only eat when you are hungry instead of eating out of habit. It is important to resist the temptation to have seconds. A good test is to wait 20 minutes after eating your first serving to see if you're still hungry for more says UC Davis Health System. Remember you are what you overeat.
Eating fast food the healthy way is only good in moderation. Remember to stay alert, choose wisely and customize what you consume and digest in your body. Under the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act) chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments must show nutrition labeling of standard food items. Be happy and healthy.