Healthy Fast Food
by Maria Tadic, RD
High in fat, calories, and preservatives, burgers, burritos, and fried chicken are definitely not part of a healthy eating plan. However, many fast food chains are now offering some surprisingly healthy fast food options to stay on track when you’re on the run.
Making Fast Food Work
Although most fast food still includes processed elements that mean it’s not the best option for healthy eating, there are options on fast food menus that can, on occasion, fit into your healthy eating plan:
Oatmeal – high in fiber, oatmeal is always a good choice. Skip the brown sugar packet and stick to the nuts, cinnamon, and fruit!
- Egg white breakfast sandwich – these breakfast options are generally high in protein and low calorie. Add a slice of avocado to complete the sandwich.
- Yogurt with fruit – just watch out for added honey, granola, or sugars here.
- Cottage cheese and a fresh fruit is a great breakfast combination.
Lunch & Dinner
Chicken or turkey mini/snack/lettuce wraps – these single serving wraps are small and low in calories. Perfect for a small lunch!
- Salads – an easy way to get in a serving of vegetables. Watch out for high calorie toppings such as cheese, dried fruit, and dressings – get the salad dressing on the side and ask for a vinegar-based dressing.
- Soups or chilis – broth or bean-based soups are healthy and filling as a meal or with a ½ sandwich.
- Grilled chicken & nuggets – grilled chicken is becoming more popular on menus.
- Sandwiches – have ½ the bread or a lettuce wrap for less calories and fat!
- Kid’s meals – these mini meals limit calories due to their small size. Plus, most chains are including a side of fresh fruit!
- Get fresh fruit, salad, or soup on the side instead of fries or bread.
Fast Food Tips:
Even though you may not find your ultimately “healthy meal” at a burger joint, there are some tips to help you prevent a total calorie blow out.
- Look at the calories ahead of time. All chain restaurants (over 25 locations) are legally required to provide calorie and nutrient information. Choose items you enjoy that are moderately low in calories. Use the food log in the portal to check the calories and nutrient information.
- Order a small. Craving those golden crispy fries? If you can’t resist a treat, make sure to order a small!
- Watch out for condiments. Mayonnaise, “special sauce”, ketchup, cheese, cream sauces, and butter/margarine can pack on the calories. Skip them all together or use mustard, hot sauce, or vinegar based dressings/sauces instead.
- Avoid soda, fruit drinks, and sweet tea. Choose sparkling water, water with lemon, or unsweetened tea instead.
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