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Front Page » May 22, 2008 » Local News » Selecting healthier fast food options
Published 2,377 days ago

Selecting healthier fast food options


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By NEDRA CHRISTENSEN
Utah State University Extension

The obesity rate in the United States has more than doubled in the last 20 years and fast foods continue to contribute to the situation.

But healthy side-dish options are the newest trend. For example, entree salads are gaining popularity.

Mandarin chicken, spring mix, fire-grilled and Cobb salads are examples.

Salads can be healthy alternatives as long as they are not slathered with high-fat dressing and toppings.

A slathered salad can actually provide the same amount of calories or fat grams as a typical burger.

When comparing menu items, it is important to consider nutritional factors such as fiber and vitamin as well as mineral content.

Salads outweigh burgers and fries when compared this way.

Fruit and yogurt parfaits may have the same number of calories as a cookie. But the yogurt and fruit also contribute calcium, vitamin C and vitamin A, whereas the cookie consists of empty calories.

Side options are healthier than the alternatives.

Other fast food options are also available.

Deli sandwich shops, Asian rice bowl eateries and Mexican or southwest grills offer a selection of healthier alternatives.

But Carbon County residents should keep in mind that every restaurant has both healthy and less-healthy choices.

Several additional tricks can help make any fast food meal better for local residents.

Special ordering is one way.

Diet conscious consumers may ask fast food establishments to add lettuce and tomatoes to burgers and substitute low-fat sauces for traditional dressings .

People may also request to have sauces and condiments served on the side so they can control the amounts they use on the fast food menu items.

Ordering water or diet soda with fast food meals can cut around 200 calories.

Residents may also opt for grilled items rather than fried, order smaller sizes and eat slower.

Customers vote with their stomachs and healthy products can fade quickly.

The majority of the fast food companies are aware that healthier menu items will not be big money makers for the eating establishments.

The companies also know that people eating at fast food establishments are not always the most health conscious and the customers will usually have a difficult time resisting the temptation of tasty, greasy foods.

One consolation for the fast food restaurants is that, by offering healthy choices, the obesity critics might leave the companies alone.

By offering healthy menu options, fast food establishments may also control the veto factor.

The veto factor social phenomenon occurs when people eat out in groups.

If one person doesn't agree with the restaurant choice, the entire group must go elsewhere.

But if there are healthy food options listed on the menu for the individual in question, the restaurant can sell the other four or five people in the group burgers and fries.

Fast food restaurants are profitable because the empty calorie items they sell are inexpensive.

A 16-ounce soda costs a fast food establishment less than 16 cents to produce, yet the restaurants can sell the drink for $1.09.

On the other hand, an 8-ounce milk jug costs the establishments considerably more, but is sold for approximately the same price.

Potatoes are also an inexpensive menu item for establishments to offer to consumers.

By selecting lower calorie and reduced fat fast food menu options, Carbon County residents will show the companies that nutrition is important and people appreciate the establishments' efforts to provide healthier choices.


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