Fast food: the healthy choices

By admin
21 April 2014

Takeouts are blamed for obesity and diabetes – but here are some you can eat without worrying.

It looks: a family sitting around a table, tucking into fast food: fried chicken pieces, burgers and chips with sweet, fizzy cooldrinks to wash it all down. It’s a pity this food is so unhealthy it can kill you.

Fast food is generally packed with unhealthy amounts of fat and salt and is a common cause of obesity and attendant health problems. According to the Medical Research Council more than 29 per cent of men and 56 percent of women in South Africa are overweight or obese.

Fast food is also what doctors call “a diabetes time bomb” – worldwide the number of diabetics is on the increase because of poor eating habits. Meanwhile takeaway outlets have seen a 10 per cent increase in sales over the past year, according to a Statistics South Africa survey of the food and beverage industry.

“As reliance on convenience foods grows so the average weight of the population increases, which increases mortality risk,” Gauteng dietician Justine Aginsky says.

Fast food is generally an unbalanced way of eating. Most people opt for bread, chips, pizza, processed meats, cheese and fried products, Aginsky says. They tend to be low in fibre and high in salt, increasing the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke.

Would this put us off buying takeaways from Nando’s or Wimpy? The short answer is no. So we went in search of the healthiest options at popular fast-food outlets and asked our experts, Aginsky and fellow dietician Lisa Raleigh, a trainer on South Africa’s popular TV show The Biggest Loser, to provide some insight.

Tip: Limit takeaways to one a week or once every two weeks – and opt for a healthy meal.

Kilojoules, salt and fat intake guidelines

What makes a fast-food meal unhealthy is its high kilojoule, fat and salt content. Below are daily dietary guidelines for people of average weight. Use them when comparing the content of the fast food meals on the next list.

Did you know?

You become very thirsty in response to the high salt content of fast foods, which is why you tend to drink sweet cooldrinks with them.

Healthy fast food choices

Download this list of healthy fast food choices as reference for the next time you want to order take-out.

- Kim van Reizig

- Extra Sources:,

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