We all lead busy lives and finding the time to eat properly can often be a challenge.
Can visiting a fast-food restaurant be a healthy choice when looking for a nutritious, hearty meal?
You may be juggling taking the kids to school, working an eight-hour day, taking the kids to after-school activities, visiting the gym and this often means having to find food to eat on the run.
Unless you have taken the time to prepare a packed lunch (as well as the kids!), It is highly likely that at some time or other, you will find yourself visiting a fast-food restaurant.
Most people know that fast-food does not mean healthy food and the typical fare served by these establishments are real diet and health busters. Giant burgers with cheese, bacon and dressings, fried chicken and steaks, pizzas loaded with cheese, burritos and tacos all washed down with large or extra-large sodas and milkshakes.
Some meals can contain so much fat and sugar that a single meal would exceed your recommended daily intake for the whole day!
Now if you're a healthy eater and visit fast-food restaurants infrequently, the odd burger or piece of pizza is not going to hurt you. However, if like 40% of Americans, you consider the local fast-food outlet as your second kitchen, it's time to watch what you are eating and get your health in check.
If you do find yourself in a fast-food restaurant, careful choices and common-sense can still mean a tasty, healthy meal can be found. The best rule of thumb is to try and avoid any food in which the calories from fat makes up more than 30% of the whole product. To work out this percentage, multiply the fat grams by nine (the total fat calories) and divide the result by the total calories.
Now, so you don't have to bring a calculator with you every time you eat, you can quickly become used to recognizing the types of foods and methods of preparation which should be avoided. If the food has been breaded, fried or grilled many times then it's a safe bet that it's likely high in fat. Be aware that it's not only burgers, but chicken and fish as well.
Many modern fast-food restaurants also have salad bars, so choose a fresh green salad to accompany your main meal. But again beware of adding fattening extras, such as cheeses, dressings and mayonnaise. Low-calorie dressings, if available, are the best alternative.
Restaurants now provide nutrition information for their meals and foods, so the health conscious eater or dieter can find out what's in their food, as well as the calories and fat they contain. If the nutritional information is not clearly visible or available, don't be afraid to ask a member of staff as they should be able to provide it for you.
Eating on the run is something we can't avoid at some point in our lives, but fortunately we can make healthy choices instead of keeping fast-food restaurants off-limits.