Ordering Healthy at Fast Food Restaurants
by Eru Gomes
It seems like an oxymoron when you say “healthy fast food”. But if you’re a real health freak and have to succumb to peer-pressure or pleadings from colleagues during the lunch breaks every now and then — you better start understanding the truth that lies behind the term “healthy fast food.”
No! Healthy fast food is not what the restaurant people tell you are the most nutritious. Don’t take their word blindly for what’s the healthiest option for you. Be sure to know exactly what you’re eating before you place your order.
Okay, this might take a little work – just some research about the food choices available at your favorite fast food restaurants – but you’ll reap the worth of this hard work for years to come.
Let’s get started…
1. Evaluate the Basics
Now there are always some foods that are always bad and some that are usually good choices (even in a fast food establishment). Like some general rules that most of you probably already know are:
• Anything deep-fried (like, French fries) is full of trans fats and saturated fats. These are a complete NO!
• Water any day scores over soda (even if it’s the diet soda you’re talking about)
• Salad dressings are laden with calories
• Don’t go for the super size meal just because it is 10 cents extra. Always ask yourself “will the medium meal not fill me up?” For most people, they will be full with the medium size meal but will gulp down the rest only because they paid for it and add more inches to their waist line, just like that (And quite ironically, later pay more to join popular weight loss programs like these to get those extra inches off their waistline!)
• Most food items will have more sodium, saturated fat, and calories than what you expect. So, be sure to read some nutrition facts instead of guessing.
• Beef will usually be of the lowest-quality possible (that is allowed by the healthcare department)
So, food options that you MUST AVOID are:
- French fries
- Onion rings
- Breaded and fried chicken (including chicken nuggets)
Some of the healthier food choices for you are:
- Fruit side dishes (like apple chunks or apple sauce)
- Baked potato (without sour cream, butter, or cheese)
- Salad (with side dressing)
- Grilled chicken (preferably a sandwich)
2. Go Through the Menus Beforehand
The best time to do this is not when you’re in a rush to place the order and already standing in the queue. Utilize some of your free time at home to go through the menus and nutritional facts (if possible) of the most popular fast food joints that you usually frequent.
You can easily find them online and thankfully a few sites also provide “meal calculators” to check the calorie value or nutrition facts of any meal combinations you wish to try.
You Might as well Prepare a List
It’s always handy to have a list with you of the healthy options that you can order at various fast food joints. A good list will help you decide in a jiffy if you should have chicken nuggets or grilled chicken sandwich?
Here’s a handy list of healthy foods that you can order at your favorite fast food restaurants:
At Burger Chains:
• Single-patty, regular hamburger (without cheese or mayo)
• Yoghurt parfait
• Grilled chicken strips
• Veggie burger
• Grilled chicken sandwich
• Side salad or a baked potato
• Egg on the muffin
• Limited special sauce, mayo, or cheese
Subs and Sandwich Joints
• Lean meat (lean ham, chicken breast, and roast beef) or veggies
• 1-2 slices of low-fat mozzarella or swiss cheese
• Six-inch sub
• Extra veggie toppings
• Whole-grain bread. Or, you might as well take off the top slice and have your sub open-faced
• Opt for low-fat dressing, like you can replace mayo with mustard sauce
Popular Taco Restaurants
• Limited sour cream or cheese
• Grilled steak burrito (fresco style)
• Shrimp ensalada
• Grilled chicken soft taco
• Veggie and bean burrito
• Black beans
Famous Fried Chicken Chains
• Skinless grilled chicken breast sans breading
• Garden salad
• Limited sauces or gravy
• Mashed potatoes
• Honey BBQ chicken sandwich
Chains that Actually Serve Natural, Good Quality Fast Food
Sure, there are always menu choices that are healthier than the others when you’re eating out but it would be a relief for you to know that there indeed are a few fast food restaurants that offer a better variety of healthy options in their menu than some of the most popular fast food chains that are mentioned above.
A recent survey conducted by Health magazine revealed that of the top 100 biggest fast food chains in America, these are the top 3 healthy fast food chains:
Panera Bread – They serve a great variety of organic chicken and half-sized portions. Even the kids’ menu has a lot of choices. But don’t reach for those sticky buns they display on their counters.
Jason’s Deli – Utilizes organic ingredients and pushes for portion control by offering discounted prices for smaller portions. But be a little mindful of the sodium content in their sandwiches.
Au Bon Pain – Has varied variety of healthy salads, low-calorie soups, and sandwiches using organic chicken and whole grains. They do provide nutrition facts at every restaurant, so be sure to look for sodium content before you place your order.
These options are not to suggest that you should now visit fast food joints thrice a week instead of twice a week since you think you know the healthiest options now. If home-cooked food seems an unlikely possibility for your situation, you can always opt for door-to-door home delivery services that especially keep a check on calorie-count for every meal to satisfy their weight watching customer base.
Just as they say – where there is a will, there is a way! In the end, it’s all about what you want your lifestyle to be. The choice is always yours. You can make excuses all that you want. But deep down, you know it’s you and not the peer-pressure or the lack of time or anything else that’s making you gain weight.
So how much of a health freak are you? What healthy options do you order in your popular fast food restaurants? Did you really lose any significant weight because of that?
Share it all with us in the comments section below.
(Eru Gomes loves writing about meal delivery programs and weight loss programs that are both healthy and easy on the pocket. She’s working on designing a personalized calorie counter online for her readers. Gomes is an opinionated, health freak and loves sharing her unique insights with her readers. In her free time, she loves gardening and staying off the computer screen as much as possible. She lives in Plainwell, Michigan.)