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Fast food—the good, the bad and the downright ugly

When you step into a fast-food restaurant, you enter a twilight zone where even a salad can clog your arteries. These tips will help you steer clear of the health hazards that lurk in the kitchen of those tasty and oh-so-convenient fast-food eateries.

1. Don’t be fooled by the words “chicken” or “fish.” Sure, the experts tell us to eat more chicken and fish, but in the world of fast food, healthful foods are often transformed into vessels for fat, cholesterol and salt. For example, a Chicken TenderCrisp Sandwich with mayonnaise at Burger King will cost you 780 calories, 43 grams of fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol and 1,730 milligrams of sodium. Burger King’s Fish Filet sandwich packs a slightly lesser punch. If you’re dining at BK, try the Chicken TenderGrill Sandwich without sauce (400 calories; 7 grams of fat) or the BK Veggie Burger without mayonnaise (340 calories; 8 grams of fat).

2. Don’t assume salad is good for you. Subway’s Cold Cut Combo salad with ranch dressing packs 570 calories, 50 grams of fat and a whopping 1,700 milligrams of sodium. If it’s salad you’re after, Subway’s Oven Roasted Chicken with fat-free Italian dressing is a reasonable choice, as is the Asian Salad with Grilled Chicken available at McDonald’s.

3. If you must get a burger and fries, downsize. At Burger King, ordering a Whopper Junior with cheese instead of a Whopper with cheese will save you 350 calories, 207 of them from fat! You can also cut fat, calories and sodium in half by ordering a small rather than a large fries. Cutting back is a good way to enjoy fast food on occasion without sabotaging your health.

4. Go meatless when it comes to pizza. Meat can turn pizza into a major health hazard. For example, two slices of cheese pizza at Pizza Hut contain 560 calories, 26 grams of fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol and 1,140 milligrams of salt. Compare that to two slices of Pizza Hut’s Meat Lover’s pizza, which includes pepperoni, beef, ham, bacon, pork and sausage. Total damage: 740 calories, 44 grams of fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol and 1,980 milligrams of sodium.