It may sound like an oxymoron, but you can find healthy options on a fast food menu. You’ve just got to look.
Just a few years ago, it was hard to find diet-friendly options at a fast-food establishment. Back then, options were narrow and included hamburgers, fried chicken, French fries, chicken fingers, and pizza. Recently, however, many fast-food chains realized people are interested in more than fast, quick food. The public wants options that taste great but are lower in calories, unhealthy fats, sodium, and added sugars. And now, these options are available!
Of course, you still have to be picky about what you order. Unhealthy meals continue to make up the majority of fast food menus. But there are usually a few healthy options to choose from that will fill your belly without causing it to overflow.
The next time you’re grabbing fast food, consider ordering one of the following options to stay on the healthy path.
You’ll always do better to order your entre and sides grilled instead of fried. So skip the fried chicken and go for grilled nuggets, grilled chicken strips, a grilled chicken sandwich, or a grilled chicken wrap. Order your sandwich or wrap with plenty of lettuce, tomato, and onion on a whole-grain bun or tortilla, and do away with white bread, mayonnaise, and extra sauces. While you’re at it, ask if you can trade in those calorie-heavy French fries for a fruit cup.
Yes, pizza can be part of a healthy diet! When done the right way, pizza can be a great option. To make sure your pizza gives you the flavor you want without the bad stuff, skip the added cheese and the high-calorie processed meats. Instead, pile your pizza with as many veggies as you can—tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, peppers, and olives. Instead of eating two or three slices, eat just one and order a side salad to fill you up.
Most fast-food establishments now offer a variety of salads as an entre or side. Salads made with a variety of fruits and vegetables can be a healthy way to stay on your diet, but they can also be your diet downfall if filled with high-calorie toppings and dressings. With that in mind, avoid salads made with croutons, crunchy noodles, fried chicken, cheese, bacon, and creamy dressings. If the salad is your main course, be sure to include a source of protein in your salad. Go-to options include grilled chicken, steak, hardboiled egg, and a few nuts.
At fast-food chains with a southwest menu, you’ll likely find burrito bowls. Made to order, you can fill your bowl with grilled meat, black or pinto beans, and all sorts of vegetables. To go light on the calories, omit the white rice, cheese, and sour cream. And while you may be tempted to chow down on chips and cheese dip, do yourself a favor and fill up on the burrito bowl instead.
Unless you’re on a carb-restrictive diet, deli-style sandwiches can be a healthy fast-food option. Order your sandwich with deli meat and cheese on whole-wheat bread and piled with extra veggies, without any mayonnaise or sauce. For a side, order a side of fruit and leave the chips for someone else.
It’s easy to forget about the liquid calories you consume when eating out. Large sodas, sweet tea, and even lemonades add up the calories extremely fast. Be particularly wary of milk shakes. A large can easily run you over 1,000 calories! And getting drink refills or taking a cup to-go only increases your calorie total. If your goal is to order healthy fast food, then your best beverage bets are ice water or unsweetened ice tea.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
When McDonalds first opened, the large fountain drink was 7 ounces. Today, the child’s size is 12 ounces and the large drinks are 30 ounces.
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