The Fast-Food Challenge
You don't have to completely give up the convenience of fast food to lose weight.
Eating nothing but fast food, like the man in the movie
Super Size Me, is enough to make anyone fat. But can you indulge every
once in a while and maintain a slim physique, or is a 100% ban in order?
Walk into your favorite fast-food joint, and "that smell of
salt and fat in the air is almost irresistible," says Joan Carter, RD, a
nutrition instructor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
"I love french fries," says Cynthia Sass, RD, a senior
dietitian at the University of South Florida. "You can't ask someone to
give them up for life. It's just not realistic."
Let's face it, fast food is part of our busy lives -- even for
those who make nutrition their career. It's a challenge trying to avoid the
convenience. Should we be trying harder?
Facing the Challenge
In fact, no fast-food splurge blows your diet. "What counts
is what you eat in a day or over a few days," says Sass, a spokeswoman for
the American Dietetic Association (ADA).
"Nutrition is not all or nothing; it's about balance,"
The typical fast food meal: sandwich, fries, and soda. But you
can balance it by:
- choosing small fries and water -- nixing the supersized meal. Also, nuggets
or grilled chicken are a good substitute for a burger. And toss the bun -- you
don't need it.
- detouring to the grocery store after the fast-food stop. Prewashed fruit
and veggies are a high-convenience item there: baby carrots, a small banana, an
apple. Cherry or grape tomatoes are plentiful during summer. Just wash and eat
them as a snack.
- carrying dried fruit with you, like dried figs, dates, lemon- and
cherry-flavored plums, peaches, pears, cherries, or blueberries.
Also, ethnic take-out foods -- like Chinese, Thai, Indian --
tend to be very rich in vegetables and lighter, so they give you lots of
nutrients and more energy than barbecue or burgers.
"It's all about compromising, about deciding where you can
give up something or what you're willing to add to give balance," Sass
tells WebMD. "That's the kind of philosophy people can manage long term.
Otherwise, it's just not realistic. Every time of year is busy. Not all of us
can pack a healthy lunch."
"Eating right doesn't mean you have to become a perfect
eater," she says.
Exercise Makes the Difference
But if those biggie fries are calling your name, go ahead and
enjoy them once in awhile, says Carter, also an ADA spokeswoman. "Life's
too short. Anyway, no one wakes up one morning weighing 600 or even 300 pounds.
Just like one day in gym will not make you Arnold Schwarzenegger. It isn't one
food, one day, that will make you fat."
Just remember, it all adds up.