Fast food: 5 ways to healthier meals

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Fast food: 5 ways to healthier meals

Can fast food be part of a weight-loss or healthy diet plan? You might not think so. In fact, you might even think that you can't have a meal that's both quick and healthy.

But this isn't necessarily so. An occasional stop for fast food can fit into a healthy diet plan. The key is to choose wisely when ordering fast food.

  1. Keep portion sizes small. If the fast-food restaurant offers several sandwich sizes, pick the smallest. Bypass hamburgers with two or three beef patties, which can pack more than 1,000 calories and 70 grams of fat. Choose instead a regular- or children's-sized hamburger, which has about 250 to 300 calories. And skip the large serving of french fries or onion rings and ask for a small serving instead. This switch alone saves 200 to 300 calories.
  2. Choose a healthier side dish. Take advantage of 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. Or 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.
  3. Go for the greens. Choose an entree salad with grilled chicken, shrimp or vegetables with fat-free or low-fat dressing on the side, rather than regular salad dressing, which can have 100 to 200 calories a packet. Watch out for high-calorie salads, such as those with deep-fried shells or those topped with breaded chicken or other fried toppings. Also skip extras, such as cheese, bacon bits and croutons, which quickly increase your calorie count. If you forgo the dressing, you can find salads for around 300 calories at most fast-food chains. Some examples include McDonald's Southwest Salad, Burger King's Chicken Garden Salad and Wendy's Chicken Caesar Salad.
  4. Opt for grilled items. Fried and breaded foods, such as crispy chicken sandwiches and breaded fish fillets, are high in fat and calories. Select grilled or roasted lean meats — such as turkey or chicken breast, lean ham, or lean roast beef.
  5. Watch what you drink. Many beverages are high in calories. For example, a large regular soda (32 ounces, or 908 grams) has about 300 calories. Instead, order diet soda, water, unsweetened iced tea, sparkling water or mineral water. Also, skip the shakes and other ice-cream drinks. Large shakes can contain more than 800 calories and all of your saturated fat allotment for the day.

Have it your way

You can eat healthy away from home, even at fast-food restaurants. Don't settle for what comes with your sandwich or meal. Ask for healthier options and substitutions. For example, ask for reduced-fat mayonnaise or mustard on your sandwich. Or at a fast-food Mexican restaurant, request salsa instead of cheese sauce. And remember to keep your eye on portion sizes.

Last Updated: 2010-05-29
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