It’s no surprise that fast food has always been a big no-no, but that doesn’t always have to be the case.
Fast food has always been labelled as unhealthy due to its high sodium, saturated fat, trans fat and sugar content. Binging on fast food will expose you to a greater risk of health problems such as heart disease and cancer. While abstinence is the best way out, it is understandable that there will be occasional cravings you simply can’t ignore. Follow these seven tips by Jaclyn Reutens, a clinical dietitian at Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants for healthier ways to get your fast food fix.
1. Choose whole pieces of meat
Patties and reconstituted meat are less nutritious than whole pieces of meat as they contain more sodium and fat. Patties are made up of fattier parts of the meat, which are then ground and mixed with preservatives. They also contain more saturated fat, which may increase the risks of high cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Avoid hamburger patties and nuggets and opt for meat like chicken breast.
2. Choose grilled items
Fast food chains use copious amounts of oil to cook, causing many of their foods to be full of saturated fats. Many fast food chains now offer grilled options – a much healthier alternative to patties or other deep fried items.
3. Beyond calories – Sodium
Other than calories, remember to take sodium levels into consideration. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for sodium is 2,000mg daily. A burger and a packet of large fries can easily add up to half your daily RDA for sodium. “As a guide, if you are having three square meals a day, you should aim for less than 700mg of sodium per meal,” says Jaclyn. “If the fast food meal exceeds 700mg, just choose foods lower in sodium for the rest of the day.”
4. Skip the fries
Deep fried foods like fries contain high levels of trans fat. According to Jaclyn, trans fat is linked to increasing bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowering good cholesterol (HDL) levels. Fries are also full of salt and added sugar you should avoid as they increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart diseases and even cancer. Alternatives such as corn or mashed potatoes will do the trick!
5. But if you must… go salt-free
If you haven’t realised this, you can actually request for no salt in your fries at fast food chains! This will save you about 200mg to 400mg of sodium, which is more than 10 per cent the RDA of 2,000mg. But don’t negate your efforts by dunking your fries in ketchup or chilli sauce after ordering it without salt, says Jaclyn.
6. Go easy on condiments
As much as condiments like chilli sauce and mayonnaise enhance the flavour of our food, they come with even more sodium and saturated fats. Even supposed fat-free and lower calorie condiments are sugar-laden. So make sure to use your condiments sparingly or it simply means you’re dumping a whole lot of salt, fat and sugar in your body.
7. It’s all about choice
Fast food does not necessarily have to be condemned to the most unhealthy of foods. Compared to a plate of char kway teow, a grilled chicken burger or wrap would have much less fat, calories and sodium, says Jaclyn. It all boils down to making the right choices when you are ordering fast food – or any type of food for that matter.
If you still have trouble deciding on a healthier order, here is a table that may help. As a general guideline, Jaclyn recommends that burgers should be kept under 350kcal and fast food meals under 500kcal.
Photos from: 123rf.com