9 Fast-Food Facts...or Fiction?

What's your fast-food IQ? Uncover the truth to these common fast food myths.
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Fast-Food Nation

Fast food is a mainstay of the American diet. In fact, in any given day, 1 in 4 of us fill our stomachs at a fast-food chain. What does this mean to our health? America is the fattest nation in the world, with 61 percent of adults and children weighing in at overweight or obese, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Like our bellies, the fast-food phenomenon is growing too: we plunked down $3 billion on the speedy burgers, fries, and tacos in 1992, and today that number tops a whopping $110 billion. In 2004, Morgan Spurlock chronicled his experience of eating solely fast food for one month in his Academy Award-nominated documentary Supersize Me. The filmmaker gained 25 pounds and put his health in jeopardy, according to a panel of doctors. (Next up for this one-month fast-food junkie: His one-hour TV reality show 30 Days premieres on the cable channel FX on June 15th. In the series, an individual takes up a completely different lifestyle -- whether religious, economic, or ethnic -- for 30 days.)

In the meantime, here are some bite-size nuggets of info about fast food that can help you navigate the counters:

Fact or fiction: Fast foods are always unhealthy and should be avoided at all costs. Fiction: Sometimes, pulling into the drive-thru is unavoidable -- on that family car trip, for instance -- but it doesn't have to ruin your diet. When you have to make the stop, your best bet is to "minimize the damage," says Linda Spangle, RN, MA, a nutritionist outside of Denver, and the author of Life Is Hard, Food Is Easy (Lifeline Press, 2003). Some strategies: Avoid supersizing, opt for water or nonfat milk instead of soda, and choose salads and grilled foods. If you must have the fries, munch on the smallest portion size, says Spangle. And try to limit stops at the local fast-food place to once a month.

Fact or fiction: Willard Scott posed as the first Ronald McDonald. Fact: Yes, this familiar face from the Today Show did don the red wig and nose. However, Scott was shown his walking papers when higher-ups deemed him too plump to represent a "healthy" restaurant like McDonald's.

Continued on page 2:  Hot Sauce and Fried Chicken


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