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DefinitionFast foods are quick, reasonably priced, and readily available alternatives to home cooking. While convenient and economical for a busy lifestyle, fast foods are typically high in calories, fat , saturated fat , sugar, and salt.
The fast food chains and restaurants have responded to the increasing awareness of the public about nutrition and attempted to help people concerned about health. For example, they now make ingredient and nutrition information available on their menus. Despite these changes, however, in order to maintain a healthy diet, it is necessary to choose fast foods carefully.
FunctionMost people today have less time to select, prepare and eat food than their grandparents did. Fast foods are very appealing because they are widely available and inexpensive.
Fast food items have been modified to reflect consumers' concern about the fat content of their food. Many fast food restaurant have switched from beef tallow or lard to hydrogenated vegetable oils for frying.
Some restaurants offer low calorie choices like salad bars and assorted take-out salads with low calorie dressing, low-fat milkshakes, whole grain buns, lean meats, and grilled chicken items.
Maintaining nutritional balance is not easy with fast food as there is no control over how they are cooked. For example, some are cooked with a lot of oil and butter and there may be no option if you want this selection with reduced fat.
The large portions also encourage overeating. Fast foods also tend to be short on fresh fruits and vegetables.
In general, people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease must be much more careful about choosing fast food due to the high content of fat, sodium, and sugar.
Knowing the number of calories and the amount of fat and salt in the fast food can help you decide which items are better choices. Many fast food restaurants have published the nutrient content of their foods. These are often available on request. You can plan a convenient yet healthful diet with this information.
Make better choices when eating at fast food restaurants. In general eat at places that offer a variety of salads, soups, and vegetables. Consider these general tips:
Try to choose smaller sized servings. Consider splitting some fast food items to reduce the amount of calories and fat. Ask for a "doggy bag." or simply leave the excess on your plate.
To help supplement and balance the fast food meal, make nutritious options such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and yogurt available as snacks.
When chosen carefully and not used in excess, fast foods can offer reasonably good quality nutrition to your diet. By being aware of what you eat and paying attention to how it affects your health, you can set an example and teach your children to eat healthy as well. As always, variety and moderation are the key principles in providing a healthy diet for children as well as adults.
Update Date: 10/17/2003David Webner, M.D., Sports Medicine Fellow, Crozer-Keystone Family Practice Program, Springfield, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT