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Fast Food can be healthy if you make the right choices

Fast Food can be health food?

It’s the busy mom’s savior- fast food. But after documentaries such as "Fast Food Nation" and "Super Size Me," moms everywhere have feared that serving fast food fare to their children could be akin to child abuse. So if the family’s eating schedule is jammed between football and soccer practice, band, homework and your own job what’s a mom to do?

The perfect moms and dads are out there planning ahead, chopping wholesome nutrients on the weekend and freezing them for later consumption. The rest of us, the ones who live in the real world, continue to drop a cool $179 billion on fast food—more than double what we shelled out for weight-loss products the same year. In fact, in a recent USA Today article they reported that
“the U.S. ranked at the very bottom, in a 2011 report of 28 countries, in both the percentage of people who cook and the amount of time they spend doing it.”

I can’t stop eating fast food

So if you love the convenience of fast food and you don’t have time to cook, the real question is whether or not you can eat at a fast food restaurant and maintain a healthy weight and good diet. Thankfully, the answer seems to be yes.

The good news is fast food restaurants everywhere have been willing to create healthier fare for many of their customers. One problem restaurants have noticed, however, is that many diners may claim they want health food, but when it comes to what they are actually willing to buy, the story may be quite different. Anyone remember whole-wheat doughnuts, oatmeal, or french fries made from fruit?

So restaurants have started to take a step back and try to figure out, not only what the consumer is willing to buy, but how to make healthy food taste great. According to Mary Avant, associate editor of "QSR," a magazine for the quick-service restaurant industry, "Taste is still the main driver, and people don't want a really healthy product that doesn't taste great."

Another trick for diners is to understand that not everything that sounds healthy really is good for you. I have a friend whose main dieting strategy is to eat Caesar salads. Of course he’s continually frustrated he never loses weight. Other diners can be fooled by words such as organic and whole-grain. While these ingredients are great, neither precludes a menu item from having more than a third of an individual’s daily recommended calories.

What is the lesson that most diners need to know? According to Jim White, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, "Just because it's healthy doesn't mean you can't gain weight from it."

Good changes to increase your health

So if you love to eat, don’t despair. Restaurants around the U.S., including McDonalds, have started making great changes to their menus by offering 500-calories menus. Food calories are also now posted (by a number of restaurants) on their menus, making it easier to choose lighter fare.

So while it’s not a good idea to eat fast food every night, if you find that it’s your only option, why not try McDonald’s Southwestern Salad with grilled chicken? It’s delicious and healthy!

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