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Despite its reputation for being loaded with calories, fat and salt, fast food is still a meal or snack choice for a lot of Americans on a given day, according to a recent federal government report. You don't have to be one of them.

From 2013 to 2016, 36.6 percent of adults in the United States ate fast food on a given day, according to a 2018 report by the National Center for Health Statistics. Lunch (43.7 percent) narrowly topped breakfast (42 percent) as adults' fast food mealtime of choice.

If you're a frequent fast food eater, weaning yourself off it can benefit your heart, joints and many other aspects of health. These three steps can help:

1. Gather evidence. Before you seek to drop fast food, it may be helpful to find out how much of it you eat. To help change an unhealthy eating habit, the National Institutes of Health recommends keeping a food journal for one week. Log what you eat, portion size, time of day and your motivation for eating (e.g. hunger, stress or boredom). Understanding the latter can help you avoid triggers.

2. Taper down. Once you know how many times per week you eat fast food, set a goal of eliminating one or two instances weekly until you reach zero.

3. Put time on your side. For many people, fast food's appeal lies in its convenience. Life can seem too busy to eat healthy, but the trick is planning. Before the workweek begins, plan each evening's meal and complete as much prep work as possible in advance, such as chopping and refrigerating vegetables or cooking meat. Make one dish that you can enjoy for lunch all week, such as a vegetable soup or casserole.

If you're thinking about starting an exercise program as one of your goals for 2020, be sure to talk with your provider before starting. If you're looking for a physician or provider, visit today to find one near you.

Snack smart

If you often find yourself enjoying French fries or a cheeseburger to get through the afternoon doldrums at work or to stave off hunger between weekend errands, you're not alone. About 26 percent of women and 20 percent of men ate fast food as a snack on a given day from 2013 to 2016, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Use these tips to think outside the drive-through line and change how you snack:

• BYOS (Bring your own snack) -- Stocking a desk drawer at work with healthy snacks from home or slipping a few into your bag when you're on the go can help remove temptation to visit the nearest fast food restaurant.

• Choose one of the fabulous four -- When shopping for snacks at the grocery store, stock up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products -- they make the healthiest snacks, according to the National Institutes of Health.

• Find a nutritious substitute -- If you're a sucker for sweets, try grapes, baked apples or orange slices instead of cookies or milkshakes. If it's crunchiness you crave, ditch nachos in favor of unsalted almonds, celery sticks with peanut butter, whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese or carrot sticks with hummus.

• A snack that includes both a protein-packed food and one featuring carbohydrates can help you stay full longer.

General News on 01/12/2020

Print Headline: Three steps to phase out fast food

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