If you're eating lots of fast food, you're more than likely overweight. Research consistently shows that adults and kids who eat the most fast food are the fattest and unhealthiest.
Parents like McDonald's and Burger King because they have playgrounds -- many times it's the only play area in inner cities. That's a shame, because a fast-food habit is dangerous.
The food comes in overly large portions, packed with too much fat, sugar and sodium. You didn't know that hamburger bun was full of sugar? The third ingredient in Burger King's buns, after flour and water, is high-fructose corn syrup -- sugar. Same for McDonald's.
Salad dressing, mayonnaise, tartar sauce, special sauces, they all have sugar as the top four or five ingredient. Salt is up there, too.
Grilled chicken is a better choice than a Whopper, but soaked in salt solution before grilling increases sodium. The BK Tendergrill chicken sandwich on a bun with dressing contains 1,220 milligrams of sodium, about half your recommended daily allowance in just one sandwich.
Get out of the car
Another fast-food peril: the drive-through. You're missing a chance to stretch your legs and burn some calories when you stay in your car.
A 2003 study presented at an American Heart Association meeting showed that people who eat fast food more than twice a week and also spend at least 2 1/2 hours a day watching television have triple the risk of both obesity and abnormal glucose control compared to those who eat out once or less and watch no more than an hour and a half of TV.
What to eat?
Has fast food changed? Is it healthier? Yes and no.
The old fat and calorie-laden standbys -- Burger King's Whoppers, McDonald's' Double Quarter Pounders with Cheese, Wendy's Classic Triples and Taco Bell's Stuffed Burritos -- remain.
Do NOT supersize. Control your portion sizes
The documentary film "Supersize Me" was about a guy who deliberately said "Yes" every time he was offered extra-large portions of burgers, fries and Coke from McDonald's.
A "small" (if it's available) is usually plenty for one. A regular hamburger from Burger King has 310 calories and 14 grams of fat, but a BK Whopper has 710 calories and 43 grams of fat.
Before you pull into the drive-through, log onto the website of the franchise you plan to visit. Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's, Arby's, Subway, Chick-fil-A, Boston Market, Pizza Hut and many others provide nutrition information.
Choose grilled, baked or broiled items to avoid as much fat as possible.
At Wendy's, a grilled chicken sandwich contains only 300 calories and 6 grams of fat vs. a chicken breast filet sandwich with 430 calories and 13 grams of fat. At Wendy's they add reduced-calorie honey mustard on the grilled sandwich, but mayonnaise on the breaded chicken sandwich. Fried foods mean extra fat (usually trans fat) and breading.
The extra calories add up to extra inches.
Adopt "On the Side" as your motto. Some salad offerings at Arby's, McDonald's, Wendy's and other fast-food chains are great options. Grilled chicken salad with greens has a balance of protein and carbohydrate, but don't add fatty salad dressing and nix the croutons or Chinese noodles.
Skip the soda. You probably know that this is always No. 1. If you forgot, I'll remind you! Soda is just calories in a glass. A study published in the journal Lancet showed that the average teenager is getting 15 to 20 teaspoons a day of sugar from soft drinks, and kids have doubled their intake of soda in the last decade.
A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that girls who drank more sodas got less calcium in their diets, which could lead to osteoporosis later in life. The USDA confirms that American teens drink twice as much carbonated soda as milk.
Author: John McGran