February 1, 2009 -- Question: I'm only eating at a fast food restaurant once a week now. Is that okay?
Answer: I'm of two minds about occasional fast food eating. My initial answer is: It's okay to eat at a fast food restaurant, occasionally -- once a week would certainly be occasionally. In particular, if you take advantage of the many healthier options now available at most fast food restaurants. They, too, have heard about epidemic obesity and diabetes.
They know that their customers are concerned about that and their job is to keep the customer satisfied. So there are salads at McDonald's and healthier options at Subway and so forth. So, take advantage of that. Look at the menu boards and choose the options that are a bit lighter and better for you.
So, yes, eating there occasionally is alright. Although I remember some of my patients who will ask me, "Doc, is it okay if I occasionally eat fast food?" And I say, "Yes." And occasionally hot dogs, and occasionally pizza, and occasionally french fries, and the list goes on and on. And at the end of the long list, I say, "Okay, you occasionally eat all those things; what else do you eat?" "Well, I really can't think of anything." Well, then we have a problem.
So, occasional fast food in the context of a really healthful diet -- sure, that's fine. But if all of the 'occasionallys' add up to be the character of your diet, and that's not what it should be, obviously that's a problem.
The one other consideration is this: taste buds are very malleable little fellows. When they can't be with the food they love, they learn to love the food they're with. So, if you transition from a fairly typical American diet, which of course, includes fast food to a more wholesome diet closer to nature -- if you really stay the course -- you come to prefer those more wholesome foods.
And my feeling is if you do that, you actually use your taste for fast feed. So I haven't had any in years, for the simple reason that I don't like it. So I think you do give something up if there are too many of those 'occasionallys' in your diet. But, ultimately, you are the boss, and if your goal is eating better, some of us like to do thinks cold turkey -- make a big change in our diets; others like to get there incrementally. Making room in your diet for occasional fast food as an incremental approach, I think is perfectly reasonable.