We all have done it – actually 50 Million Americans eat fast food each day. Instead of choosing a salad at home or a meal prep dinner, we were so tired from work or an event that we drive right up to the fast food line. Of course we all know this is usually a poor health choice so how can you start making better food choices?
1. Identify the Problem
Honestly there is someone right now reading this blog and saying “fast food is not bad for me”. And while yes, you get salads and steer away from sweets, fast food is still overwhelmingly filled with high carbs, high fats, trans fats, sugar, and other processed ingredients. The first step to stop eating unhealthy fast food is to see it as unhealthy.
2. Look for certain “Buzzwords”
When you are in line, look for the words “braised broiled, steamed, or baked”. As you can see these menu items usually start with “b”. If you see certain words such as “mayo, dressing, creamy, sauce, etc” ask for it on the side or consider taking off of your meal all together.
According to registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “I have some clients who say they’ll only eat salad if they can use dressing. That can add a lot of calories, sodium, sugar, and saturated fat”. Skip the thousand island dressing for a lighter vinaigrette.
3. Consider Your Portions
Use this tool to learn more about what makes a portion. According to that link, portions have increased exponentially since 1985. Americans are consuming 300 more calories = about 1 pound gained every 2 weeks time or 25+ pounds in a year without any physical activity changes. Click here to learn what a serving size is for each food group and for examples of what is considered “okay”.
For example, by choosing a small fry order instead of a larger option, you quickly can save 400 calories! Or A double cheeseburger has 300+ more calories than a single. You can eat what you want if it is a smaller portion.
4. Know the “good foods”
When eating out, smart choices matter. Choose the low-fat, low calories foods and you are already making healthier choices. Here are some examples of healthy foods:
- 100% fruit juices
- Lowfat or Greek Yogurts
- Whole wheat or multigrain bagel without heavy cream cheese
- Lean turkey, roast beef, tuna, or chicken sandwich with lowfat or no cheese. Add as many tomatoes, pickles, peppers, lettuce/spinach, mustard, ketchup as you want. Skip the mayo, salt and pepper, oils, and double cheese.
- Plain hamburger or grilled chicken sandwich without mayo
- Baked potato with steamed broccoli – careful with the cheese, butter, and sour cream (use low fat options)
- Spinach or mixed green salad with grilled chicken strips, consider a low fat dressing and skip the croutons
- Bean burritos are usually safe options if you don’t order them “supreme (ie. extra cheese, sour cream, etc)”
- Soups are often low in calories but consider their sodium, especially if you have high blood pressure
- 2 slices of thin, veggie pizza is usually under 600 calories. Be careful of extra oil on top – just dab it off with a napkin and potentially save 100+ calories that easy!
- Fresh or steamed veggies are never wrong
- Fruits can have a lot of natural sugar but have nutritional benefits, indulge in sweet flavors to reduce cravings for pie, cake, etc
- Skip soda and opt for
- Fruit infused water
- Low-fat milk
- Low fat yogurt smoothies
Overall, it can be hard to curve our appetite and stop eating unhealthy fast food. I definitely eat at Chipotle way more than I care to admit. What is your favorite fast food place? Comment below & read on for more healthy food tips.