Healthy Eating: Truth About Fast Food

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Craving a burger and fries or a giant burrito? With our busy lives and love of convenience food, stopping at the drive through can become a common event. While there’s no doubt that fast food is tasty, it’s pretty unhealthy. 

Why is Fast Food So Unhealthy?

There are a number of reasons why stopping at your local fast food restaurant isn’t the best nutritional choice. Many foods you’ll find here are high in saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats mainly come from animal products. Trans fats make food crunchy, but are a big no-no for your heart. Saturated fats and trans fats increase the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in your blood and can lead to weight gain. Nutritionists recommend that you replace saturated fats and trans fats with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats whenever possible.

Fast foods are often high in sodium. Eating too much sodium can lead to fluid retention and high blood pressure and increase your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. You should aim to eat less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium daily - the average North American diet has about four to five thousand milligrams. 

Other preservatives you might find in your fast food:

• Silicon dioxide. Found in quartz or sand, it serves as an anti-caking agent.
• “Egg blends” made with glycerin, a solvent found in shaving cream and calcium silicate, a sealant used in concrete.
• Lettuce leaves dusted with propylene glycol to keep the leaves crisp. 
• Sodium propionate to prevent bacterial or mold growth.
• High fructose corn syrup to make soda taste sweet. 
• Food dyes. 

How to Make Healthy Choices at a Fast Food Restaurant

If you do find yourself at a fast food chain, you can make healthier choices. To save calories and fat, opt for smaller portion sizes – maybe choose a kids’ meal. Keep an eye on the calorie count of salad dressings and sauces, as they can be deceptively high.  Seeing your family physician and asking for a  referral to a registered dietician or nutritionist is a great please to start.

Many fast food restaurants offer side dishes that can be healthier, such as baked potatoes, yogurt and salad. If the restaurant offers a grilled meat option, choose that over fried. Order a water or a diet soda to drink. 

Talk to your nutritionist if you'd like more information on fast food.

Visit for more videos and resources on healthy eating.

A  local registered dietitian  has completed education and training to specialize in a wide variety of fields, including sport nutrition, gerontological nutrition, pediatric nutrition and renal nutrition. A local Registered Dietitian or she may work in private practice, in a nursing home, school, hospital or food service facility.

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