Healthy Fast Food: Best Fast Food Choices For Quick Meals

Monday, October 23, 2006 - 2:52pm

By Heidi Reichenberger McIndoo, MS, RD

When most people think “healthy food”, fast food doesn’t come to mind. However, although fast food restaurants’ fare may not exactly be on par with the likes of broccoli and salmon in terms of nutritional power, they do have menu options that won’t blow your diet.

3 Fast food choices

1.   Burgers - plain & simple is best

When it comes to burgers, simplest is usually best. Translation? Instead of the super-duper deluxe sandwich with three burgers and four slices of cheese, order a plain hamburger or cheeseburger. Then, dress it up with all the ketchup, relish, mustard, lettuce, onion, and pickles you want. These condiments add great flavor but virtually no calories or fat. Also, consider low-fat milk instead of soda to drink as an accompaniment. It’s a great way to sneak some calcium into your day.

2.   Healthy mexican food - opt for tortilla and refried beans

While you might guess the sour cream and cheese are the bad guys at these places, usually you don’t get enough to make a difference. The major culprits are usually the hard—deep fried—taco shells, tortilla chips, and edible salad bowls. To avoid these pitfalls, order your fillings wrapped in a soft tortilla instead. Also, trade the chips for some refried beans. While they may sound like a big no-no, often they’re just mashed up beans with little or no added fat and loads of healthy fiber.

3.   Healthy pizza - thin crust, no meat plus a salad

Pizzas can be tricky. We’re talking crust, cheese, sauce, and toppings. However, there are many variables to consider in each of these categories. To minimize the calories, choose a thin crust over a thick one, and avoid any crust that’s filled with cheese, garlic butter, etc. Also, choose veggie toppings, and skip the meat. Don’t eat more than one to two slices of a 10-12-inch pizza. To boost the nutrient content of your meal, add a salad that includes a wide assortment of greens and veggies with a drizzle of oil and vinegar over the top.

General fast food guidelines

For higher fat menu items, consider sharing the meal with a friend. In this way, you still get the flavor but you cut the calories, fat and sodium in half. You can also order a small or children’s size if you’re dining alone. Additionally, many of fast food restaurants now offer a variety of salads. Choose those with grilled chicken (not crispy or fried), and be sure to ask for the light salad dressing. Otherwise, you could end up with as much fat on your salad as you would have gotten from an order of fries!

Many fast food restaurants have brochures or websites which list their nutritional information. A good guideline to follow is to order meals that are less than 450 calories and contain 12 grams of fat or less.