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    Drive-Thru Tips: Healthy Options When Eating Fast Food

    Drive-Thru Tips: Healthy Options When Eating Fast Food

    Drive-Thru Tips: Healthy Options When Eating Fast Food

    It’s late, after work, and you’ve had a long day. You’re dreading going home and cooking for your family when you suddenly see a golden sign above. Those arches have never looked so good, and before you know it, you’re pulling into the McDonalds drive through.

    But maybe biting into that Big Mac doesn’t feel as good as you thought it would. This is because many associate fast food with guilt. In fact, a recent study suggests guilt is the driving force behind choosing not to eat it. But what if you can eat it in a healthy way?

    There are many healthy options in popular fast food chains. Kelly Elliot, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Saint Joseph’s Weight Loss Surgery Center, helped outline tips for the guilt-free fast food experience.

    Look for healthier options on the menu

    Before you roll your eyes, let us explain. Starting with beverages, avoid the temptation to get a soda and opt for an unsweetened iced tea, coffee, sugar free lemonade, or water. When it comes to your entree, choose a salad, grilled chicken, or maybe a thin crust pizza with veggies.

    “People can actually ask fast food restaurants for a nutrition pamphlet,” said Kelly. “Try taking ownership and looking at the calories in the menu, maybe even before you go.”

    For a healthier option, consider:

    Chick-Fil-A Grilled Chicken Sandwich

    Grilled Sandwich 400

    • Calories: 380
    • Cholesterol: 75mg
    • Total fat: 12g
    • Carbohydrates: 43g
    • Protein: 28g
    • Sodium: 760mg

    Watch the portion sizes

    Fast food portions are often much larger than what you would normally eat at home. In fact, the average fast food meal is between 1200 - 1500 calories. To avoid overeating, try ordering smaller portions, split a meal with a friend, or eat mindfully. Maybe skip the sides and stick to just the main dish.

    “People are geared towards eating whatever fast food portion is given to us. We’re not asking ourselves if we’re full halfway through,” said Kelly.

    She suggested dividing your food if possible, and wrapping one half up before eating. “Ask yourself if you can just eat half and save that other half for later, and that’s cutting the calories by 50 percent.”

    For a smaller portion size, consider:

    Wendy’s Chili (Large)

    Wendys Chili

    • Calories: 340
    • Cholesterol: 30mg
    • Total fat : 15g
    • Carbohydrates: 31g
    • Protein: 22g
    • Sodium: 1270mg

    Customize your order

    Fast food restaurants allow you to customize your order, so take advantage of that! Ask for no cheese or sauce, replace beef with grilled chicken or turkey, and choose vegetables instead of fries. You can even ask for a whole-grain bun or wrap instead of a white bun. Get creative with substitutions, and design for nutrition!

    Kelly advised customizing bowls, a popular fast food restaurant option, and opting for lettuce instead of white rice. “Go heavy on lean meat, veggies, and beans,” she added. She also proposed choosing a side salad or fruit cup, instead of french fries.

    For a customized healthy option, consider:

    Taco Bell Burrito Supreme (Subbed chicken for beef, and ordered ‘Fresco Style,’ which replaces mayo, cheese, and sour cream with fresh tomatoes)

    TB Supreme 400 copy

    • Calories: 325
    • Cholesterol: 25mg
    • Total fat: 7g
    • Total Carbohydrates: 48g
    • Protein: 17g
    • Sodium: 1080mg

    Be aware of hidden calories

    Remember what we said for number one? There’s a slight exception. Some fast food items seem healthy but are actually high in calories and fat. For example, a salad with a lot of cheese, croutons, and dressing can be just as unhealthy as a burger and fries.

    “Salads can be funny. Sometimes a taco salad in a fried bowl is one of the highest calorie things on the menu,” Kelly warned. “Is there a good amount of protein, are there veggies, is there fruit? Or do you see a lot of bacon bits and croutons?”

    She also cautioned against condiments. “It’s an area hardly anybody thinks about. For example, one Chick-Fil-A sauce is 140 calories, and if you’re eating two packets, you’re adding 280 calories to your meal.”

    For a salad without hidden calories, consider:

    Jack In the Box Grilled Chicken Salad

    Grilled Chicken Salad 400 copy

    • Calories: 250
    • Cholesterol: 70mg
    • Total fat: 9g
    • Total Carbohydrates: 14g
    • Protein: 28g
    • Sodium: 660mg

    Don't make fast food a regular habit

    While it's possible to eat healthy at fast food restaurants, it's not something you should do on a regular basis. Fast food is often high in additives, sodium, fat, and calories, and can contribute to health problems if consumed too often.

    “When we eat highly processed foods, we don’t get nourishment,” said Kelly, adding that our body might not recognize processed meals. “And then we’re still hungry an hour later, even after eating 1200 calories, because our body didn’t get what it needed.”

    Choosing healthy options when you can, and making smart decisions about moderation is crucial.

    For a treat in moderation, consider:

    McDonalds Vanilla Ice Cream Cone

    Ice Cream Cone 400 copy

    • Calories: 250
    • Cholesterol: 25mg
    • Total fat: 6g
    • Total Carbohydrates: 40g
    • Protein: 6g
    • Sodium: 150mg

    The next time you find yourself pulling into a drive-through, skip the guilt and opt for the healthier option. You might be surprised how good it feels to enjoy a fast food meal without compromising your health.

    “Fast food gets a bad rap,” said Kelly. “But I think you can go just about anywhere and make a good choice.”