Fast food can be healthy. But let’s face it: When fast food is mentioned, “healthy” doesn’t exactly come to mind. But healthy choices can be made when going to a fast food restaurant. And during the holiday season, everyone is in a mad dash to complete their shopping lists and because fast food is so easily accessible, it is an option for many.
Fast food is notorious for its empty calories and high fat and sodium content, but it’s filling, cheap and convenient. There have been studies showing that regular consumption of a fast food diet is detrimental to health, leading to cardiovascular disease and hypertension, among other health problems. Low to moderate intake of fast food is fine; daily life can be busy and stressful so stopping off at a fast food place won’t do much harm in the long run as long as it does not become a regular habit.
For American fare at fast food chains, concentrate on the nutritional content of everything on the menu. Downloadable guides from fast food restaurants are available, which can be very useful in choosing healthier fare. Bring this with you when you visit a fast food chain.
- Choose lean meat and more vegetables. Chicken is low in fat, but it can come fried or breaded, which adds more calories so order it steamed or broiled. Ask the server to not put mayonnaise or other condiments on the chicken. Otherwise, they will be slathered on. But condiments are OK as long as you use the packets and control the amount.
- Dress salad yourself. When ordering a salad, choose a low-fat dressing such as a vinaigrette or olive oil. Request your dressing “on the side.” Avoid fattening dressings such as ranch, blue cheese, or Thousand Island. Choose salads that contain more lettuce and vegetables than croutons or cheese.
- Side dishes are usually fattening. But if sides like French fries or onion rings are a necessary addition for a meal, choose the smallest size. Even better, choose a fruit side or a side salad, and use low-calorie dressing.
- Avoid sodas and all other sweet drinks and go for water instead. Soda, sweet tea and shakes have high sugar content. If plain water is undesirable, add a lemon slice. A plain coffee will do, too.
- Avoid supersized portions. Making the right fast food choices make a huge difference but only if the portions are not supersized. Avoid ordering anything supersized. To lower calorie intake even more, choose a side salad and ditch the French fries, onion rings and fried zucchini.
Best choices at major fast food chains
- McDonald’s: Grilled Snack Wrap with Honey Mustard, Grilled Snack Wrap with Chipotle BBQ Sauce, Southwest Salad With Grilled Chicken, Asian Salad With Grilled Chicken
- Carl’s Jr.: Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich
- Wendy’s: The Ultimate Grill Sandwich
- In N’ Out: Hamburger with onion, lettuce, and tomato. Ditch the spread and use ketchup and mustard instead
- Taco Bell: Fresco Style Bean Burrito and Fresco Style Steak Burrito Supreme
- Jack in the Box: Chicken Fajita Pita without salsa
- Chick-fil-A: Chargrilled Chicken Cool Wrap and Chargrilled Chicken Garden Salad (this comes with its own vinaigrette dressing)
- Arby’s: Martha’s Vineyard Salad (does not include dressing), Santa Fe Salad With Grilled Chicken (does not include dressing), Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich (without mayonnaise)
Fast food can be healthy when ordering items from the menu without sauces and condiments, and by ordering a side salad instead of the fries and onion rings.
By Juana Poareo