Fast Food Alternatives

I've been eating fast food all my life. Now I have high blood pressure and have been told to lay off it. Are there better choices to make when eating take-out or fast foods? —E.L., Charleston, West Virginia

There's no question about it—with over 300,000 fast food restaurants in the U.S., fast food has definitely become a part of our daily lives. And for good reason—it is convenient, quick, predictable and economical. But the bad news is that fast food is often high in calories, sodium, fat and cholesterol. Even so, you can make "healthier" menu choices if you are well informed. There is a wealth of good information on the Internet about the nutritional values of many fast foods. Many of the most popular fast food restaurants also publish information on their own Web sites. They may include a list of menu items with a breakdown of calories, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates and sodium. If you don't have access to the Internet, your local fast food eatery should be able to supply you with a printed copy of the nutritional values of their menu items. These days, many of the fast food chains are trying to help consumers control their calorie and fat intake by providing lighter food choices such as more salad options and leaner sandwiches. However, many of those food choices that are lower in calories and fat are still high in sodium, which can lead to high blood pressure in some people. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to eat at fast food restaurants no more than a couple of times a week, which can be good for your wallet as well as your waistline!