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Are Fast-Food Advertisers Playing You?

How teens can outsmart fast-food advertising to avoid obesity.
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TV Fast-Food Ads: How Teens Can Fight Back continued...

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.

Beating Fast-Food Advertising at Its Own Game

Looking for an easy way to limit advertising's influence on you? Try avoiding ads. If you have a DVR, record your shows and fast-forward through all commercials. "If you don't have a DVR, use commercial time for other things," Greenfield says. "Grab a healthy snack, pick up a book, or get some water." Maybe:

  • Dance
  • Jog in place
  • Jump around and be silly
  • Do sit-ups or push-ups
  • Squeeze in a quick chore

Use the time to your advantage instead of the advertisers'.

Work toward reducing your exposure to commercials even more. "Get away from the TV any time you can!" says Bartholomay. When you're sitting and watching TV, you are burning very few calories, she explains. If you watch less TV, you'll see less food advertising -- and have extra time to be more active, too.

Don't Get Fries -- Get Even

Natterson would like to see people angrier about being misled by marketers and advertisers. "The obesity epidemic in this country should have people outraged, because that's the only way we are going to turn things around," she says. Teens, parents, food manufacturers, and sellers all need to take responsibility, in her view. "We need to be in this fight together because we are going to face the consequences together."

Just say "no" to fast-food advertisements. Say "yes" to a healthier lifestyle.

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Reviewed on January 11, 2012