How to Eat Healthy at Your Favorite Fast Food Chains

By  | Shine Food – Mon, Oct 7, 2013

When you’re trying to eat healthy, a fast-food restaurant doesn’t exactly seem like a great dining option. Burgers, fries, and milkshakes probably aren’t your best bet if you’re on a diet. But over the past several years, fast-food chains have taken major strides to offer menu selections that are decidedly healthy. So when we’re hungry and have nowhere else to turn, a quick study of the menu board at these fast-food destinations can show that it’s not all so terrible after all.

Right off the bat, it would seem that the burger joints would have the least healthy options, but there are some items that, surprisingly, aren’t filled with bad ingredients and tons of calories. You’re never going to mistake these spots for a wheatgrass bar, but in a pinch you can get out of there with minimal grease.

Salads may seem the obvious choice, but aren’t very healthy if loaded with breaded, fried chicken chunks, and creamy dressings. And keep in mind that while some sandwiches and entrées are healthier, that’s often without the add-ons that boost flavor appeal. But the healthy choices don’t have to be completely bland: When possible, ask for dressings, sauces, and condiments on the side so you can control the amount put on. And don’t rule out combos completely – a combo of two items can be good, as long as the total intake doesn’t end up being more than one unhealthy item. 

Lean toward items with vegetables, and though they’re often hard to find at these places, vegetarian items when possible. These dishes are usually more health-friendly, they’re nutritionally adequate, and they’re usually not (as) steeped in grease. And if items are offered grilled or steamed, those are obviously a better option than their fried counterparts.

Aside from meals, beverage and dessert choices can also be made healthier. Of course soda is the mainstay beverage of fast-food counters, but it’s easy enough to get water or unsweetened iced tea; add lemon to them if available. If you’re watching your weight, you may be skipping dessert, but it’s nice to have options if you’ve got a sweet craving. And even the fastest of fast-food places offer a fruit option; we won’t pretend that it’ll be as fun as a giant shake or sundae, but at least we have more choices now. Nearly every fast-food chain posts nutritional information on their websites and makes it available at their restaurants, so be sure to take a quick look if you want to get the inside scoop on what you’re eating.

We checked out the nutrition information for just about all of the leading fast-food brands in search of the healthiest items on their menus. Read on to learn what we discovered.

Burger King 

The BK VEGGIE Burger actually has less fat (7 grams, without cheese or mayo, and 20 grams with them) and calories (320 without either, 450 with both) than their Chicken Apple & Cranberry Garden Fresh Salad with Tendergrill, which is 560 calories and 30 grams of fat! Another lower fat-and-calorie choice is the Ranch Grilled Chicken Wrap, with 350 calories and 18 grams of fat.

McDonald’s 

This burger giant boasts “Favorites Under 400,” though that count is before sauces or any condiments. 

If you’re there at breakfast, there’s now an Egg White Delight McMuffin with white Cheddar, at 250calories, 7 grams fat, and 18 grams protein; a medium nonfat latte is 130 calories. Later in the day, try the Premium Caesar Salad at 90 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 7 grams of protein. They’ve also got those apple slices that seem popular as a fast-food healthy option; theirs are 15 calories.

Quiznos 

There are a lot of cheeses and dressings in these subs; either create your own or shoot for a bowl of soup. A regular Broccoli Cheese soup with two crackers is 180 calories and 9 grams of fat, with 7 grams of protein. But if you’re in a sandwich mood, the Sonoma Turkey, with Cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes, and chipotle mayo has 15 grams of fat and 360 calories (knock off most of the fat if you ask for it without the mayo).

Pizza Hut 

Some locations still have a salad bar available, though that’s not reflected on the company website. If you’re going for the pizza, the Veggie Lover’s Thin ‘N Crispy pizza is 170 calories and 6 grams of fat; Cheese Only is actually a bit more at 190 calories and 8 grams of fat. But if you’re able to stay happy with salad and bread sticks, an order has 140 calories and 5 grams of fat. 

Au Bon Pain
 

Probably one of their best bets, sandwich-wise, is the Tuna Salad on multigrain bread; it’s 490 calories and 14 grams of fat. But you could also put together some quite healthy sides to combine a nice meal: a small black bean soup is 180 calories with just 1 gram of fat, and the garden salad has 1.5 grams of fat and 90 calories; choose balsamic vinaigrette for the healthiest dressing. Rosemary potatoes have 35 calories per ounce and 1 gram of fat.

-Rani Long, The Daily Meal

 

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