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Health and Fitness News

Fast Food: It’s Not All Bad

Most fast food is unhealthy, but there are healthy options to be found.

Healthy fast food sounds contradictory. Can there be such a thing?
Go back twenty years, and you’d be hard pressed to find a healthy fast food option. But these days, more and more fast food establishments offer menu options to attract health-conscious consumers. Regardless of the options available, you’d be better off skipping fast food altogether if you can’t withstand the lure of French fries, hamburgers, fried chicken, and milkshakes.

However, if you’re willing to do a little pre-planning (visit the restaurant’s website and order before you go) and put your will power to good use, you can make a trip to your favorite fast food joint without tossing your diet out the window. So what healthy fast food options are available? While each restaurant has a different menu, there are some foods they have in common. Here are a few to choose from.

Meats

When deciding on your main dish, look for meat that is grilled or roasted rather than fried or breaded. Grilled chicken or fish is lower in calories and saturated fat compared to fried meat or red meat. So skip the burgers, fried fish, and crispy chicken and order your sandwich, salad, nuggets, wraps, and tacos made with grilled meats. Steer clear of menu items described as pan-fried, deep-fried, batter-dipped, creamy, crispy, or breaded.

Salads

While salads are typically a dieter’s best friend, they can also be their secret downfall—especially at fast-food establishments. That’s because many fast food salads are extremely high in calories. With that in mind, you can avoid calorie-heavy salads by being picky about what you put in your salad. Fill your salad with your vegetables of choice, but watch out for creamy salad dressing, cheese, dried fruit, croutons, wontons, bacon, fried meat, and glazed nuts. To cut down on calories, choose an oil- and vinegar-based salad dressing.

Sides

Don’t let side dishes ruin your diet efforts. Skip the French fries, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, chips, tater tots, biscuits, and macaroni and cheese and go for a plain baked potato (without the butter, bacon bits, and sour cream), a side salad, a broth-based soup (rather than cream-based), or fresh fruit.

Condiments

Condiments add flavor to your food, but most people use way more than one serving. It can be tricky to only use two tablespoons of dips, dressings, and spreads. This is why it’s best to use low-calorie condiments. Stick to mustard, ketchup, salsa, hot sauce, and guacamole. At the same time, avoid or limit creamy salad dressings, fat-free dressings (which are often high in added sugar and calories), barbeque sauce, and teriyaki sauce.

Drinks

It’s easy to overlook liquid calories, and as you could guess, fast food drinks are extremely high in added sugar and empty calories. If you typically order a large soda with your burger, it’s time to make new habits that contribute to health. Instead of your typical soda, lemonade, sweet ice tea, or milkshake, order a water or unsweetened ice tea. Be wary of diet drinks. Research shows they may hinder rather than help your dieting efforts.

Serving Size

Most restaurants are guilty of serving large portions of food. There’s no doubt large serving sizes contribute to weight gain. When ordering food off the menu, choose smaller portion sizes. Steer clear of super-sized portions or value-sized items. You may even want to order off of the kid’s menu. After eating a kid’s meal, you may be surprised that you are comfortably full!