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A guide to eating healthy in a fast food restaurant

Hello Sehat
Hello Sehat

Hidup Sehat Hidup Bahagia

Jakarta  /  Thu, September 29, 2016  /  04:59 pm
A guide to eating healthy in a fast food restaurant

Finding a balanced fast food item is quite a challenge. However, there’s always a choice, you just have to know what and how to order. (Shutterstock/File)

We can’t deny fast food sometimes sounds like a good idea. You may even crave it in the middle of the night.

Especially when you’re hungry and have so little time to eat, stopping by a fast food restaurant may feel like an easy option. But perhaps you are also aware that even a small portion of fast food contains a massive amount of calories, salt, sugar, trans fats and saturated fats.

Avoiding fast food has always been the main suggestion of nutritionists. But this is easier said than done. What if we actually love fast food but still want to maintain a healthy body and an ideal body weight?

You can cut your calorie intake by choosing the right foods, those containing little fat, carbohydrates, sugar and salt. But how do we do that?

Choosing healthier menu items

Finding a balanced fast food menu item is quite a challenge. However, there’s always a choice, you just have to know what and how to order.

- Pick a small portioned item. If there’s a small portion of a menu item, why go for the upsize or double? Other than saving money, it also helps to decrease your calorie intake. Try to choose a dish that contains not more than 500 calories

- Choose foods that are low in fat and high in fiber and protein. Choose a menu item that contains fiber, wheat and is high in protein; also avoid items that are fried and contain flour. It’s better to order baked or roasted foods. Fried and floured foods contain high fats and calories. Moreover, choose a menu item that contains vegetables or fruits.

- Pick a healthier option. For example, rather than ordering fries, choose salad or soup instead. Or rather than ordering white bread, it’s better to choose whole wheat bread, or instead of ordering a regular burger it’s better to order veggie burger, and so forth. By being wisely selective, you can cut down your calorie intake. 

(Read also: Seven foods to avoid before hitting the gym)

- Avoid trans fat. Small amount of trans fats is naturally found in meat and dairy products, but the dangerous part is the artificial trans fats made to preserve food to look freshly cooked. Artificial trans fats are made from liquid vegetable oil that is usually mixed with hydrogen to make the food look more dense and solid. Fast food restaurants use this artificial trans fat due to its low price, and because it is durable and reusable. Moreover, trans fat oil can also add flavor and increase food texture. But behind all that, trans fats have a bad impact our health. Consuming trans fat food can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. The USDA suggests limiting the intake of trans fat consumption to not more than 2 grams a day. Therefore, it’s best to avoid fried foods in fast food restaurants.

- Limit salt intake. The American Heart Association recommends limiting salt consumption for adults, which is below 1500 milligrams per day, and not exceeding over 2300 mg per day. Imagine if you order salty items in fast foods restaurants, such as fried chicken and fries. Those foods can exceed the daily salt intake in one go.

- Choose the right beverage. Fast foods restaurants usually offer beverages that are high in sugar and calories, like soda or milkshakes. Even worse, sometimes people are tempted to order upsized beverages. You can substitute that soda for mineral water. It’s also better for you to avoid ordering beverages containing ice cream, such as milkshakes, because milkshake are high in calories.  

To make smart decisions, you must first know what is in each menu item. For example, a single burger contains a grilled patty, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, mayonnaise and sauce. If there are two patties in a single burger, it’s best to order one with a single patty. If the chicken burger contains fried chicken, it’s best to choose the burger with grilled chicken.

It’s okay to eat fast food once in a while, but if you want to stay healthy, it’s better to limit your fast food consumption to just once or twice a month. The habit of consuming fast food can inflict negative health effects. The recommendations above are just to help you mitigate the negative impact of fast food. Still, it is best to consume healthy foods containing complete nutrients. (kes)


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.