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Who doesn’t enjoy heading to McDonald’s or Burger King to get their favorite meal on the menu once in a while? Maybe you go for a “number three” with a chocolate milkshake. Whatever your go-to fast food meal is, here are some things to keep in mind next time you find yourself in the drive-through line!

1. Pay attention to portion sizes. One of the best things you can do is avoid super-sizing. Ask yourself, “Do I really need large fry, or can I settle for medium fries, or maybe even small fries?” Portions in fast food restaurants tend to be pretty big, and many times can actually be shared between two people! You can also try the strategy or eating slower, chewing more, and drinking in between bites. This can help you avoid over-eating.

2. Be on the lookout for healthy options. Fast food doesn’t always have to consist of a burger, fries and a soda. If you need a meal on-the-go, how about ordering a salad with chicken, and bottled water? A lot of fast food restaurants now offer grilled chicken, low-fat milk, fruit, oatmeal, and fat- free salad dressing!

3. Be aware of nutrition information. Most fast food restaurants now have accessible nutrition information posted in the restaurant, online, or both. Be on the lookout for saturated and trans fats, sodium, and sugar. These ingredients can raise blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure, which are major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Access amounts of these ingredients can also lead to obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

4. Be wise about condiments. Salad dressings contain a lot of fat and oil, and cheese is very high in saturated fat. Ketchup contains a lot of high fructose corn syrup, and mayonnaise has a high calorie count. Try to substitute these for healthier condiments, or limit your use of them.

burgerHere’s the bottom line: as much as you may enjoy fast food, it is important to have boundaries and limits so that you can avoid negative health effects. On the bright side, fast food restaurants are getting better at providing healthier options. The amount of fast food that you consume is all a personal decision and it starts with self-control. Remember, too much of something is never good!

Written by Christina Gantt, Peer Educator