Posted on by Paula Gallagher
We all know that fast food may not be the most nutritious food, but sometimes there are no other options. I find this especially true when I am on the road and need something to eat, but all I see are fast food chains. If this is the case, there is no need to panic. Life is all about balance. A cheeseburger and fries once in a while are okay, but thankfully even at these popular meal-on-the-run restaurants, there are healthier options for those who want them.
Most people think salads may be the healthiest options, but this may or may not always be the case. Salad dressings, salted nuts and fried wontons or croutons can jack up the calories, saturated fat and sodium levels.
I took a look at three popular fast food places that offer different types of foods, McDonald's, Chipotle and Subway.
Things to take into account when looking at making healthier choices at fast food restaurants are:
So here are some popular fast foods chains and suggestions for what you can order to make the healthiest choices.
McDonald’s offers a nutrition calculator to help you make your best choices. Here are some of the healthiest options on the menu, based on the calculator.
Fruit and Maple Oatmeal
According to McDonald’s, this item contains 320 calories, 4.5 grams of fat (1.5 grams saturated fat), 150 mg of sodium, 64 grams of carbs (4 grams of fiber, 31 grams of sugar) and 6 grams of protein. Oatmeal is a heart-healthy option and with 4 grams of fiber, the Fruit & Maple Oatmeal is a great option to start the day.
McDonald’s classic hamburger is only 263 calories, 10 grams of fat, 487 grams of sodium and 13.3 grams of protein. Add apple slices instead of fries and a bottle of water, and you have a light lunch that can help you get through to your healthier dinner at home!
McDonald's Sausage Burrito & Apple Slices
In case you didn’t know, McDonald's offers all-day breakfast and this option comes with eggs, sausage and veggies and a side of salsa, if you like. Add apples to give it fiber. At 325 calories, 17 grams of fat and 13 grams of protein, this makes it one of the healthiest options. The sodium content is much higher in this meal, so make sure to balance the day with lower sodium options.
Chipotle offers a variety of healthy choices, from beans to veggies, whole grain wraps to avocados. But if you aren’t careful, a simple burrito bowl can go from 500 calories to upwards of 2,000 calories because of sauces and all the extras, like guacamole.
Chicken Burrito Bowl
The key is to be specific about what you choose, because at places like Chiptotle, the options are yours. To make this a healthier option, ask for one scoop of chicken, one scoop of black beans, one scoop of fajita vegetables, tomato salsa, lettuce and a half portion of guacamole. By doing this, you cut back on calories that you would get with a burrito. The beans provide a high-fiber, blood-sugar-balancing source of carbohydrates to give you energy; the chicken is a good source of lean protein; and the fajita veggies add fiber and bulk to the meal. Adding some guacamole balances out the dish with healthy fats. This meal will run you about 500 calories.
Chicken and Black Bean Burrito
Skip the rice and ask for chicken, one scoop of black beans, two scoops of fajita vegetables, guacamole, lettuce and mild salsa. This cuts back on calories and still gives you tons of flavor and nutrition.
Sandwich, hoagie or sub shops are popular places to eat because of all the customization available. When eating at these places, choose the 6-inch or shorter version instead of the longer versions, opt for whole grain breads, and limit the cheese and high fat sauces to cut down on calories.
The Veggie Delight is the healthiest sandwich that Subway offers. With no meat, you have no choice but to load it up with a ton of veggies. At only 230 calories (without cheese), this sandwich is a nutrient-packed option. If you did add cheese, you would add a mere 80 calories and some protein.
Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki
This one is my personal favorite and is also one of the healthiest Subway sandwiches on the menu. It features teriyaki-glazed chicken in their fat-free sweet onion sauce. It's under 300 calories with veggies and no cheese.
So what have we learned? If you must eat at fast food chains, there are plenty of healthier options to choose from, if you know what to look for. Just remember to balance out your diet with other foods that provide essential nutrients and vitamins and consume fast foods in reasonable moderation.
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