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Familiarize Yourself with Fast Food Options

Familiarize Yourself with Fast Food Options

It’s simply a given – sometimes, you’re going to be faced with the prospect of ordering fast food no matter how much thought and effort you’ve given to adopting mindful eating techniques.

You need to know your options so you won’t be forced to order a salad or a dreaded double cheeseburger with fries. You want to order wisely, so as not to mess up your low-calorie intake that you’ve adhered to so well all week.


When eating at fast food places, beware of the “healthy” options advertised that can pack a whopping number of calories. But there are options that will provide some macronutrients without also loading you up on calories or sugar and salt.


Moderation is key when dining at fast food establishments and there are some other things you should keep in mind. Keep lunches under 500 calories and choose a meal that carries at least 10 grams of protein.


Keep it low in sodium (less than 1,000 milligrams). That’s about the best you can hope for at a fast-food place, so be sure and look for other options if you have high blood pressure.


Low sugar content is also a must (less than 20 grams) and trans fats should be avoided at all cost. Trans fats can cause heart disease, so look for options which offer 0 grams of trans fat.


Choose bottled water rather than a sugary drink and don’t succumb to fries or other sides that can add calories and other harmful ingredients. Mindful eating advocates that you should eat what you want, so if you really feel like a cheeseburger, get it. Just try to make more healthy decisions during other meals of the day.


Best Drive Through Options


No matter what drive through establishment you choose, try to keep your options as small as possible and avoid sides that can shatter your good intentions. Now, some fast-food restaurants (including McDonald’s) offer salads that are under 500 calories, but beware of the dressings which are high in sodium and sugar.


McDonald’s also offers an Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich, full of protein and some veggies and it comes in at about 360 calories. It’s a good option if you find yourself with kids or friends who insist on McDonald’s.


You can find a Fresco Steak Burrito Supreme (with black beans) for 430 calories or a Fresco Chicken Soft Taco with pinto beans and cheese for under 330 calories. But, both of these options contain some saturated fat.


Even Dunkin’ Donuts can provide you with a tuna salad sandwich on an English muffin for only 390 calories or an Egg White Veggie Wake-Up Wrap with hash browns for breakfast weighing in at only 350 calories. Again, some saturated fat is involved.


Subway touts healthy options in its advertisements and you can get a 6-inch Club sandwich on 9-grain wheat bread with veggies and sweet onion sauce (it also comes with apple slices). Or choose the Oven roasted chicken salad with veggies and honey mustard dressing (with a yogurt parfait). These are each 400 calories.


If you’re a fan of Starbuck’s, choose from the chicken and black bean salad bowl (450 calories) or the chicken and hummus bistro box that comes with hummus, grilled chicken, grape tomatoes, cucumber and pita bread (and a banana) for only 450 calories.


Burger King won’t be outdone with its Whopper Jr that comes with no mayo, but a few onion rings –all for under 450 calories. Or, you can opt for the veggie burger with apple slices for just 440 calories.


Panera has become a popular option for the lunch crowd and you can choose from the Power Mediterranean Chicken Salas with baked potato chips that will only cost you 430 calories – or, a half turkey breast sandwich on whole grain bread that comes with a low-fat vegetable soup for under 400 calories.


Healthy options are also available at KFC, where you can order four hot wings with corn for only 380 calories or a grilled breast of chicken with mashed potatoes for just 310 calories.


It’s still best to avoid fast food if possible. There is some saturated fat in all of the above options. But, if you’re on the run and can’t avoid it, some options exist that won’t put you in a tailspin from mindful eating.


How to Avoid Fast Food Traps


Although it’s very tempting to succumb to fast food when you’re running short of time, the kids are hungry and there’s nothing in the fridge at home. But one look at the average calorie count and harmful ingredients (especially saturated fats) contained in most fast-food meals and you may think twice about alternatives.


One alternative to stopping by for fast food is to make a quick trip into your local supermarket. You’re in luck if you have a Trader Joe’s or Central Market nearby because you can purchase fresh salads, fruits and deli items (including sandwiches) that are pre-made and most even come with plastic eating utensils. Grab a bottle of water and you’re good to go.


Consider packing a cooler or lunch container with leftovers. Most people have leftovers lurking in their fridge. Grab a container and some ice and throw in some grapes, cheese and other munchies to tide you over until you can get a good meal.


This is an especially good idea if you or a family member has food allergies. You never know if there will be a place in the town you’re traveling to that can accommodate your needs.


If possible, take your lunch or breakfast to a picnic table in a park or roadside rest area and get some fresh air and let the kids run around to release some of that pent up energy from riding the car when traveling.


Always keep snacks such as fruit, cheese and veggies in the refrigerator so you can grab them on the go. If you have time in the morning, a well-planned smoothie can be much more satisfying and healthier than a trip to McDonald’s for an Egg McMuffin and hashbrowns.


Another reason to avoid fast food restaurants is the amount of sodium that’s contained in most of their offerings. Sodium is the single-most harmful food for heart disease, hypertension and other ailments that can put you in an early grave.


Most at risk for developing health problems because of high consumption of salt are people over 50 years of age, those who already have hypertension issues, those who suffer from diabetes and the African American population.


When you consume too much sodium, your body retains water you drink so it can dilute the sodium. This causes an increase of fluid surrounding your blood cells and also increases the amount of blood in your bloodstream so that your heart and blood vessels have to work overtime.


Over a period of time, your heart can fail because of the added work and your kidneys, aorta and bones may also be damaged – all due to excess salt in your diet. A part of the mindful eating process should definitely be to lower the consumption of sodium in your diet.


This means that you should do everything possible to avoid fast food restaurants which are some of the main culprits for too much salt. You’re also missing most of the main vitamins and minerals found in fresh foods that you prepare yourself as opposed to the dietary disasters that you have to order at the fast-food establishments.


Another fast-food trap to avoid is salads that sound healthy, but which load you with calories, saturated fats and sodium galore. You can add some dressing to a healthy salad, but most of the dressings found at fast food places are high in calories and sodium content.


How Fast Food Affects Your Body


Mindful eating tells you that food is to be considered fuel for your body – but that you should enjoy preparing and eating your food to get the full, healthy effect. Fast food isn’t all bad, but most contains huge amounts of sugar, unhealthy fats, carbs and sodium.


They mostly offer no nutritional value whatsoever and bring risks of chronic health problems such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Now, children are the unlucky recipients of taking in more calories in fast food places than at home.


A constant diet of fast food can affect many areas of the body. The cardiovascular and digestive systems are two ways most fast food can harm your body. When your digestive system breaks down the many carbs you eat in a fast-food meal, they turn into sugar, which is then released into your blood stream.


Your pancreas and other areas of the body have to work overtime to keep the insulin levels within normal range and can lead to failure of organs and chronic diseases that can lead to death.


The respiratory system (lungs) can also suffer when you become obese from too much of the foods that have no nutritional value. Asthma or rhinitis (a constant runny nose or congestion) is prevalent in children who have a consistent diet of fast foods.


The skin and skeletal structures of the body can be harmed by trans fats and processed chocolate. Carbs may cause acne in teenagers or increase blood levels. Eczema (inflamed skin) is also a side effect of eating too much fast food.


The bones are affected by sodium. Too much may cause osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones, making them fragile and prone to break. Your teeth are also subjected to harm from fast food. Acids from high carb/sugary foods can destroy the enamel of your teeth and cause other health problems.


Your central nervous system can be highly affected by fast food such as commercial breads and other baked goods such as pizza and doughnuts.  New studies also link fast food with depression, indicating that over 51 percent of those who eat a consistent diet of fast foods were more likely to become depressed than those who didn’t.


Fast (junk) foods are also linked to memory and learning losses. Studies showed that rats given a diet of half fat calories had trouble making their way through a maze that they had previously learned.


Obesity and all the problems which can come from it can also be linked to diets of fast food. We’ve become a fast-food consuming society rather than using mindful eating techniques that could save our health and prolong our lives.


Some Quick Drive-Through Tips


There are some definite strategies involved when contemplating eating from a fast-food restaurant. These strategies will help you avoid the traps that can put you over the top on calories and harmful ingredients. If you must eat a meal on the run, they’re good strategies to know.


The first strategy is to pay attention to so-called, “health halos.” These are dishes which are advertised as healthy for you, but that can be laden with unnecessary calories. Be sure to read the list of nutritional values before ordering. You might be better off with a hamburger than a salad.


You hold knowledge in the palm of your hand if you have a cell phone. Now, you can download a Fast-Food Calorie Counter which offers restaurants and over 9,000 items in various places.


Order from the kids’ menu. Junior burgers are smaller and contain less calories than the Whopper. Look for places that use egg whites or lettuce wraps. Even Dunkin’ Donuts offers all-day breakfast choices that are nutritious.


Watch the condiments and salad dressing options. Many are laden with calories that would be easy to avoid. For example, a packet of ketchup only contains 10 calories, whereas packets of honey mustard or barbeque sauce may contain as many as 60 calories.


If you must have fries with your burger, choose the small or medium variety rather than super-sized. In fact, avoid “super-sized” anything on a fast-food menu. Also, look for broiled, grilled or roasted when it comes to meat, but avoid the cheese and rich sauces.


Water, unsweetened tea or low-fat milk should be your drink of choice. Keep in mind that a large carbonated drink packs at least 400 calories and is bad for you to boot. And, a milkshake can set you back over 1,000 calories.


If you love burgers, get your fix by choosing the smallest size available and specify no cheese, but double the veggies. Never add “special sauce,” or salt and also avoid may which can add up to 200 calories on your sandwich.


Chili and soups can also be good choices at those fast-food places that offer them. Sides can also be negotiated by choosing a small salad or a fruit salad rather than fries with your burger.


Use the mindful eating techniques you’ve learned in this book to make better choices, both at home and when dining out. Soon, you’ll begin to notice subtle changes such as better mood, loss of unwanted pounds and a satisfaction of knowing that you’re eating healthier – and actually liking it.

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