We already knew fast food was not particularly healthy. Now a new study showed that 96% of 36.923 menu entrees at 245 big U.S. chain restaurant menus exceed daily limits recommendations for calories, sodium, fat and saturated fat both for adults and children. This isn’t even addressing the issues related to trans fats and too much sugar.
But every now and then even the most zealous health food aficionado will stray into one of the thousands of fast food restaurants so often conveniently located and take a chance at the culinary Russian-roulette wheel of fast food eatery. Every day, in 4 Americans visits a fast food restaurant. McDonald’s alone feeds nearly 50 million people a day, more than the population of Spain. According to a recent survey by the Technomic food research firm, although 47% of consumers want more healthy restaurant options, only 23% actually order healthy food when dining out. The reason – and the study mentioned above justifies it — many don’t really believe the healthy choices are healthy.
But there are some things that can be done to make your fast food forays as healthy as possible. Here are my fast food tips.
Sodas, shakes, floats and specialty drinks are loaded with calories. And the huge glasses don’t help. The average “kid drink” has 430 calories and large sodas can have up to 500.
Choose Lean Meats, not Processed or Fatty Treats
Foods like sliced turkey, roast beef, and ham are better choices than sausage or bacon because they contain fillers, nitrates, and salt. It will save you calories and a lot other things you’re healthier without. If it’s a sandwich, ask for whole wheat or multigrain bread or buns.
Skip The “Extras” and The Appetizers
Fast food often comes with lots of frills and extra options. Avoiding the extra sauce, or extra patty or leaving off the slice of cheese will subtract calories. Even asking for no butter on the bun will save you 100 calories. The average fast food appetizer has 813 calories compared with 674 average calories per serving for entrée.
Thick Crust Pizza Pie Goes To Your Thigh
The thicker the crust, the higher the calories count. And the more processed meats like pepperoni and fatty toppings, the more the calories add up. I love putting eggplant, mushrooms, peppers or spinach on top of my pizza. And thin crust is key. You can also get whole wheat crust in many places to lower the Glycemic index.
Skip The “Secret Sauce”
Old standards like ketchup and mustard tend to have the fewest calories, though even ketchup has sugar or high fructose corn syrup and salt. Salsa can also be a healthy condiment, full of lycopenes from the tomatoes as well as vitamins A and C. Mayonnaise tends to be among the most caloric, especially if it’s creamy. Some company’s mayo can add over 150 calories.
Avoid the Fried Fast Food
Whenever the option exists, have your chicken or meat grilled. You’ll get fewer calories and less fats and it’s easier to digest.
Just ‘Cause They Serve It Doesn’t Mean You Have To Eat It
A typical meat serving is about the size of your palm; about 3 ounces. So pass on the 12 or 16-ounce portions or only eat half and take half home. I typically share a meal with my wife. And read the nutritional facts: for instance, one serving of Cheesecake Factory Burrito Grande contains 1839 calories, 29 grams of total fat and 165 grams of carbs.
Take Your Coffee With Skim Milk
You may have heard about the latte factor. It refers to the money you save over a year if you just cut out your daily latte. But the same could be said of the inches you could save by avoiding these syrupy drinks. If you must go for the latte, ask for sugar-free, and in either case, saying no to the whip cream will save you 70 calories and 7 grams of fat.
Invoke the Tenet of Chewdaism
I once heard the late Yogi Bhajan say, “Chew your food. There are no teeth in your stomach.” And that’s exactly what Chewdaism is all about; chewing your food 50 to 100 times before swallowing it. It takes about 30 – 60 seconds per bite. That’s good because it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to “tell” your brain you are full. Chewing your food allows you to extract more nutrition out of your food and allows you to get full eating less.