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The Healthiest Fast Food Options
We all know fast food is not the healthiest option out there. That doesn't mean we always have the time or wherewithal to get what's best for us. Sometimes we're with a group going for a meal; sometimes we just need a fast family meal; either way, sooner or later even the most dedicated fan of quality eating is going to end up ordering at a fast food counter. The good news is that it doesn't have to be a diet-breaking disaster. Whether you forgot your lunch at home or you're in the mood for a little indulgence, you can eat fast food without totally compromising a healthy diet.
It's worth remembering that what makes or breaks a healthy diet are everyday choices, not occasional indulgence. If you're in a fast food restaurant once a month and you keep a healthy day to day diet, yo can probably order anything you want without feeling too much guilt. If you'd rather not stretch the bounds, though, there are still likely to be some choices on the menu that are better than others. Restaurant chains are aware that average consumers are becoming more aware of what they put in their bodies, and many of them are making an effort to present healthier options. Knowing what those options are can make your next fast food option guilt-free.
Watch the Drinks
The first and most important thing to avoid is those sugary drinks. Avoid them if you can, and order the smallest size if a tasty drink is crucial to your dining experience, take a diet option, or better yet go for an unsweetened tea or best of all plain water.
If you're a coffee fanatic, Starbucks
has a whole section of their drink menu that boasts brews that come in under 200 calories. Choose a non-fat cappuccino or a caramel Frappuccino light to address your cravings without destroying your diet. While you're there, pick up their Spinach, Feta, and Cage-Free Egg wrap (just 290 calories) or check out other favorites on their under 350 calorie food menu
You Don't Have to Order a 'Meal
Side dishes like fries and onion rings tend to be high in fat, sodium, and other substances you don't want if you're trying to keep your diet healthy. Skip the sides and value meals altogether. Order just a sandwich instead and a sandwich with a healthier 'base' at that.
Try McDonald's Artisan Chicken Sandwich
or their Egg White Delight McMuffin
(250 calories and a whopping 17g of protein). At Burger King, you might opt for their BK Veggie Burger
, with 410 calories and 22g of protein. Taco Bell's
Chipotle Chicken Loaded Griller provides a light lunch with just 340 calories and 770 mg of sodium. Hardee's
offers a ¼ lb Low Carb Thickburger on their "Better For You" menu, which trades out the traditional bun for lettuce (440 calories, 25g protein). Similarly, order your burger at In-N-Out
protein style to get it wrapped in lettuce instead of bread (520 calories, 33g protein). Chick-fil-A's Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap
is also a great, healthier-than-average fast food sandwich with just 350 calories and 37g of protein. Arby's
Roast Turkey and Swiss Wrap is a filling, relatively healthy option, as well. If you're looking for a filling, fresh lunch, Chipotle's Chicken Burrito Bowl is a tasty possibility that won't totally blow away your diet.
Get a Fruit or Veggie Boost
Fruits and vegetables are a great, flavorful way to help you feel full without stuffing yourself with things you'd rather not eat. They also contain lots of important nutrients that are often lacking in fast food options. Finding meals that contain plenty of veggies can help keep you on track. Of course, salads are an option to up your roughage intake while eating fast food, but it's not necessarily the only way.
Dunkin Donut's Egg White Veggie Flatbread
is a perfectly veggie filled breakfast that's light on the damage but big on flavor. At Subway
, opt for a small Veggie Delight sandwich for a healthier lunch. If you're in the mood for pizza, check out Papa John's
Garden Fresh Pizza on a thin crust with just 230 calories per slice. At Wendy's
you can get a baked potato with chili for a hearty, veggie-filled meal. You can order KFC's
grilled chicken breast meal with two veggie sides, like green beans and corn on the cob. If you're after Asian cuisine, try Panda Express's Broccoli Beef
with steamed mixed veggies on the side.
Salad Doesn't Automatically Equate to Healthy
For many of us, "healthy" means a quick default to "salad." What could be healthier or lower in calories than lettuce? The only problem with this thinking is that we tend to add a lot of calorie-rich, not-so-healthy dressings and toppings to salads to make them more palatable. The sugar, calorie, and fat counts of some restaurant salads might astound you. For a healthy-ish option, try McDonald's Southwest salad, Chick-fil-A's Chargrilled Chicken Garden Salad, or have your Veggie Delight made into a salad at Subway (you can have any sandwich made into a salad there). Opt for light dressings and simple recipes to help keep your salad as healthy as a salad should be!
That special sauce has a lot of calories. Condiments tend to be high in fat and sodium, and the flavor of the week is likely to contain both, plus a lot of sugar. Opt for basic menu items if you're looking for healthy options. A regular hamburger is likely lower in fat and than the newest special item at your favorite fast food restaurant. At Sonic, try a simple corn dog
at just 230 calories. You could still keep within reasonable single-meal boundaries if you got two of them! Keeping to the basics can be a big help in maintaining your waistline.
While fast food is not the healthiest option, there are plenty of options that are healthier than the average. Your favorite fast food eatery is likely relatively inexpensive and, well, fast. You don't have to give it up entirely to live a better lifestyle. Menu awareness and careful choices can get you through that occasional fast food session without too much cost to your diet plan!