WRITING DETOURS| How to quit fast food

FAST FOOD  intake among busy people has long been so common that many forget (or ignore) the detriments of these to the human body in the long run.

Fast food is dangerously convenient for two main reasons: food is cheap and food is accessible.

With fast food joints sprouting like mushrooms in every corner, making wiser and “healthier” food choices become challenging.

“The danger in fast food lies in the idea of not knowing exactly what we’re putting in our mouths,” said Rolando Llido III, a chef who runs a restaurant in Matina. He said the ingredients and preservatives that make up burgers, fries and whatnot are not the same kind that we see in a normal home kitchen where we enjoy our mama’s slow cooked food.

Apple Micah Ampit, registered nutritionist-dietitian, said that it’s okay to resort to fast food sometimes, but making it a habit is very detrimental to one’s health.

“Fast food technically means pre-processed food that is mass-produced and served quickly in food chains to ensure prompt service. Processing strips off the nutrients originally found in food. The more processed the food is and the more additives there are, [the more] food becomes “unhealthy,” she said.

Fast food, Ampit said, are considered junk because they have little or no nutritional value. “They have plenty of calories, salt, and fats, which are the culprits in the rise of non-communicable diseases.”

Fast food, when consumed in habit, becomes bad for your health because of a number of things: bad fat (saturated, hydrogenated, and trans) that are carcinogenic or raise blood cholesterol levels; carbohydrates that have little to no fiber that become a major risk factor for obesity; sodium that elevate blood pressure; and meat injected and fed with growth hormones that pose cancer risks.

Gracielle Enobio, registered nutritionist-dietitian, said that fast food is high in sodium, high in cholesterol, and high in triglycerides (which increases risk for cardiovascular diseases).

She added that people who are exposed to fast food acquire increased tolerance for salty and sugary foods, causing cravings and preference to these over naturally flavored foods.

To have better food habits, Ampit recommends a practice of Balance, Moderation, and Variety (BMV).

“To have balance, one must be able to know how much is too much or too little. For basic help, we have the Pinggang Pinoy (from the National Nutrition Council), which shows how much of every food group we should have in a plate, and the Filipino Food Pyramid that can help you understand how much from each group should one consume,” she said.

Moderation is eating the right portion size for daily recommended needs and variety is being able to consume needed nutrients from a range of fruits, vegetables, meat.

But what if we can’t avoid fast food?

Enobio shares some food hacks and the least “unhealthy” fast food items that people can bite into when there’s just no way of avoiding McJolliKFC.

Enobio and her colleagues recommend the following menu items should fast food trips become inevitable: Wraps and salads in KFC, the Caesar salad in S&R, pancakes in McDo and Jollibee (“an alternative to rice as source of carbohydrate”), freshly brewed coffee (black) in Starbucks, Chowking’s wonton soup (“can be a recovery meal”), and 7 Eleven’s tuna or chicken sandwiches with fresh milk.

She said that it’s best to veer away from fast food and to decide for a lifestyle change with these baby steps.

Opt for water over carbonated drinks. If soda can’t be avoided, request for more ice so that these fill your glass more instead of the actual drink.

Turn down upgrades. Don’t say yes to large fries and large drinks and double burger patties.

Stick to plain rice instead of garlic rice.

Avoid excessive dressings, ketchup and other sauces.

Choose leaner cuts for chicken meat: thigh, breast, and leg.

“If you must eat, consider sharing food with a friend. When you do this you eat less and instead share the calories, sodium, and fats inherent to fast food,” Enobio said.

Whenever possible, forget fast food and dine in your good ol’ carinderia or canteen instead.

“Look one with varied food choices and an interesting menu,” she said. “When eating out, consider restaurants and grilling places.”

(Can we really avoid fast food forever? What are your thoughts? Buzz me in social media @jesiramoun)

Posted in Opinion