Fast food. It was a revelation when it was first introduced to the world. But the menus they are now serving have evolved over time. This has led many options to be loaded with sodium, calories and unhealthy fat. Eating fast food has now moved from being a treat or answer to busy lives to being a minefield of foods high in calories.
However, fast food restaurants are realizing the trend of healthy eating. They have now started developing additions to their menus that are much healthier options. Even if they aren’t, you can often apply a few simple steps to take your fast food to the next level. This means that you can still enjoy the convenience or social aspect of going out to eat, without excessive calories and ruining your diet. While getting a fast food meal will rarely ever be considered fully healthy and good for you, you can still make healthier choices even when ordering from fast food chains.
Here are my favorite ways to enjoy fast food, without the guilt.
How To Eat Healthy When Eating Fast Food
As soon as you walk into many fast food restaurants you’ll be hit with the sweet smells of what they’re cooking. It could be the deep fryer, the bacon, the herbs and spices. At this point it can be hard to say no and not give in to buying of of the menu options you’re avoiding. If you can find something else that will satisfy your cravings, then that’s great. But sometimes you know you’re going to have an alternative, then something else, then something else. At times like these, it’s often better to just have the thing you’re craving, rather than consuming a bunch of calories trying to avoid it. Order a small portion, sit down and really savor the treat. Portion size really does matter and having a small amount of the treat is going to do wonders for you mentally.
On The Side
Skip the onion rings or fries and go for the salad. Often restaurants will allow you to swap out side dishes for side salads, which will make a big difference to your weight loss. How many fresh fries have you eaten because they’re in front of you, even though you’re not really hungry? Or if it’s a plated style meal like Asian chains, load your plate up with vegetables first before adding the other menu options. Then you’ll know you’re getting some healthy food in. If you get lean meats and lean proteins with a salad on the side instead of fries, you will definitely be making healthier choices.
Or, skip the traditional main options and go for the salad instead. Make sure you have the dressing on the side and apply it sparingly to your lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers as they can be loaded up with saturated fats. They can also skew your calorie counts. Another thing to look out for is things like croutons or a side of bread. We’re here for the non-starchy veggies so pick a salad with as much freshness as possible. Getting a salad is definitely the best way to make healthy choices when getting food from fast food chains.
Don’t Drink Your Calories
Those large cups of soda are filled to the brim with sugar, sweeteners and calories. Stick to zero-calorie drinks so that you can really enjoy indulging in the fast-food experience without going overboard. Some restaurants will have things like zero-calorie iced tea, but if you’re unsure just skip the drinks and opt for water instead. You’ll come away feeling hydrated rather than on a sugar buzz. It won’t matter if you made healthier choices when it comes to the fast food meal, if you end up getting a super unhealthy drink.
Watch the Condiments
Those creamy, sweet sauces for dipping, dressing or adding to your meal are often hiding a lot of calories. This is especially true of ranch dressing and mayonnaise. If you can skip these and head for the barbecue sauce you’ll be doing yourself a favor. Also, use them sparingly. You don’t need to add that whole packet of dressing to your salad or to get the last of that sauce on to your fries.
When ordering a pizza, stick to thin and crispy bases rather than any soft and fluffy options. You want the toppings to take center stage, not the base. And skip past the additional cheese in the crust. That’s just adding too much fat to the dish. With your meat choices, opt for less processed versions like shredded meats over salami or pepperoni. Or skip the meat completely and get some delicious veggies on there. If you want to be controversial even add some pineapple. I won’t judge.
Healthy Fast Food Orders
Chick-Fil-A: Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap
Some simple steps can change up a high-calorie option like chicken sandwiches and make them so much better. Those fluffy white breads are hiding a lot of calories without a lot of nutritional value. Coming in just over 300 calories, switching up to a wrap you can still get that delicious grilled chicken (and we know lean meats are great) with salad. Every calorie counts so don’t waste them on bread rolls when you don’t need to!
Chipotle: Steak Burrito Bowl
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be all chicken salads. This bowl, loaded up with beans, salad and steak is a great option over a burrito or other option that still has processed carbohydrates (nachos, tacos, etc). Just make sure you also skip past the rice, cheese, sour cream and guacamole as these tips the balance from healthy back into you might as well just had the chicken nuggets.
Wendy’s: Junior Hamburger
It can be tempting to get the baked potato as a “healthy” option, but really what you’re craving is a burger. Ask yourself if the potato is really going to cut it. Also, consider the lack of protein and high carbohydrate count in a potato versus a meat burger patty. This is a great example of small portions. You’re still getting your burger fix, but you’re not overdoing it. Sit down, take your time and really enjoy the burger rather than just eating it quickly and not even noticing the calories. Have it with a side salad instead of french fries and you’ll still come in under 500 calories.
Starbucks: Bistro Box
You know I love a snack or bento box! You can get a variety of flavors in one little packet. Rather than a dense bagel or sweet pastry, this box is going to give you a good balance of fats and protein alongside non-starchy vegetables. They also offer lunch boxes that often contain things like boiled eggs to give you the good protein to leave you feeling full for longer. While you’re there, don’t be tempted by the sweetened, creamy coffee-based drinks. Go for smaller options and skip the whip, flavorings and sugar. Simple is so much better.
Panera: Turkey Chili
Lean proteins, check (from the turkey). Fiber, check (from the beans). Warm comfort, check (from the w
hole package). Sometimes, especially on cold days, you need something that’s going to warm your belly and your soul. The turkey chilli packs a protein punch over vegetable soups or those with noodles. Wrap yourself up in your warmest scarf, fluffiest socks and indulge in this soup without the guilt.
Dairy Queen: Small (or Kids) Cone
This is another example of not completely ignoring your cravings. If all your friends are going to get ice cream, and you know you’re going to find sitting there watching them painful, it’s okay to indulge. Food is meant to be enjoyed and it’s often a social thing. But go for a small or kids size cone instead of a large with all the trimmings. You’ll still get that delicious, sweet hit without completely going overboard on the calories or fat content.
KFC: Extra Crispy Tenders
There’s no way I’m saying fried chicken is healthy. It’s just not, even if chicken is one of the lean proteins. But, again, it’s about making good decisions with the options you have. Choosing tenders over a burger helps you skip the carbohydrates in the bun. Add on some veggie sides like coleslaw or green beans to balance out your fast food meal and avoid the fries. You know that they’re not going to add to your healthy veggie count for the day. With food from the fast food chains, it’s all about finding a balance if you want to make healthier choices, so even a small improvement like this one, counts.