On call: Fast food: For all in the family?

On call

Fast food: For all in the family?

Q. I'm a 67-year-old heart patient with a dilemma. It's not my heart but my grandson. He's a wonderful 7-year-old, but he's hooked on McDonald's. I love to take him out and make him happy, but I always end up eating the wrong thing. Do you have any suggestions?

A. The problem is not your grandson but your appetite. And, unfortunately, your family is not alone. Living in the fast lane, Americans are eating out more than ever, and more than a third of the time that means a trip to a fast-food restaurant. In all, Americans now spend more than $110 billion every year on fast food. Even allowing for inflation, that's an alarming jump from the $6 billion we spent in 1970.

What are we getting for the money? A typical meal of a hamburger, fries, and soft drink contains 1,100–1,500 calories and 40–70 grams of fat, much of it in the form of saturated fat and trans fat, the worst for vascular health. That's more than half a day's worth of calories and more fat than many heart patients should eat in two days. Fast food is also notably high in salt but low in fiber, vitamins, fruits, and vegetables — even if you fall into the common trap of counting fries and catsup as veggies.

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