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Diet Trick or Treat?

Weight loss wonders and nutrition nightmares

Terrific Treats

From treats packaged in 100 calorie servings to more healthful choices on fast-food menus, the food industry is coming up with ways to make it easier to control your calorie intake. Labels and many menus carry nutrition information and sometimes icons that show which items are healthy, helping us make informed choices.

It has become virtually impossible to go into a restaurant and not see at least some healthy offerings. The fast-food and fast-casual giants led the way with an explosion of grilled chicken goodies. Now, you'll find many more delicious choices with fewer calories and fat. Moving beyond America's favorite -- hamburger, french fries, and a giant soda -- is tough, but at least we have plenty of healthy choices on the menu. And menus at fast-food and casual dining restaurants have an enormous impact on what our nation eats. According to the National Restaurant Association, the average person eats a meal out 4.2 times per week and spends 53% of his or her food dollars on items eaten away from home.

Nutrition information is available on restaurant web sites and at most of the actual restaurants -- just look around for the poster or ask for a copy. If you want to plan ahead, check the web site before leaving home and decide on selections that fit your eating plan.

Here are some of the best bets at popular restaurants:

  • Salads are everywhere. But beware: some are better than others. Check the nutrition information and choose those with plenty of vegetables, beans, fruit, and lean protein. Top them off with light vinaigrette or low-fat dressing to keep calories in check.
  • McDonald's has added apple slices and apple juice or low-fat milk choices for its kids' meals. Some healthy salads are available for adults, and yogurt parfaits and low-fat ice cream are nutritious treats with less than 160 calories.
  • Wendy's has bolstered its list of healthful offerings with orange slices and low-fat milk "chugs," along with plain baked potatoes, chili, and salads.
  • Many pizza companies are offering a healthier pie with less cheese, meat, and calories.
  • Subway, Darden's Season 52, Ruby Tuesday, Taco Bell, Dairy Queen, and many others have also made menu changes to meet the needs of the health-conscious diner.

In 2004, Time magazine and ABC News held a summit on obesity -- a sort of call to arms to alter the fate of our overweight nation -- in Williamsburg, Va. The meeting was attended by health-care professionals, obesity experts, food manufacturers, and members of the media, academia, industry, and government. The meeting got us fired up and ready to meet the challenge. I believe that together, we can make a difference in the health of Americans.

As a member of the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic, consider yourself fortunate. You already know the answer to successful weight management -- a commitment to reasonable, healthy eating behaviors that you can sustain for life, along with regular physical activity.

This -- and not any pill or potion touted in clever ads -- is the true answer to our nation's obesity problem.

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Reviewed on September 01, 2006

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