Fitness and health are real “hot button” issues across the United States. We are bombarded with diet books, exercise DVDs, and information about the food that we eat. At the same time we see advertising for fast food restaurants everywhere. They are on billboards, on our TV, in our Twitter feed, and even out of the mouths of our small children (who want the toy as much as the food!). As a runner I tried for many years to balance these two parts of my life and struggled. When my weight began to balloon beyond my comfort zone I knew that changes had to be made…and the first one was going to involve my eating habits. My family and I decided to wean off of the drive-thru trips that made up much our routine. The first steps that we took were the most important, and may be helpful to you as well.
- Read the nutritional information. Have you ever checked the calorie count at your local fast food restaurant? Now that some of the national chains are posting calories on their drive-thru boards, it is much easier to consider. Several weeks ago I was in the drive-thru line and completely changed my order on the fly after reading the board! The first steps are portion control and calorie counting if you are going to eventually break the habit and find healthy alternatives.
- Plan your meals in advance. In our house, we found that going for fast food often came right after an activity or sporting event for our children. When you are tired it can be tempting to pick something up. If you take time at the beginning of the week to plan – and perhaps even cook – some easy meals that takes that excuse away. It is usually both healthier and less expense than the alternative at the restaurant window.
- Take your lunch. Those trips to the local fast food restaurant for lunch can be a nice break from the office. They can also widen your waistline and narrow your wallet. Over time I have learned to pack my lunch every day and eat it while reading the newspaper or in a quiet place away from my desk. This way I don’t have to drive anywhere, I usually get what I want for lunch, and I actually have more downtime than I would have when going to pick up lunch.
- No late-night drive-thru. “Open Late” seems to be the new trend in fast food. That means that I can have a greasy burger, taco, or chicken basket after 9pm any night of the week, scarf it down, and go to sleep feeling like I swallowed a rock. In reality, that is not a healthy choice. This has been very difficult to get away from, particularly when we have had activities after work and school to deal with. Our fall back has been to take snacks like fruit to the ball field with us to help curb hunger. That allows us to have a small meal at home instead of hitting the window.
- Schedule occasional trips. There is an old saying that the forbidden fruit has the sweetest taste. That’s true, because when you forbid yourself to go to the fast food restaurants the urge to go gets stronger. We have found that when we designate one night each week to pick up fast food it becomes an event of sorts. Everyone has a chance to have their week to pick the restaurant, but we only go four or five times a month.
Sounds simple, right? In truth, it IS simple if you are intentional about ridding yourself of this habit. In this age of immediate gratification, cutting out fast food can seem odd to some. I can tell you that by pushing ourselves out of that habit my family feels healthier, enjoys more meals at home, and saves money by moving back into the kitchen. I would recommend trying this yourself!