Every second in the United States about 200 people order one or more meals at a fast-food restaurant. Fast food isn’t healthy eating to be sure, but just how bad is it for you? What is fast food and how is it different from junk food? Can healthy choices be made in either category? Most important, how can you eat healthy and still enjoy such favorite foods as burgers, fries, pizza, and tacos?
Fast food, foods like hamburgers, French fries, shakes, and tacos, are high in saturated fat, calories, salt, and cholesterol, but they also contain protein and some other nutrients. On the other hand, junk food includes pies, cakes, cookies, candy, and sodas. These foods are high in empty calories, which means they are mostly fat and sugar and lack any measurable nutrients, fiber, or protein. Even though they are different, fast food and junk food are used interchangeably, and both are deeply ingrained in our culture. It’s hard for today’s youth to imagine a world without hamburgers and fries served in bright cardboard containers, without drive-through service for quick meals, without grocery store aisles filled with different brands and flavors of chips. Yet even while people are rushing around too busy to worry about what goes into their mouths, good nutrition is more important than ever. New scientific findings constantly reinforce the need for a balanced diet for all Americans, but the