There’s no denying that sometimes during our fast-paced days where we schedule down to the last second of our time, fast food is the only way to grab a bite to eat between commitments. Unfortunately, this lifestyle makes it very hard to maintain a healthy diet. We are all well aware of the U.S.A.’s tendencies when it comes to what is served through a drive-thru window; the nutrition, or lack thereof, in most fast-food restaurants its absolutely abismal. With atrocious amounts of calorie, sodium, carb, and cholesterol in most standard fast-food meals, its no wonder why the obesity rate in the U.S.A. is so high.
Regardless, we all have to eat, and there are days when swinging through McDonalds is so much easier than heading home and preparing an entire meal. A few weeks ago, I decided that there had to be ways to eat healthily (or at least somewhat healthy) at these types of restaurants. I came up with some surprisingly impressive results. It turns out, with the right directions when you place your order, there are some pretty good choices you can make at a variety of fast-food stops.
Let’s start with the beginning of your day. The first thing most people go for? CAFFEINE. Your best bet as far as nutrition goes is a basic cup of coffee or tea. These two drinks provide your caffeine kick without the gobs of calories and fat that many drinks like lates, macchiatos, mochas, etc. include. However, sometimes those drinks just really hit the spot. If a morning late is your favorite way to wake up, then try ordering a 12 ounce size with skim milk. This leaves out all of the fat and cuts the calories down significantly. However even a 16 ounce skinny caramel macchiato boasts 190 calories and 35 carbs. This is a pretty significant for just a morning drink. However this is nothing compared to a skinny white chocolate mocha the of the same size, which includes 350 calories and 9 grams of fat! Crazy. If you like the creme of espresso, opt for an americano. This is really just hot water and espresso. It tastes just like a cup of coffee but the espresso creates a frothy, creamy taste. I always order an americano with a shot of vanilla and a splenda, because I am lactose intolerant and can’t do dairy. However this drink tastes just like a late!
Next comes breakfast. In my opinion there is one fast-food place lightyears ahead of all the others when it comes to a quick morning meal. It might surprise you, but this restaurant is Subway! They offer egg and cheese muffin sandwiches (with or without black forest ham) that hit under the 200 calorie mark and provide a good serving of protein, fiber, calcium, and complex carbs. An even better option is one of their egg white flat bread or egg white muffin sandwiches. Both include all of the benefits of the other sandwich, but the lack of yolks means less fat and less cholesterol. Starbucks also has a spinach and feta breakfast wrap that provides 19 grams of protein, but of the 290 calories in the entire wrap 90 of them are from fat. Not the best, but still a viable option. Their 100% whole grain oatmeal on the other hand is a great option! It is low in both calories and fat, and it includes lots of fiber and protein. With any of these breakfast options, the fiber and protein will keep you full for a long time. If McDonalds is really your only option, get the fruit and yogurt parfait. You’ll skip the high calories and fat in all of the other breakfast options, but you’ll still get some protein and fiber.
When it comes to lunch and dinner, I don’t want to make your choices seem limited. Instead, there are a few rules you can keep in mind when it comes to ordering that will instantly make your choices healthier. If there is a choice for a burger or sandwich to be grilled, always say yes. Breaded, fried, broiled, crispy, battered, or most of the other choices just mean a heap of grease and fat will be slathered on. A grilled chicken sandwich (sans cheese) from Burger King does have 360 calories, but you also get 36 grams of protein plus the vitamins in the tomatos. Even the 6 grams of fat still makes this a pretty good option for a fast-food sandwich. Subway has an entire list of sandwiches under six grams of fat, almost all of which include a lean protein. I happen to be a vegetarian, which nutritionally sits about the same as the grilled chicken burger.
If you can, always choose a restaurant such as Chipotle or Q’Doba over a burger joint. Most of the meals on these two menus include much less fat and the extra healthy benefits of beans, veggies, and spicy food that can be found in some of my past blog posts.
What it comes down to is how you order. Don’t be afraid to be choosy when it comes to how your meal is prepared or what you want left out of it. After all, you’re paying for it!