Healthy Thursday: Fast Food Health


Eating Healthy with Fast Food

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Health and fast food used in the same sentence? Impossible you say? Nonsense! Just be aware of a few hints, tips and tricks to use at the local fast food restaurant.

If you’re at a burger joint, it’s still possible to eat healthy. Want options? Order a burger with a side salad and a coffee. You’re getting your meat-fix and having a healthy side. Get your calcium and order some cheese on that burger. Go all the way and ask for double lettuce and double tomato (of course foregoing mayo). Have a different craving? Some fast food restaurants have baked potatoes. Ask for a plain baked potato with nothing on it and a small chili with no cheese. Smother the potato with the chili for a fiber-filled, low-fat lunch. Add a side salad with light or fat-free dressing.

How about a Submarine Sandwich shop? It’s still possible to order healthy. Order a sandwich on whole wheat for that whole fiber and ask for double veggies with a little Olive Oil for good, healthy omega-3 fats and low-fat cheese for calcium. Need your protein? Get the low-fat turkey or chicken. Many have low-carb wraps in a variety of flavors. My favorite is a Spinach Chicken Caesar wrap with about a pound of lettuce and tomato!

If you do order those fried fries, you can ask for them to be fried in the healthier oil and no salt! Sodium is a big health hazard for heart disease and diabetes. You can also ask them to ’dab’ the extra oil and fat off. A better side would be a fresh, crispy salad with extra cucumbers and tomatoes.

Remember soda is a huge source of hidden calories – According to The Center for Science in the Public Interest; soft drinks are the single biggest source of calories in the American diet. One 32-oz big gulp with non-diet cola packs about 425 calories, so one Big Gulp can quickly gulp up a big portion of your daily calorie intake. Try switching to water with lemon or unsweetened iced tea.

Still concerned about fat grams, calorie counts and nutritional information? Many fast food restaurants post the nutritional information on their websites or offer them in handouts in their restaurants. So it is possible to plan your meal(s) ahead of time.

Other hints and tips include making careful menu selections – pay attention to the descriptions on the menu. Dishes labeled deep-fried, pan-fried, basted, batter-dipped, breaded, creamy, crispy, scalloped, Alfredo, au gratin or in cream sauce are usually high in calories, unhealthy fats or sodium.

Watch portion size – share or bring a portion home. At a typical restaurant, a single serving provides enough for two meals. To overcome this obstacle, take half home or divide the portion with a dining partner. Sharing might make dessert (or something else indulgent) more of an option.

I’ve said this before: Eat mindfully. Mindful eating means paying attention to what you eat and savoring each bite. Being mindful also means noticing when you are almost full and laying down your fork. Mindful eating relaxes you so you digest better and makes you feel more satisfied

Have a breakfast meeting or taking the family to the zoo? Choose an omelet filled with vegetables and order a side of whole-wheat toast instead of a stack of pancakes and syrup. My favorite is a mushroom omelet or scrambled eggs tossed with low-fat cheese. A bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit is very filling and good for you. If you want something sweet, choose a bran muffin, which is a good source of fiber. Or opt for whole-grain toast with just a little jam or jelly. As a last resort, choose a hot breakfast sandwich or small breakfast burrito over donuts and sweet-rolls.

I originally wrote this for Edge Boston in 2009.

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