10 Tips to making better fast food choices (including the healthiest and WORST things you can eat!)

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Pop quiz:

It’s 5:43pm on a hectic Friday you’ve got to get your child, Little DingDong Jr. (or whatever his name is) all the way across town by 6pm, which is when he’s got his ciello camp/junior varsity ping pong/thumb wrestling practice. You’re racing through traffic like a stunt driver when you realize you still haven’t fed him dinner. Oh no – bad parent alert! So within the next 17 minutes, these are your three choices:

A) Turn around and go back home, where you’ll cook him a vegan, organic, gluten-free meal that contains all the essential food groups, like delicious kale, tofu, and air.

B) Pull over by the side of the road, jump out, and whip together together an ultra-healthy green salad of foraged weeds, baby bird eggs, and mushrooms that grow on the grass on the highway median.

C) Stop at the nearest fast food joint, zip around the drive through, and make sure Little DingDong gets something down his gullet so you can’t be accused of child negligence.

The answer of course is C, of course. That’s right – it’s ok to admit that even with the best intentions, every once and while we feed our children fast food. With insanely busy schedules and more obligations than ever, making healthy food choices for your family 100% of the time can be next to impossible when you’re cruising around town at the speed of life.

Yet there’s no sugar coating it (pun intended) – most fast food isn’t only bad for you, but eating it regularly can be catastrophic to your health. No wonder almost one-third of Americans are now overweight or obese. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Health, healthier diets could prevent at least $71 billion per year in medical costs. Obesity alone is estimated to cost us $117 billion ever year. And you guessed it – our propensity for fast food is one of the main culprits of this epidemic.

The good news is that if you HAVE to eat fast food every blue moon, there are ways to make healthier, more nutritious choices, even from your average McDonalds or Burger King menu.

10 Tips to making better fast food choices:

1. Watch the sauces and condiments.
If burgers and fries weren’t bad enough for us, the sauces and condiments we pour on top contribute an alarming amount of calories – with zero nutrition. Most single servings of sauces contain 50-110 calories. In some cases – like Arby’s Southwestern Chicken Wrap and Ultimate BLT Wrap, half of the total calories come from the sauce! So definitely stay away from any mayonnaise, oil based, or creamy sauces.

2. Choose grilled, not fried.
Grilled lean meats always have far fewer calories and less fat than their deep-friend or crispy counterparts. Almost every chicken sandwich or meal has a grilled alternative these days.

3. Skip the French fries.
I know they taste SO GOOD! But fries are basically little evil salt bombs that spread obscene amounts of bad calories all throughout your world. So get the burger or sandwich you want but replace fries with apple slices or a side salad, but of which are common alternatives.

4. Change up your beverage.
When it comes to health, we focus so much on the main and side dish, but don’t even consider the mega amount of calories and sugar that come from our beverage. Did you know that the average large soda contains 300 calories and a whopping 58 grams of sugar?! And shakes are even worse – some times up to 800 calories with a ton of fat, too. Don’t think you’re outsmarting anyone by ordering fruit punches or sugary lemonades or teas – those are almost just as bad. Instead, just fill up on iced water, unsweetened tea, or diet soda if you absolutely have to indulge.

5. Keep portion sizes small.
The USDA recommends a normal portion size for meat during a meal is about the size of a deck of cards. But most fast food chains offer beef patties about as big as a whole card table! So just say, “No!” to supersizing, and stick to small items without making it a double.

6. Read the menu for code words.
As a general rule, there are certain words you can look for by scanning the menu that you know will be loaded with hidden calories, fat, or sodium. These include: Double, triple, super-sized, value-size, cheesy, mega, deep-fried, pan-fried, basted, batter-dipped, breaded, creamy, crispy, scalloped, Alfredo, or au gratin. These are the things you want to avoid!

7. Don’t add toppings.
We were doing SO well, and then you started heaping on toppings! So avoid the bacon bits, shredded and melted cheeses, croutons, and fried noodles.. They add a truck load of completely useless calories – some times in the hundreds!

8. Salads can be deceivingly bad for you!
To the average person, ordering a salad at every meal seems like the panacea to all our dieting and health goals, but fast food salads are some times the worst things on the menu. Be especially careful with taco salads or fried chicken salads and ask for all the toppings on the side.

9. Don’t keep a side dish.
Like we talked about, French fries should be downsized or replaces, but that also goes for onion rings, mozzarella sticks, cheesy breads, or mashed potatoes (heaped with gravy or cheese.) Instead, ask for a plain side salad or apple.

10. NEVER add salt or sugar!
Even when you start cutting down on calories, salts and sugars are present in obscene amounts in most fast food items. So never ever add extra sugar or salt to anything you eat there. The American Heart Association recommends that adults consume less than 1500 mg of sodium per day, and never take in more than 2,300 mg a day. One Big Mac meal (with fries and Coke) has 2,600 mg of sodium!

Remember – it’s all about being conscious of what you’re feeding your family so you can make better, reasonable choices. For more information, contact your doctor or check out more fast food nutrition data at: http://www.fastfoodnutrition.org

The WORST fast food choices.

Carl’s Junior six-dollar burgers
900-1030 calories.
22 grams fat.

Burger King Triple Whopper Sandwich
1,020 calories.
65g fat.
1,090mg sodium.

Carl’s Jr. Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger
1,060 Calories.
59g fat.
2,012mg sodium.

McDonalds double quarter pounder with cheese
740 calories.
42g fat.
19 saturated fat.
1380mg sodium.

Wendy’s Baconator Double
1,030 Calories.
34g saturated fat.
1,840mg sodium.

Taco Bell XL Grilled Stuft Beef Burrito
880 Calories.
3g saturated fat.
2,130mg sodium.

Five Guys Bacon Cheeseburger
920 Calories.
62g fat.
1,310mg sodium.

Burger King Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich
640 Calories.
36g fat.
1,420mg sodium.

Chick-fil-A Chick-n-Strips (4) with Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce and Cole Slaw.
1,140 Calories.
79g fat.
1,935mg sodium.

McDonalds large fries
500 calories.
350g sodium.
Decent fast food alternatives.

McDonald’s Apple Dippers only have 35 calories.

A normal fast food chain side salad (with no dressing or cheese or unhealthy toppings) only has 20 calories, and adding a low-fat dressing only adds 30 or so calories.

A McDonald’s regular hamburger has 250 calories.

Their 6-Piece chicken nuggets has 280 calories. Honey or BBQ sauce adds 50-60 calories.

The Premium Southwest Salad with grilled chicken has 290 calories.

McDonald’s snack wraps with grilled chicken have about 250-350 calories.

Burger King’s Flame-Broiled Hamburger has 230 calories.

In-N-Out Burger’s hamburger with onion, protein style has 240 calories.

Wendy’s Jr. hamburger has even less – 230 calories.

Chick-fil-A’s chargrilled chicken sandwich has 270 calories and only 1g of saturated fat.

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