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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

How to Eat Healthy in a Fast Food Restaurant?

Is there such a thing as healthy fast food?

Fast food is often loaded with calories, sodium, and unhealthy fat and fills you up for an entire day. it also tends to be low in nutrients and almost totally lacking in fruits, vegetables, and fiber. However, it is extremely difficult to follow a healthy diet when you’re eating regularly at fast food restaurants.

This doesn’t mean you have to steer away from food completely. When you’re hungry and running late, fast food can really hit the spot. It’s cheap, tasty, and, best of all, convenient. But while it’s totally fine to indulge a craving every now and then, you can’t make it a regular habit. The key is moderatio in how often you frequent fast food chains and what you order once you’re there.

Fast food menus are tricky when you’re watching your weight or your health. Finding a healthy, well-balanced meal in most fast food restaurants is a herculean task. But there are always choices you can make that are healthier than others.

The following tips and menu recommendations can help you stay on track.

Keep Portion Sizes Small

eat healthy, restaurant

small size meal, Credits: pexels

Pick the smallest sandwich at a fast-food restaurant. Avoid hamburgers with two or three patties, which can be close to 800 calories. Choose instead a regular- or children’s-sized hamburger, which has about 250 calories.

Say no to the large serving of french fries and ask for a small serving instead and save 200 calories.

Choose Healthier Side Dishes

eat healthy, restaurant

healthy side dish option, Credits: pexels

Choose the healthy side dishes offered at many fast-food restaurants. For example, instead of french fries choose a side salad with low-fat dressing or a baked potato, add a fruit bowl or a fruit and yogurt option to your meal.

Other healthy choices include apple or orange slices, corn on the cob, steamed rice, or baked potato chips.

Go Green

eat healthy, restaurant

green veggies, Credits: pexels

Choose an entree salad with grilled chicken, shrimp or vegetables. Choose a dressing you like, but be cautious with the amount.

Watch out for high-calorie salads, such as those with deep-fried shells or those topped with fried toppings. Also skip extras, such as cheese and croutons, which quickly increase your calorie count.

Opt for Grilled Items

eat healthy, restaurant

grilled food, Credits: pexels

Fried and breaded foods, such as crispy chicken sandwiches and fried fish fillets, are high in fat and calories. Opt forgrilled or roasted lean meats such as turkey or chicken breast, lean ham, or lean roast beef.

Watch What You Drink

Many beverages are high in calories for example, a large regular soda (30 ounces, or 887 milliliters) has more than 300 calories. Choose order diet soda, water, unsweetened iced tea, sparkling water or mineral water instead.

Also, skip the shakes and other ice cream drinks as they contain more than 800 calories.

Many menu items can be made healthier with a few tweaks and substitutions. For example, you can ask to hold the sauce or dressing or serve it on the side. Or you can request a wheat bun for your hamburger or whole-grain bread for your sandwich. So go ahead and customize your order!

Tips for Making Healthier Choices at Fast Food Burger Joints:

  1. Choose to a single hamburger patty. No double or triple burgers! Burgers with two or three beef patties add loads of unnecessary calories and unhealthy fat (up to 800 calories and 40 grams of fat).

  2. Go light on the mayonnaise and you can eliminate around 100 calories. Opt for extra ketchup or mustard if you need a flavor kick.

  3. Go easy on special sauces, which add a lot of calories. If you don’t want to do without, ask for the sauce on the side.

  4. Say no to bacon, cheese, onion rings, and other calorie-laden burger toppings. If you want to add some flavour opt for extra pickles or heart-healthy avocado.

  5. Ask about no-meat burger or sandwich options, such as the veggie burger at Burger King or the grilled cheese at In-N-Out Burger.

  6. Skip the fries and save hundreds of calories (510 calories for a large McDonald’s fries, 340 calories for a medium).

  7. Choose the kid’s menu. Junior and children’s-sized hamburgers usually have between 250-300 calories, making them a healthier and wiser option.

Tips for Making Smarter Choices at Fast Food Chicken Restaurants:

  1. Opt for baked, broiled, or grilled chicken over fried or breaded chicken. And don’t even think about chicken nuggets, which are loaded as much fat and sodium as a burger.

  2. Go light on the honey mustard, barbecue sauce, and other special sauces. Each sauce packet adds around 60 calories.

  3. Avoid the sides. Half the fun when ordering chicken are the sides: coleslaw, biscuits, baked beans, mac ‘n cheese, and mashed potatoes. As these standard side dishes are all high in calories, make sure to count them toward your meal.

  4. Give a miss to the crispy chicken sandwich, which may be flavorful, but is fried and fatty. A much healthier option is a grilled chicken sandwich.

Tips for Making Smarter Choices at Mexican Fast Food Restaurants:

  1. Go light on the rice and beans (including in your burrito) as these starches add hundreds of calories to your meal.

  2. Do not opt for the sour cream, which can add 100-200 calories. For a healthier option, add avocado or guacamole.

  3. Give a pass to the chips as they add hundreds of calories (285 calories for a ½ order from Chipotle) and sodium you don’t require.

  4. Fish is usually the healthiest meat choice—as long as it’s not fried.

  5. Choose soft tortillas. Whether made of flour or corn, soft tortillas are lower in fat and calories than crispy, deep-fried shells. Soft corn tortillas are usually healthier than soft flour tortillas.

  6. Try avoiding the cheese. You may be surprised how little you miss it in your burrito or taco, and it can save you over 100 calories.

  7. Load up on fajita veggies. Adding them to your burrito or burrito bowl is an easy way to add tons of flavor and heart-healthy vitamins and phytochemicals without adding a lot of calories.

Tips for Making Smarter Choices At Sandwich Fast Food Joints:

  1. Choose the smaller sized subs. Ordering a 6-inch sub over the foot-long can save you between 500-700 calories.

  2. Opt for whole-grain buns or bread instead of white bread, French rolls, or cheese breads.

  3. Go light on the mayonnaise and condiments. You can save even more calories by asking for the condiments on the side.

  4. Opt for dressings like mustard, vinegar, or low-fat dressing instead of mayonnaise and calorie-heavy special sauces.

  5. Go easy on the cheese, or better yet, skip it altogether.

  6. Eat half the sandwich at lunch and save the other half for later.

  7. Load up on veggies, such as tomato, lettuce, pickles, onions, green and red peppers, and olives.

  8. Avoid the chips. Get something healthier on the side, such as an apple, a small side salad, or a yogurt.

Tips for Making Smarter Choices At Pizza Joints:

  1. Choose a thin crust instead of regular crust (and avoid deep-dish or pan pizza). Not only is thin crust the healthiest option, but it’s also the most authentic version of a true Italian pie.

  2. Opt for your pizza with light cheese. A little cheese can go a long way! You can also try substituting lower-calorie ricotta cheese for mozzarella. At the very least, don’t order extra cheese.

  3. Load your pizza up with veggie toppings. Most chains have lots of healthy options, including tomato, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, artichoke, garlic, onion, and broccoli.

  4. Go light on high-fat meat toppings, such as pepperoni, bacon, sausage, Philly meat, ham, and beef. If you must have meat, stick to chicken.

  5. Give pasta a miss which tends to be less healthy than the pizza at fast food joints. Fast food pasta dishes are usually little more than a heaping serving of refined-carb noodles and meat-heavy sauces.

  6. Avoid the sides. Say no to garlic knots, mozzarella sticks, and cheesy bread. You’ll cut out a lot of calories, carbs, and unhealthy fat.

Tips for Making Smarter Choices at Asian Fast Food Restaurants:

  1. Have less amount of rice, which packs on carbs and calories. Pass on fried rice, which is high in fat, calories, and sodium. Steamed white rice is a much healthier choice, and brown rice even better.

  2. Go light on the noodles. Fried Asian noodles add a lot of calories, carbs, and sodium, plus unhealthy fat.

  3. Avoid pork dishes, which tend to be higher in fat than other meat options.

  4. Say no to sauce heavy dishes, such as orange chicken and Beijing beef. It’s also a good idea to pass on anything with General Tso’s, Kung Pao, BBQ, or Sweet and Sour in the name. These sauces are high in calories and sugar.

  5. Avoid the fatty, deep-fried sides, such as fried wontons, egg rolls, tempura, BBQ spareribs.

  6. Use the chopsticks! You’ll eat more slowly, since you can’t grasp as much food with them at one time as you can with your normal fork and knife.

Tips for Making Smarter Fast Food Breakfast Choices:

  1. Give a miss to sausage, bacon, and steak as they are high in fat. Leaner breakfast meat choices include turkey, bacon, and ham.

  2. Be cautious when it comes to baked goods. Not only are most breakfast pastries, loafs, and muffins high in sugar, they also tend to be high in sodium.

  3. Load up on fiber. Good choices include bran muffins, oatmeal, and granola. Watch out for excess sugar!

  4. Go light on the cheese and breakfast sauces. Ask for the sauce on the side to keep the calories down.

  5. Avoid the breakfast burrito. These diet-busters tend to be loaded with carbs, calories, sodium, and fat.

  6. Opt for toast or English muffins over biscuits. Biscuits are usually higher in calories and fat than toast or English muffins.

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