Fast food should be a last resort. However, sometimes, there is no choice and you might find yourself wondering how you can stay as healthy as possible with such limited options. Here are some tips on how to eat healthier and what meals to order at specific restaurants that usually aren’t considered the healthiest.
A few tips:
- Pay attention to the descriptions on the menu. Dishes labeled deep-fried, pan-fried, basted, batter-dipped, breaded, creamy, crispy, scalloped, alfredo, au gratin, or in cream sauce are usually high in calories, unhealthy fats, or sodium. Order items with more vegetables and choose leaner meats.
- Drink water with your meal. Soda is a huge source of hidden calories. One 32-oz Big Gulp of regular coke packs about 425 calories, which can quickly take up a big portion of your daily calories. If you want something with a little flavor, try adding lemon to your water.
- Keep it basic. When choosing items, be aware of calorie- and fat-packed salad dressings, spreads, cheese, sour cream, etc. You can ask for these things on the side and add it yourself, controlling how much you use.
- Eat mindfully. Pay attention to what you eat and savor each bite. Chew your food more thoroughly and avoid eating on the run. Being mindful also means stopping before you are full. It takes time for your body to register that you have eaten. Mindful eating relaxes you, so you digest better, and makes you feel more satisfied.
Things to avoid:
- Supersized portions. An average fast food meal can run to 1000 calories or more, so choose a smaller portion size, order a side salad instead of fries, and don’t supersize anything. At a typical restaurant, a single serving provides enough for two meals. Take half home or divide the portion with a dining partner.
- Salt. Fast food restaurant food tends to be very high in sodium, a major contributor to high blood pressure. Don’t add insult to injury by adding more salt.
- Bacon. It’s always tempting to add bacon to sandwiches and salads for extra flavor, but bacon has very few nutrients and is high in fat and calories. Instead, try ordering extra pickles, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, or mustard to add flavor without the fat.
- Buffets – even seemingly healthy ones like salad bars. You’ll likely overeat to get your money’s worth. If you do choose buffet dining, opt for fresh fruits, salads with olive oil & vinegar or low-fat dressings, broiled entrees, and steamed vegetables. Resist the temptation to go for seconds, or wait at least 20 minutes after eating to make sure you’re really still hungry before going back for more.
- Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken and low-fat balsamic vinaigrette plus Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait; 375 calories, 9.5g fat (4g saturated)
- Grilled Honey Mustard Snack Wrap plus small french fries; 480 calories, 19g fat (5g saturated)
- Whopper Jr. (no mayo) plus Value-Sized Onion Rings; 410 calories, 18g fat (5.5g saturated)
- Veggie Burger plus apple slices; 440 calories, 16g fat (2.5g saturated)
- 4 Hot Wings plus Sweet Kernel Corn; 380 calories, 16.5g fat (4g saturated)
- Kentucky Grilled Chicken Breast plus mashed potatoes (without gravy) 310 calories; 10g fat (2.5g saturated)
- Fresco Steak Burrito Supreme plus black beans; 430 calories, 10.5g fat (3g saturated)
- Fresco Chicken Soft Taco plus Pintos ‘n’ Cheese; 330 calories, 10.5g fat (4g saturated)
- Large Chili plus Garden Side Salad (no croutons) with fat-free French dressing 375 calories, 9 g fat (3.5 g saturated)
- Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich plus apple slices 440 calories, 10 g fat (1.5 g saturated)
- Egg White Veggie Wake-Up Wrap plus hash browns; 350 calories, 18g fat (4.5g saturated)
- Tuna Salad Sandwich on an English muffin; 390 calories, 23g fat (3.5g saturated)
- 6″ Subway Club on 9-Grain Wheat Bread with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, cucumbers, and Sweet Onion Sauce plus apple slices; 445 calories, 4.5g fat (1.5g saturated)
- Oven Roasted Chicken Salad with tomatoes, green peppers, onions, olives, and cucumbers with honey-mustard dressing plus Yogurt Parfait; 400 calories, 6g fat (1.5g saturated)
- Chicken & Hummus Bistro Box (hummus, grilled chicken, grape tomatoes, cucumber, and pita bread) plus a banana; 380 calories, 7g fat (1.2g saturated)
- Zesty Chicken & Black Bean Salad Bowl (grilled chicken, black beans, roasted corn, jicama, tomatoes, feta, greens, and quinoa with chile vinaigrette) plus Seasonal Harvest Fruit Blend; 450 calories, 15g fat (2.5g saturated)
- 3 Barbacoa (braised beef) Tacos on soft corn tortillas with lettuce and tomato salsa; 405 calories, 10g fat (2.5g saturated)
- Vegetarian Burrito Bowl with brown rice, black beans, fajita vegetables, lettuce, and roasted chili-corn salsa; 385 calories, 7g fat (1g saturated)
- Half Smoked Turkey Breast on Artisan Whole Grain Loaf plus Low-Fat Garden Vegetable with Pesto Soup (from the You Pick Two Menu); 320 calories, 6g fat (1g saturated)
- Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad (no bacon) plus Baked Lays Potato Chips; 430 calories, 17g fat (2.5g saturated)