Most families eat at a fast food restaurant at least once a week and many people have fast food several times a week. While fast food may be convenient, cheap, and taste good, it can have a bad effect on your childâ€™s weight and health.
Fast food meals are often high in sodium, fat, and calories. Eating high fat, super-sized meals can lead to weight gain. Weight gain increases the risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
How can we choose healthier fast food?
Fast food restaurants now offer smaller portions, more grilled chicken choices, and kids meals with fruit and milk instead of fries and soda. Some of the fast food chains limit the salt and trans fats in kids meals.
Here are some ideas for making healthier choices:
- Order the smaller portion sizes. A meal with a small hamburger, small fries, and a 16 ounce diet soda may have as few as 350 calories and 14 grams of fat. If your child has a large cheeseburger, medium fries, and medium soda, the calories jump to 1100 with 45 grams of fat.
- Have milk or water instead of a soft drink.
- Choose grilled chicken items more often than burgers.
- Choose fruit, a side salad, or a baked potato topped with veggies instead of having fries.
- Ask for mustard and ketchup instead of mayonnaise or order food plain and add your own condiments at home.
- Use very little salad dressing or ask for the low-fat or fat-free dressing. Regular dressing can add 200 to 300 extra calories.
- If you are taking the food home, order entrees only and fix your own side dishes. Serve with milk, water, or other low sugar drinks.
Where can I find menu and nutrition information?
Most large food chains provide nutrition information that lists all menu items, and show total calories, grams of carbohydrate, protein, total fat, saturated fat, and trans fats. Ask for information at the counter or go online to the restaurant’s Web site. The Web sites often include menus, nutrient lists, and easy to use calculators so you can see exactly what your child is eating and where you need to make changes. Some Web sites also have information about food allergies and diabetic exchanges. It has never been easier to select fast food meals to fit a healthy diet.
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This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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