Think fast; get something healthy while on the go

Eating on the go can be healthy if you know -- and make -- the right choices. But the high-calorie, high-fat choices
Sandusky Register Staff
May 9, 2010


Eating on the go can be healthy if you know -- and make -- the right choices.

But the high-calorie, high-fat choices on fast food menus make education and will power paramount.

"We like the flavor of fat," said Tracy Stadler, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Fisher-Titus Medical Center. "Fat provides a lot of flavor to the food we eat. It's our most calorie-dense food; it's an energy source that we need to limit."

Fortunately, the fast food industry has started to offer more healthy options -- and promote them.

McDonald's spokeswoman Danya Proud said its Premium Salads are the No. 1 seller of salads nationwide, offering a low-fat alternative to its customers.

"We've sold more than 600 million salads since 2003," Proud said. "That's the equivalent of 1.2 billion servings of vegetables."

Taco Bell spokesman Will Bortz said his company is in the process of eliminating trans fat oil from its food preparation process.

Taco Bell also has a program called "Fresco Style." Cheese and sauce is removed from select menu items and replaced with a low-fat fiesta salsa -- made fresh daily.

"Taking cheese and sauce off allows people a variety of choices," Bortz said. "You can have a crunchy taco 'Fresco Style' and take it from an item that has about 10 grams of fat to less than 6 grams of fat."

Although it varies from person to person, Stadler said the average male, 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, should consume between 1,800 and 2,000 calories per day; the average female should eat between 1,400 and 1,600 calories per day.

But both men and women, according to Stadler, should get less than 30 percent of their calorie intake from fat. It may taste good, but eating too much of high-calorie, high-fat food can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

"It's the high fat and salt content, and the ability to 'super size' stuff," she said. "It's a lot of extra calories for your body and if you're not getting a lot of physical activity, you're going to gain weight."

Sean Resley, a Sandusky franchise owner for Subway, said his stores have several menu items emphasizing low fat.

"On the Subway menu when you walk in, it is specified the seven sandwiches under 6 grams of fat," Resley said. "Those are highlighted to emphasize health-conscious items."

Dave Giaco, Sandusky's regional director of operations for Arby's, said mayonnaise and salad dressing can make menu items, such as the Market Fresh sandwiches, more fattening then people might think. Mustard is a low-fat alternative.

"There's things on the menu that are very heavy in fat and calories, but there's also some things that are very healthy," Giaco said.

"When you order a Market Fresh sandwich, watch out for the salad dressing. That's where it's fattening. You should ask for it without dressing."

Above all else, health and industry experts emphasize eating all foods in moderation.

"The benefit of eating at McDonald's is not only do we provide quality food products, we also provide those in portions to meet the majority of anybody's dietary needs," Proud said. "It's about balance and moderation. Calories in, energy out."

"I don't believe in good foods or bad foods," Stadler said.

"Fast foods are not taboo. All foods can fit. You just have to be wise and make healthier choices."