A Healthy Fast Food Meal

by Charles Platkin, PhD

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of is that old saying, “a minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.” I’ve been traveling all summer and will continue on the road for another twelve weeks, and to tell you the truth, I was a bit concerned about what I was going to eat while I’m driving around the country. I always thought that with all the fast restaurants out there, and so many people looking for healthier foods, there had to be something — anything — at these restaurants that would be both satisfying and low in calories and fat.

Unfortunately, as I started doing some research, I realized that’s just not the case. However, I did find something that comes close.

Many of the major fast food chains have recently been promoting grilled chicken sandwiches. While they might have the appearance of being low in calories and fat, their serving style leaves much to be desired. So what to do? Well, you could try these grilled chicken sandwiches without the bun and the condiments.

In fact, Burger King’s Chicken Whopper (4.7 oz. of chicken) is flame-broiled, and if you have it without a bun — simply plain — it’s only 160 calories, and 4 g of fat. Wendy’s grilled chicken sandwich has a bit less salt, and just the fillet (plain, no bun) is only 110 calories (it’s smaller than the Whopper). And finally, the McDonald’s Chicken McGrill (3.08 oz. of chicken): just the chicken (plain, no bun) is only 121 calories, and 3 g of fat.

Just to give you an idea of how many calories you’re saving, a regular Chicken Whopper has 580 calories, and 26 g of fat. If you hold the mayo, it has 420 calories, and 9 g of fat. Wow! All you have to do is use a knife and fork instead of your hands, and it’s easy to save a lot of calories.

Fast food has become integrated in our lives, and telling everyone to simply avoid it is not practical. Here are some tips I’ve come up to help you eat better on the run:

  • WHAT’S INSIDE: Review the nutrition information available at fast food restaurants before you order. Look for the big posters near the cash registers.
  • AVOID ENLARGING YOUR ORDER: Don’t super size!
  • WATCH YOUR TOP: Order items plain, without toppings. This means eliminating condiments such as relishes, special sauces, dressings, and garnishes because they’re high in fat, sodium, and calories. Instead of cheese, opt for lettuce, tomato and onion; taking off one slice of cheese will subtract about 100 calories. Little things matter a lot.
  • MAYO MADNESS: Substitute mustard for mayonnaise. True mustard is fat free and contains only a few calories.
  • MAKE IT SPECIAL: Don’t be afraid to “special order” any and all of your food. I’ve never had one problem asking them to specially modify my order. Burger King even uses this as a selling point.
  • KEEP IT THIN: Go for thin-crust pizza with vegetable toppings, instead of meat, extra cheese, and thick or stuffed crusts. Avoid Personal Pan pizzas; the thick, oily crust equals added fat and calories.
  • THE FRENCH DON’T EAT FRIES: Don’t order the fries (meaning avoid the value meals as well). As tasty as the greasy things are, fries harbor more fat grams than burgers. Try another side, such as a baked potato or bowl of chili if you’re at Wendy’s.
  • HEALTHIER FRIED CHICKEN: Peel off the skin of crispy fried chicken; you can cut the calories by more than half.
  • WHO NEEDS TABLE MANNERS: Cut down on the fat by blotting your fries, pizza slice, or hamburger meat with a napkin before you eat it.
  • COOK IT RIGHT: Think about how your food will be cooked. Chicken and fish can be good choices, but ONLY if they are grilled or broiled, NOT breaded or deep-fried.
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