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Healthy Fast-Food Dining


By JJ Virgin, CNS, CHFI

Nowadays, there seems to be a fast-food restaurant on nearly every corner. With our hectic schedules, we have come to rely on the convenience of the "drive-thru," but often at the expense of our health. A recent documentary explored what the effect of eating McDonald's food for one month had on a middle-aged healthy male: Over the course of the month, his health totally deteriorated.

Fortunately, along with the explosion of fast-food restaurants, many more options have become available, including healthy choices at most of the chains.

As with any restaurant, there are good options and less healthy ones. When you are dining at a fast-food establishment, here are a couple of things to avoid:

  • The meal "deals." This generally means you are going to get fries or chips and a soda with your sandwich, so take a pass and supplement your meal with a piece of fruit from home. Many restaurants are now offering soups and side salads, which are a perfect partner to your main course.
  • "Supersizing." Sure, you're saving money, but you are sacrificing your fat cells. Practice portion control!
  • The sauces. These can add 100 calories or more of unhealthy fat and sugar to your meal, especially if they are "secret" or "special."
  • Anything fried or breaded. Go for broiled or baked instead.

Subway sponsored the Teen Weight Loss Challengers' lunches, and fortunately, as long as you stay away from the chips, cookies and sugar sodas, Subway offers among the healthiest fare available in the fast-food arena. You can ensure that you're eating something healthy by choosing any of the "7 under 6 grams of fat sandwiches." Try to eat only half of the bread or have it on one of their popular new "low carb" wheat and soy wraps. They use low-fat mayonnaise in their tuna salad, and their oil and vinegar is canola-oil based. Canola is one of the better oils to use because it is rich in polyunsaturated Omega 3 fats, which are known to be heart healthy. You can add lots of extra veggies to your sandwich, order any sandwich as a salad, and choose from a variety of soups available fresh each day.