Diet Detective’s Fast Food “What You CAN Eat” Guide – Part 1

by Charles Platkin, PhD


  • Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich (without mayonnaise): 370 calories; 4.5 g fat; 50 g carbs; 32 g protein
  • Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken (before dressing): 320 calories; 9 g fat; 30 g carbs; 30 g protein
  • Bacon Ranch Salad with Grilled Chicken (before dressing): 260 calories; 9 g fat; 12 g carbs; 33 g protein
  • Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken (before dressing): 220 calories; 6 g fat; 12 g carbs; 30 g protein

Fit Tip: Always choose grilled rather than crispy chicken, and hold the mayo. Newman’s Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette is the best dressing at 40 calories for 2 ounces, and Newman’s Own Low Fat Family Recipe Italian Dressing is only 60 calories. But watch out for the others — Newman’s Own Ranch dressing has a whopping 170 calories, and Newman’s Own Creamy Caesar dressing has 190. While I’m not a big fan of fried foods, keep in mind that if you go for Chicken McNuggets (six pieces) and that’s all you eat, it’s only 280 calories. The barbecue sauce is another 50. And by the way, a simple burger is only 250 calories. Again, if that’s all you eat for lunch or dinner, and if it fills you up, it’s not bad from a calories-only perspective.


  • Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich without the sauce: 340 calories; 7 g fat; 41 g carbs; 29 g protein
  • Plain 10-ounce Baked Potato with Buttery Best Spread: 320 calories; 6 g fat; 61 g carbs; 7 g protein
  • Two quarter-pound Classic Singles without buns and mayo: 480 calories; 31 g fat; 11 g carbs; 41 g protein
  • Mandarin Chicken Salad with Grilled Chicken Fillet with Almonds (no noodles) and Fat-free French Dressing instead of the Sesame Dressing: 370 calories; 13 g fat; 38 g carbs; 29 g protein. You can also ask for the salad without the almonds and save another 130 calories.

Fit Tip: If you opt for a salad, watch the dressing. Even the low-calorie versions are 70-90 calories per packet. In some instances the regular dressings actually have as many calories as a burger. Get two Ultimate Chicken Grill Fillets without bread and with ketchup instead of the honey mustard for a total of only 250 calories. Avoid the Southwest Taco Salad; it’s 680 calories. The Chicken BLT Salad with Homestyle Chicken Fillet has a whopping 790 calories.

Burger King

  • Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich (plain without mayo): 380 calories; 9 g fat; 45 g carbs; 25 g protein. If you get the Tendergrill without any bread or sauce, it’s only 160 calories — not bad.
  • Whopper JR. Sandwich without mayo: 260 calories; 11 g fat; 28 g carbs; 14 g protein
  • BK Veggie Burger (without mayonnaise): 320 calories; 7 g fat; 43 g carbs; 22 g protein
  • Tendergrill Chicken Garden Salad (without Ken’s Fat Free Ranch Dressing): 210 calories; 7g fat; 8 g carbs; 29 g protein

Fit Tip: For the salads, Burger King offers Ken’s Fat Free Ranch Dressing at 60 calories for 2 tablespoons, the Ken’s Light Italian is 120 calories (which is a bit high) — the other dressings — from 190 to 270 calories. Even a Whopper with just the patty, pickles, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and ketchup is only 270 calories. The apple fries are not bad at only 25 calories — too bad they don’t have the skin — but kids will probably eat them up.

Jack in the Box

  • Southwest Chicken Salad with Grilled Chicken Strips: 340 calories; 14 g fat; 29 g carbs; 34 g protein; 1,000 mg sodium (add the Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing for only 35 calories more).
  • Chicken Fajita Pita made with Whole Grain (with Salsa): 330 calories; 11 g fat; 35 g carbs; 24 g protein; 990 mg sodium
  • Grilled Chicken Strips with Teriyaki: 410 calories; 16 g fat; 48 g carbs; 18 g protein

Fit Tip: The plain hamburger is 290 calories, which is not bad if you’re a burger lover. Look for the fruit cup at only 50 calories. And if you go for a salad, stay clear of the croutons at 100 calories, or the Lite Ranch at 150 calories. The Chicken Teriyaki Bowl may look like a good choice — but it’s almost 700 calories.

Carl’s Jr.

  • Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich: 380 calories; 7 g fat; 49 g carbs; 34 g protein
  • Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich Trim It Option with a lettuce wrap, no bun: 180 calories; 4 g fat; 0 g carbs; 34 g protein
  • Original Grilled Chicken Salad: 200 calories; 6 g fat; 13 g carbs; 24 g protein
  • Cranberry, Apple, Walnut Grilled Chicken Salad: 300 calories; 11 g fat; 25 g carbs; 26 g protein

Fit Tip: Use Low Fat Balsamic Dressing on the salads; it’s only 35 calories per serving. Carl’s Jr. is on the health move, and they’ve teamed up with Kim Kardashian to launch their salad line. They also have a Trim It area on their Web site, which highlights a few healthier, lower-calorie choices, including the “Famous Star” burger trimmed to 240 calories from more than 600 calories. Watch out for some of the fancier hamburgers such as the Double Western Bacon Cheese Burger at 960 calories, and especially the Six Dollar Burgers, which range from 790 to 1,040 calories.

General Fit Tips:

  • Say no to mayo, tartar sauce, creamy dressings and extra cheese. Don’t be shy — ask questions about preparation.
  • Use mustard, ketchup, salt, pepper or vinegar as fat-free ways to season your food.
  • In salads, watch the nuts, croutons and other add-ons.
  • Chicken and fish can be good choices — but ONLY if they are grilled or broiled, NOT breaded or deep-fried.
  • Instead of cheese, opt for lettuce, tomato and onion. Removing just one slice of cheese can save you about 100 calories.
  • Order a salad or a broth-based soup to enjoy before your main meal. Either one will help to fill you up for very few calories so that you eat less of the fattening stuff.
  • Go to the Net. Almost every fast-food restaurant has nutrition information available online.
  • Watch the weight. Check the serving size and look at the grams to compare the weight with that of other foods you normally eat. If you get more for less, that’s a Calorie Bargain.
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