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Are Fast-Food Advertisers Playing You?

How teens can outsmart fast-food advertising to avoid obesity.

Don't Get Duped by Fast-Food Ads continued...

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.

Avoid fried. Grilled or baked are usually healthier choices.

Eat only half of the bun.

Beware of sauces and spreads. Along with adding flavor, they can add extra calories and unhealthy fats. Ask for extras like mayo, sour cream, and gravy on the side, and only use a little.

Who says fries always have to go with a burger? Substitute a baked potato, side salad, or fruit for fries. When putting on salad dressing, use only one serving -- packets sometimes contain two or more servings. Reduced-fat dressings can also help you keep calories and unhealthy fats in check.

Eat baked chips instead of regular.

Drink water or something with few or no calories rather than high-sugar drinks like fruit juice and soda.

Consider this: milkshake now, maybe diabetes later? "You need to understand the long-term consequences of your day-in, day-out choices," Natterson says. "Weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease are tough sells for teens because you don't like to think long-term." But it's still important. You'll thank yourself later.