Don’t let fast food derail your diet

August 27, 2012

Most people know that too many meals at fast-food chains can wreak havoc on their health. Nonetheless, those with busy schedules rely on quick meals on the go, often finding themselves in the drive-thru lane.

MaryBeth Robinson

Fortunately, the occasional fast-food meal doesn’t have to derail your plans to eat healthy.

“When you’re in a hurry, it can be easy to grab the same foods you always have, even if they aren’t healthy,” says MaryBeth Robinson, registered dietician and diabetes educator with the Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center Diabetes Education Program. “In reality, eating fast food doesn’t have to hurt your efforts to manage your weight or manage your diabetes. You just must make the right choices.”

When you’re relying on a fast-food restaurant to satisfy a hunger pang, keep in mind portion size. Ordering a small or child’s size meal can cut the amount of carbohydrates ingested and still satisfy hunger.

More often, fast-food restaurants also offer fruit or salad side dishes instead of french fries, which can give you a needed nutrient boost and cut down on fat and carbohydrates.

Robinson also advises to watch out for seemingly healthy salads offered at fast-food chains, which sometimes can total up to more than 1,000 calories – equal to two hamburgers with cheese.

“By the time you add up the salad dressing, the bacon, the nuts and the breaded chicken, it’s extremely high in calories,” she says.

Instead, skip the salad dressing, bring your own low-calorie version and watch out for salad add-ons that aren’t fruit or vegetables.

And, although Robinson shies away from telling anyone they must eliminate any particular food from their diet forever, her one exception is sugary sodas.

“Don’t drink your calories,” she says. “Choose diet soda or water, and save your calories for foods that give you nutrients, too.”

— Marketing & Communications