Making Your Fast Food Nutritious: It’s Possible

Over the last few decades, health and nutrition have become national priorities, and at the same time, fast food restaurants been placed under the microscope, often being blamed for the current rates of obesity.bigstock-restaurant-icon-25578467

However, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, the nutritional quality of menu offerings at eight fast food restaurant chains increased over a 14-year period (from 1997/1998 to 2009/2010). The researchers obtained ingredient and nutrition information from the University of Minnesota Nutrition Coordinating Center for all foods sold by the restaurant chains. The nutrition information was updated biannually during the 14 years.

Numerous public health strategies, such as government menu labeling regulations, are encouraging fast food restaurants to improve the nutritional quality of their menu offerings. Several fast food restaurants are also taking their own initiative to offer healthier menu options for you and your families.

And more than ever, many fast food restaurants are flexible and accommodating to customers regarding special requests. For example, I always special order my burrito by asking for “no sour cream” – and there is a button on the cash register for that exact request! I make almost all of my meals healthier by asking for these kinds of modifications. Continue reading

Saving 500 Fast Food Calories: 8 Tips for Healthier Options

Sometimes you may just need the convenience of a fast food restaurant. As a study highlighted in today’s Cancer Research Update points out, you’ll be faced with more choices than ever. One of the study’s findings was that consumers had over 50 percent more menu items in 2010 to choose from compared to 14 years earlier.

So if you’re watching your calories to maintain a healthy weight – which reduces your risk of cancer and other chronic diseases – here are eight tips to help you quickly navigate the abundance of options. In just one visit, it’s not hard to save 500 calories or more in one visit, while making your meal more nutritious.

1. Avoid entrees that top the list in calories and fat
Estimated Calories Saved: 350-500
McDonald’s: Order a cheeseburger (300 calories, 12 g fat) instead of the Cheddar Bacon Onion Third Pounder (790 calories, 41 grams of fat)

Taco Bell: Go for the Fresco Steak Burrito Supreme® (340 calories and 9 g of fat) instead of the XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito Beef (880 calories, 42 grams of fat) Continue reading

Soothing Setting May Help You Eat Less

If a nice restaurant beckons you to linger with comfortable music and lighting, it seems likely you might order more food and eat more. Not so, according to a new study. It turns out, somewhat surprisingly, diners in a relaxed environment spend more time at the restaurant but eat fewer calories while enjoying their food more.

The study was published in Psychological Reports and co-authored by Cornell University researcher Brian Wansink, an expert in how environmental cues affect our eating habits.

Previous research has shown music and lighting influence how long diners stay in a restaurant or store. The bright lights and noise typical of many fast food restaurants leads to eating relatively quickly, for example.

Wansink and his colleague hypothesized that a relaxed atmosphere would lead to longer meals, ordering more food and eating more. They set about testing how environmental cues influence diners by using two restaurant settings with contrasting atmospheres.

The researchers started with a fast-food restaurant (Hardees) that had two separate sections. One area they left unchanged, complete with bright lights, colors and loud music. The second area was given a fine dining makeover: complete with soundproofing, soft lighting, plants, candles, white tablecloths, and jazz.

Then about 60 diners were randomly seated in one of the two settings. Continue reading