Monday, August 30, 2010

Fast Food: Is there a healthy way?!??

We all know that fast food is notoriously awful for us. But that doesn't stop most of us from using the drive thru on a hectic day of errands. Aside from the occasional craving for a Wendy's Frosty or some Chick-Fil-A strips, most of the reason for stopping is for convenience.

It's on the way, it's quick, it's cheap, it tastes good (usually). For me, I find myself stopping when I'm picking hubby up from work and we're going straight to our evening small group.

Sure, it would be optimal to pack some tasty healthy snacks or a portable dinner and not feel like I need to resort to fast food, but in reality, that just doesn't always happen.

So is there no hope? Are those of us that don't plan ahead well enough to pack healthy food just doomed to be fat or unhealthy because of fast food?

No. Of course not.

Since starting my weight loss journey, I've taken to looking up the nutritional information of any restaurant we go to -- sit down or fast food. Now obviously, not all eateries have such helpful info online, but by using the ones that do, you can arm yourself with the *few* healthy choices at a fast food restaurant, and know what things to absolutely stay away from.

 Here's some of the little treasures of info I've found that have helped keep me safe from the evils of Ronald McDonald and the Burger King.

This isn't exhaustive by any means, it's just what I've found handy. Also, I don't just look at calories, but also how filling the food will be (fiber, protein, and actual amount of food), and if it seems "worth it" (as in, a kids fries may only be 290 calories, but that's a lousy waste of empty calories for you being hungry again 15 minutes later).

In general I stay away from fast food salads, because they usually aren't actually very low calorie, especially when you add dressing, and I'm picky about the quality of my veggies --and fast food hardly ever cuts it.


**Roast Chicken Ranch Sandwich --360 calories, 10 g fat, 26 g protein 
  • The amount of protein in this is going to keep you fuller longer, so you won't be starving again when you get home. This is the only Market Fresh sandwich I will order, unless I KNOW I'm only going to eat half of it. Though they are loaded with meat and veggies, the rest of them vary from 420-830 calories and 23-46 grams of fat!
 Regular Popcorn Chicken -- 360 calories, 16 g fat, 26 g protein
  • Though the fat is getting up there, the calories aren't awful here. However, you won't be getting much quantity of food, which thus won't satisfy you as well. Also, unless you're eating these puppies dry, forget ordering them. The sauces range from 45-140 calories --each packet!

Ranch or Honey Mustard Snack Wrap (Grilled)-- 260 cal, 9 g fat, 18 g protein
  • Though these aren't large, nutritionally they're not bad. As long as you're not too hungry, either one will do in a pinch. Just stay away from them fried!
Vanilla Cone-- 150 calories, 3.5 g fat, 4 g protein
  • Since it's low-fat ice cream, this is the best soft-serve I've found. It actually has 10 less calories then the "healthier" parfait, only slightly more fat, and less sugar. And you'll feel like you're getting a treat. But make sure it's only that--a treat, not a regular purchase!

Chick-n-Mini's -- 280 calories, 10 g fat, 16 g protein
  • Again, not too filling, but for the "oh-so-good factor", a reasonable choice for a treat. The other main problem with these is that they are on white biscuits and have breading on them, both of which add to empty calories.
**Chargrilled or Spicy Chicken Cool Wrap -- 410 calories, 12 g fat, 33 g protein
  •  This is one of my favorites for an on-the-go meal (not a snack). It has great veggies, and the entire amount of protein I need in a meal, without over the top calories!
**Chicken Strips (4 count) --500 calories, 24 g fat, 47 g protein
  • Now don't jump on me yet. I realize these have 500 calories and 24 grams fat (which by the way, is still, outrageously, "reasonable" by fast food standards), but they are just so absolutely good, that if paired with a wrap (see above), and split with a friend, these are more acceptable. Again, I only do it on a splurge, but I refuse to 100% cut something I love from my diet. So by only having 2 and and having half a wrap with it, I have a delicious, balanced fast food meal. Note, this is NOT the same a having just a few fries or something. These have a TON of great protein. :)
Burger King:

Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich (w/o mayo)-- 360 calories, 7 g fat, 37 g protein
  • I gotta admit, I haven't actually tried this yet, (just found it when I was looking up stuff online), but after seeing this I'm definitely going to. It looks yummy, and I'm very impressed they stuffed all that protein into 360 calories! Remember though, this also needs to be a small meal replacement, not a whole added snack.

Here lies the King of healthy fast food. Though most places don't have drive-thru, their service is quite speedy. And the health factor of what you'll be getting is definitely worth it! The normal 6" sandwiches range from 230-380 calories, with less than 6 grams of fat and 8-26 grams of protein! Flavor up the healthy way by adding mustard or red wine vinegar, and avoiding oil or mayo. You can get some great fiber in by choosing a whole grain bread. Subway is a safe place for variety, where you're able to breathe easy about getting what you want instead of picking and choosing on the menu. And ask for extra veggie--piling them on will make it even more filling!

Well, that's how I navigate fast food. Like I said at the beginning--when I'm really with it, I pack almonds, carrots, yogurt, etc. But, life happens. Hope this helps you stay in control while on the road like it does for me!


  1. Hi Diana,

    If/when we do get fast food, we usually try to pick Subway, just because it IS really lower in cal/fat. We usually get one of their $5 footlongs (and split it between 3 or 4 of us :) That way it's economical and lower in calories. The one with grilled chicken/provolone and a bunch of fresh veggies piled up is pretty good.


  2. I'll have to try the grilled chicken one next time--that sounds yummy! We mostly get the black forest ham footlong, usually with swiss. And we always ask them for tons of extra veggies. :)

  3. These are some great suggestions! Not sure if you have Wendy's in your area, but they have a couple healthy options as well.

    Ultimate Chicken Grill is filling for a meal and only 370 cals/7 g of fat/34 g of protein

    They also have baked potatoes - without the toppings (I don't mind to eat my potatoes plain) it is 270 cals/0 g fat/7 g protein

    They have other healthy options too - their salads aren't bad in the quality category and you can personalize it to keep the calories down.

    I heart Wendy's!

  4. Good to know! I LOVE Wendy's (sad face for Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers anymore!).

    I usually stay away from fast food salads, just cause I'm kind of a snob when it comes to fresh, quality, produce. But I'll definitely try it since you say it's pretty good quality!