The study, found in Circulation, looked at dietary habits of men and women aged 45-74 who enrolled in the Singapore Chinese Health Study from 1993-1998. Over 52,000 individuals were included in the analysis for coronary heart disease mortality and over 43,000 individuals were included in the analysis for type 2 diabetes.
The authors found that individuals who ate fast food two or more times per week had a 27% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and a 56% greater risk of dying from heart disease compared to those with little or no fast food intake. When the authors looked at those who ate fast food four or more times per week, those individuals had a 79% greater risk of dying from heart disease compared to the fast food abstaining counterparts.
While all foods can fit into a healthy diet, it’s important to realize that some choices – like unhealthy options at a fast food restaurant – should be consumed much less frequently than other nutrient-rich choices. What can you do to keep yourself and your family healthy even with a busy schedule?
- Avoid the fast-food trap by planning ahead! Plan your dinners for the week over the weekend when you have a little extra time. For example, on Sundays when you know you have a busy week coming up, choose some quick and easy recipes, go grocery shopping, and do some of the prep work like chopping veggies.
- Have pantry back-up items that you know you can use to create a quick and healthy dinner. My go-to favorite? Instant brown rice mixed with a can of black beans and a can of diced tomatoes/green chiles. I’ll top this with chopped avocado and I’ve got a 10 minute meal (seriously, it’s that quick) that tastes good and supplies lots of fiber and nutrients.
- Consider grilling some chicken on Sunday night, and then swing by the farmers market – rather than the fast food place – on your way home from work. It’ll only take a few minutes to grab all the fixings you need for a great salad. Top it with the grilled chicken and a light vinaigrette and you’re all set.
- If you must stop by the fast food restaurant, make the best choices you can. Use the nutrition facts information at the location or look it up on your smartphone to help you select good choices. Remember that some of the items that seem healthy, like a salad, aren’t so great when they’re loaded with globs of creamy dressing.
- If you’re ordering off of a combo menu, always choose the smallest portion they offer, and fill that drink with water or unsweetened iced tea rather than a sugary beverage.
- Keep snacks in the car or your bag so that when you’re stuck in traffic, you aren’t forced to stop for fast food out of hunger. Dried fruit, larabars, nuts, apples, whole grain crackers, and whole grain dry cereal are just a few ideas.