Healthy Eating & Fast Food: Ever the Twain Shall Meet?

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Yesterday USA Today reported on a study released at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society. The study looked at the frequency of fast-food meals and likelihood of weight gain. “…someone who consumes one fast-food meal a week is on average 1 1/2 pounds heavier than someone who eats no fast food,” according to the researcher who presented the study findings, and “the weight of someone who consumes three to six fast food meals a week is significantly heavier than someone who consumes no or one to two such meals a week.” The study was conducted on a survey of 4,600 adults.

Last week I posted on a similar issue, encouraging us to learn to cook (and mentioned two resources — a healthy cooking DVD titled First Kitchen Cooks and Green Mountain at Fox Run’s upcoming Mindful Cooking classes). Clearly, knowing how to prepare our own, satisfying food is key to healthy eating and well-being.

But I worry about demonizing fast food, as is likely to happen if we just focus on the headlines. At Green Mountain, since our founding, we’ve encouraged women to eat what they want, but to be clear about what they want. If we get past issues of deprivation and get in touch with what we feel like after eating foods, we may find we don’t want certain types as often as we thought we did. That can include fast food. We may enjoy eating it occasionally — and suffer no ill effects — but if we eat it too often, we’re likely to not only eat more calories than we want, we probably won’t feel our best either. So, as the study points out, fast food in moderation (one to two meals a week) doesn’t mean we’re necessarily heavier, and as we’ve long said, can be part of a healthy weight loss program, or a healthy weight maintenance program, too.

The researcher in the study mentioned above also admits that her findings don’t prove any cause-and-effect relationship between fast food and weight gain. That is, we don’t know whether people are heavier because they eat fast food a lot, or whether there is something else that characterizes people who eat fast food frequently, such as sedentary behavior, for instance. Additionally, the researchers mentioned that people would like ‘healthier’ items included in value/combo meals, and would like nutrition information included on menus. Those steps might help, but my vote is for moderation in our use of such foods, as with anything else.


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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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