Dependence on fast foods goes back thousands of years. In the Roman Forum more than two thousand years ago, urban consumers ate sausages and honey cakes. The Chinese ate stuffed buns in the twelfth century. Five hundred years ago, Spaniards encountered tacos in the markets of today's Mexico.
Today's fast-food menus offer far more options than traditional fare. From grilled chicken sandwiches, wraps and broiled fish, to salad, low-fat milk and fruit smoothies, you have plenty to choose from, including lower-calorie, lower-fat and fresh menu items. You might even find pizza, seafood, pasta, Tex-Mex food, stuffed baked potatoes, noodles and deli items along with quick ethnic cuisine.
If you're a fast-food regular, keep these pointers in mind:
- Be aware of portions that may be larger than you need: "deluxe," "super" and "mega" may be different sizes of "big." Whether it's a sandwich, fries, a shake or another menu option, bigger portions mean more calories and likely more fat, cholesterol and sodium. For most people, the small or regular size is enough.
- Think before you buy. Order takers often promote with marketing questions – for example, "Would you like fries with that?" or "Do you want the value size?" It's okay to say "no."
- Go easy on snacks. A large order of fries and a large soft drink can add up to a hefty 650 or more calories!
- Split your order. Halve the calories and double the pleasure – share your fries or sandwich with a friend!
- Decide before you order whether the "value meal" is a good deal. If you don't need the extra food, there's really no extra value; smaller may cost less. Sharing may be a good deal.