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The Nutrition-Conscious Take a Bite Out of Fast Food
Date:9/17/2007

Menus are changing nationwide as customer, regulatory pressures mount

MONDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- So, maybe you'll have a side order of fruit instead of fries with that cheeseburger.

After a decades-long fast-food binge, the notion of watching what you eat seems to be hitting more Americans -- but certainly not all -- as they approach the counter of their favorite "quick-service" outlet, experts say.

Changing tastes -- along with some regulatory prodding -- means the nation's fast-food industry is also getting the message. Citywide bans on tasty but heart-clogging trans-fat cooking oils, legal moves to mandate calorie counts on menus, and even an effort to outlaw new fast-food franchises in obesity-plagued south Los Angeles have grabbed headlines this year.

One industry representative believes fast-food businesses are responding to consumers' changing tastes and health concerns -- and the obesity epidemic.

"I think that quick-service restaurants have done a great job of offering and highlighting [healthier] items," said Sheila Weiss, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition policy at the National Restaurant Association, which describes itself as the leading business association for the restaurant industry. "A lot of their campaigns recently have focused on the elimination of trans fat oils, on offering more entree salads and better options for side dishes like fruits and low-fat skim milk."

Last week, Burger King pledged to offer kids healthier food options, such as apples cut to resemble French fries and a kids meal with low-fat, flame-broiled chicken tenders, unsweetened applesauce and low-fat milk. McDonald's already offers children apple slices in a low-fat caramel dip, while adults can snack on the chain's Paul Newman salads or fruit parfaits. Wendy's is offering up salads, or yogurt laden with granola and mandarin oranges.

One independent nutritionist agreed th
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