Healthy Fast Food Options

How can anything that tastes so good yet so bad be healthy at all? Especially if you’re one to hashtag #eatclean all the time, how can you pick the healthiest option at fast food restaurants like McDonald’s, Hungry Jacks, KFC and the equivalent? 

So, when is it healthy to eat fast food?

The short answer is: rarely. Typically, fast food is low in nutrition and high in trans fat, saturated fat, sodium, and calories.

Moderation becomes the key. It’s okay to indulge a craving for French fries every now and then, but to stay healthy you can’t make it a regular habit. Finding a healthy, well-balanced meal in most fast food restaurants can be a challenge, but there are always choices you can make that are healthier than others.

Making healthier choices at fast food restaurants is easier if you prepare ahead by checking guides that show you the nutritional content of meal choices at your favourite restaurants. Free downloadable guides help you evaluate your options. If you have a special dietary concern, such as diabetes, heart health or weight loss, the websites of national not-for-profits provide useful advice. You can also choose to patronise restaurants that focus on natural, high quality food. 

Make careful menu selections – pay attention to the descriptions on the menu 

Dishes labelled deep-fried, pan-fried, basted, batter-dipped, breaded, creamy, crispy, scalloped, Alfredo, au gratin, or in cream sauce are usually high in calories, unhealthy fats, or sodium. Order items with more vegetables and choose leaner meats. 

Drink water with your meal

Soft drink is a huge source of hidden calories. One litre of regular cola packs about 425 calories, which can quickly take up a big portion of your daily calorie intake. Try adding a little lemon to your water or ordering unsweetened iced tea. 

“Undress” your food

When choosing items, be aware of calorie and fat-packed salad dressings, spreads, cheese, sour cream, etc. For example, ask for a grilled chicken sandwich without the mayonnaise.

Special order

Many menu items would be healthy if it weren’t for the way they were prepared. Ask for your vegetables and main dishes to be served without the sauces. Ask for olive oil and vinegar for your salads or order the dressing “on the side” and spoon only a small amount on at a time. 

Eat mindfully

Pay attention to what you eat and savour each bite. Chew your food more thoroughly and avoid eating on the run. Being mindful also means stopping before you are full. Mindful eating relaxes you, so you digest better, and makes you feel more satisfied.

What to avoid at fast food restaurants

Supersized Portions

An average fast food meal can run to 1000 calories or more, so choose a smaller portion size, order a side salad instead of fries, and don’t supersize anything.

Salt

Fast food restaurant food tends to be very high in sodium, a major contributor to high blood pressure. Don’t add insult to injury by adding more salt.

Bacon

It’s always tempting to add bacon to sandwiches and salads for extra flavour, but bacon has very few nutrients and is high in fat and calories. Instead, try ordering extra pickles, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, or mustard to add flavour without the fat.

Buffets – even seemingly healthy ones like salad bars

You’ll likely overeat to get your money’s worth. If you do choose buffet dining, opt for fresh fruits, salads with olive oil & vinegar or low-fat dressings, broiled entrees, and steamed vegetables. Resist the temptation to go for seconds, or wait at least 20 minutes after eating to make sure you’re really still hungry before going back for more.

Here are some healthy fast food options:

McDonald’s

  • Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken and low-fat balsamic vinaigrette plus Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait; 375 calories, 9.5g fat (4g saturated)
    Grilled Honey Mustard Snack Wrap plus small French fries; 480 calories, 19g fat (5g saturated)

Subway

  • 6″ Subway Club on 9-Grain Wheat Bread with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, cucumbers, and Sweet Onion Sauce plus apple slices; 445 calories, 4.5g fat (1.5g saturated)
  • Oven Roasted Chicken Salad with tomatoes, green peppers, onions, olives, and cucumbers with honey-mustard dressing plus Yogurt Parfait; 400 calories, 6g fat (1.5g saturated)

KFC

  • 4 Hot Wings plus Sweet Kernel Corn; 380 calories, 16.5g fat (4g saturated)
  • Kentucky Grilled Chicken Breast plus mashed potatoes (without gravy) 310 calories; 10g fat (2.5g saturated)


If it’s all too much of a hassle for you, let’s stick to #eatclean!