Healthy Fast Food

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Learning to make healthier choices at fast food restaurants

Making healthier choices at fast food restaurants is easier if you prepare ahead by checking guides that show you the nutritional content of meal choices at your favorite restaurants. Free downloadable guides help you evaluate your options. If you have a special dietary concern, such as diabetes, heart health or weight loss, the websites of national non-profits provide useful advice. You can also choose to patronize restaurants that focus on natural, high quality food.

If you don’t prepare ahead of time, common sense guidelines help to make your meal healthier. For example, a seemingly healthy salad can be a diet minefield when smothered in high-fat dressing and fried toppings, so choose a salad with fresh veggies, grilled toppings and a lighter dressing. Portion control is also important, as many fast food restaurants serve enough food for several meals in the guise of a single serving.

The Big Burger Chains

Less Healthy choices

  1. Double-patty hamburger with cheese, mayo, special sauce, and bacon
  2. Fried chicken sandwich
  3. Fried fish sandwich
  4. Salad with toppings such as bacon, cheese, and ranch dressing
  5. Breakfast burrito with steak
  6. French fries
  7. Milkshake
  8. Chicken “nuggets” or tenders
  9. Adding cheese, extra mayo, and special sauces
Healthier choices

  1. Regular, single-patty hamburger without mayo or cheese
  2. Grilled chicken sandwich
  3. Veggie burger
  4. Garden salad with grilled chicken and low-fat dressing
  5. Egg on a muffin
  6. Baked potato or a side salad
  7. Yogurt parfait
  8. Grilled chicken strips
  9. Limiting cheese, mayo, and special sauces

The Big Fried Chicken Chains

Less healthy choices

  1. Fried chicken, original or extra-crispy.
  2. Teriyaki wings or popcorn chicken
  3. Caesar salad
  4. Chicken and biscuit “bowl”
  5. Adding extra gravy and sauces
Healthier choices

  1. Skinless chicken breast without breading
  2. Honey BBQ chicken sandwich
  3. Garden salad
  4. Mashed potatoes
  5. Limiting gravy and sauces

The Big Taco Chains

Less healthy choices

  1. Crispy shell chicken taco
  2. Refried beans
  3. Steak Chalupa
  4. Crunch wraps or gordita-type burritos
  5. Nachos with refried beans
  6. Adding sour cream or cheese
Healthier choices

  1. Grilled chicken soft taco
  2. Black beans
  3. Shrimp ensalada
  4. Grilled “fresco” style steak burrito
  5. Veggie and bean burrito
  6. Limiting sour cream or cheese

Asian Food Choices

Less healthy choices

  1. Fried egg rolls, spare ribs, tempura
  2. Battered or deep-fried dishes (sweet and sour pork, General Tso’s chicken)
  3. Deep-fried tofu
  4. Coconut milk, sweet and sour sauce, regular soy sauce
  5. Fried rice
  6. Salads with fried or crispy noodles
Healthier choices

  1. Egg drop, miso, wonton, or hot & sour soup
  2. Stir-fried, steamed, roasted or broiled entrees (Shrimp chow mein, chop suey)
  3. Steamed or baked tofu
  4. Sauces such as ponzu, rice-wine vinegar, wasabi, ginger, and low-sodium soy sauce
  5. Steamed brown rice
  6. Edamame, cucumber salad, stir-fried veggies

Italian and Pizza Restaurant Choices

Less healthy choices

  1. Thick-crust or butter-crust pizza with extra cheese and meat toppings
  2. Garlic bread
  3. Antipasto with meat
  4. Pasta with cream or butter-based sauce
  5. Entrée with side of pasta
  6. Fried (“Frito”) dishes
Healthier choices

  1. Thin-crust pizza with half the cheese and extra veggies
  2. Plain rolls or breadsticks
  3. Antipasto with vegetables
  4. Pasta with tomato sauce and veggies
  5. Entrée with side of veggies
  6. Grilled (“Griglia”) dishes

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