Health Watch -- Better Fast Food

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


Fast food doesn't have to be fat food.

If you don't have the time for a home-cooked meal or the money for a restaurant meal, does that mean you're stuck with a meal full of fat and calories at a fast-food restaurant? Not if you plan properly, according to nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

The key is to be proactive about looking for healthier choices and be selective about what you eat. Don't go on auto-pilot and just order the usual fast-food meal.

Dr. Jo Ann Carson, a professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern, offers some tips for choosing healthier meals at fast-food restaurants.

First, don't fall back on french fries as the standard side dish. Many fast-food chains now offer a variety of more nutritious options, including fruits, vegetables, baked potatoes and side salads.

There are also alternatives to hamburgers, including meal-sized salads and chili with beans. Chili is a low-fat meal option, and the beans provide a good dose of fiber. If you order a side salad or a meal-sized salad, be careful with the dressing. The packets that come with salads contain far more than a single serving.

For dessert, some restaurants now offer fruit-and-yogurt parfaits, which count toward your dairy and fruit intake. Instead of sodas, you can have skim milk or fruit juices.

Stopping for a fast meal doesn't mean you have to sacrifice nutrition.

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Oct. 2004

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