Making Smart Choices When Eating Fast Food

— Written By Rosemary Crumb-Pipkin and last updated by

America has been called a “fast-food nation” and for good reason. The typical American eats about three hamburgers and four orders of French fries every week. Usually it is done for convenience – we’ve all been in a hurry and zipped through the drive-thru at our favorite fast-food restaurant for a quick meal or snack. However, fast-food restaurants are not the most nutritious options. It generally means food is higher in calories, sodium, and fat. On top of that, they often lack important vitamins and minerals.

Did you know, fast-food restaurants, including pizza places, have passed all other restaurants as the most frequent source of food outside the home. Americans spend more money on fast food than movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music combined. Fast food is everywhere!

One of the big problems when eating in fast-food restaurants is large portion sizes. We have lost touch with what a normal portion looks like, because we are so used to seeing really large portions at fast-food and other restaurants. They have become experts at convincing us that buying a lot more food for just a few pennies more is a real bargain. But what they fail to tell us is the extra calories and fat we are getting.

Since we know that fast food often has too many calories and too much fat, the best thing to do is eat it less often. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) has developed a fast-food survival guide to help you make better choices when you eat fast food:

  • Order a kids’ meal. You will get the right amount of food for less money. Sometimes you’ll even get a toy to give away.
  • Share your meal with a family member or friend.
  • If you order fries, order a small.
  • Don’t always order the large hamburger.
  • Think twice before ordering the combo meal.
  • If your order a soft drink, order a small or choose a diet soft drink. Better yet, order water instead of a soft drink.
  • Choose fast food only occasionally. Eat and prepare more meals at home.

Choosing healthy when eating at fast-food restaurants takes practice – you will get used to reading the menu and deciding what are healthy choices. Always pay attention to changes in the menu and new offerings, because many restaurants are finally starting to pay attention to the demand for healthy options. Source:

For more information, please contact Rosemary Crumb-Pipkin, Extension Adult Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program Assistant with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, by E-mail at, or visit our website at North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.