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Are Fast-Food Advertisers Playing You?

How teens can outsmart fast-food advertising to avoid obesity.
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Don't Get Duped by Fast-Food Ads continued...

Hidden Health Hazards
Pausing to think about an ad before you buy (or even doing a little research about what you see) is important because it can be hard to spot the hazards at first glance. You may even think what's being sold is healthy because of how it is presented -- when it isn't, says Linda Bartholomay, LRD, a nutritional therapist at Sanford Health in Fargo, N.D.

For example, when Kentucky Fried Chicken started marketing the company's "trans-fat-free chicken," many consumers thought they were offering a healthy alternative to fried chicken, Bartholomay explains. But, while healthier than chicken fried with trans-fat, the KFC chicken was still deep-fried and not a health food.

Celebrity Endorsements
Another advertising tactic: Using celebs to try to persuade you to buy products. Don't fall for it. "There might be a famous snowboarder who's advertising a sports drink, so subconsciously you think, 'If I drink this, I'll do exciting things like snowboard too,'" Bartholomay tells WebMD. But being on the couch chugging a high-calorie, high-sugar drink is not the same as shredding down a mountain. Instead, get out and practice skateboarding or another activity you love.

TV Fast-Food Ads: How Teens Can Fight Back

Combat fast-food commercial messages by packing your own lunch and eating at home more often, Natterson says. And when you do choose fast food, do it wisely.

"We know teens are going to eat fast food. It's unrealistic to tell you to stop eating it," she says. "It's more realistic to understand that you will eat it -- and that's OK -- but help you to make good choices at the counter or drive-thru lane."

Try these tips:

Before you order, ask yourself, "Am I even hungry? Is this a good choice?" suggests Mindy Greenfield, a family life educator at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D. "If we stop and examine why we are eating, that will then become a habit, hopefully leading to healthier habits."

Skip the combo meals. Remember, you don't have to order a burger and a shake and fries, even if it is a good deal.