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Fast-food frenzy

By Staff
Choose wisely when you go through the drive through
Between jobs, kids and extracurricular activities, the hectic pace of everyday life leaves many Americans little time to plan, much less prepare, healthy meals each day.
Driving through the fast food lane is often much easier, and sometimes much cheaper, than cooking for yourself or your family.
And while gobbling down that burger, fries and soft drink – usually a Biggie, no less – may cause a brief twinge of guilt, fast food does not have to be fat food.
It can even be good for you.
Dr. Barbara Struempler, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System nutritionist, says there are plenty of healthy food choices offered by fast food chains and restaurants.
You just have to choose them.
According to Struempler, fast foods to avoid include the following:
"Anything that sounds mega, is probably mega in terms of fat, calories and sodium," Struempler said. "But you can do nutritious fast foods. There is nothing wrong with a regular hamburger. It is a very small portion of meat, the recommended serving size. And on occasion, maybe do some fries with it, and drink orange juice or water, not always a soft drink."
When eating fast food, Struempler suggests you look for meats that are broiled or baked, and choose fresh salads and veggies over French fries or chips. Ask for reduced-calorie dressing, opt for low-fat milk or fruit juice instead of soft drinks, and choose whole grain breads or rolls instead of refined "flour" products, she said.
And don't think fast food is only available in value meals at the nearest popular chain.
Preparing fast, nutritious meals at home may be easier than you think, Struempler says.
Salads are simple, she said, with baby carrots and lettuce sold precut and pre-washed at grocery stores.
"There's nothing wrong with sandwiches or even eating breakfast for dinner. It doesn't have to be that hard. It all comes down to planning. Someone in your household needs to sit down and plan out what you're going to eat all week before you go to the grocery store so you'll have the food you need. Cooking dinner for your family doesn't have to be elaborate and time-consuming. The key is doing a little planning ahead of time so you'll have what you need."
SOURCE: Dr. Barbara Struempler, (bstruemp@aces.edu), Extension Nutritionist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, (334) 844-2217 .

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