Is there such a thing as healthy fast food? Actually, yes! While going to McDonald’s or Burger King and ordering a regular-sized value meal instead of a large one just isn’t going to cut it, if you follow these 5 rules for eating fast food, you can keep the calories at bay and the cholesterol out of our your veins.
Rule 1: Fast food doesn’t have to be fat food. This is the most important rule. When you need something quick, don’t forget that there’s more to fast food than burgers and fries. You can go to Subway and get a sandwich on whole wheat bread full of fresh vegetables, or you can go to Taco Bell and get an item from their Fresco Menu. UFood Grill, a healthy fast food chain, makes choices across the board to keep down the calorie count of their entire menu, offering low-fat cheeses, lights dressings, and whole-grain breads. And even places like Pizza Hut and Wendy’s have salads.
Rule 2: Do your fast food nutrition homework. Some states and cities, like California and New York City, have laws that require restaurants to post the nutritional information of the food they offer. Other fast food chains voluntarily offer this information on their websites, though some places (like McDonald’s) are more thorough than others (like Quizno’s). Check websites if you can to familiarize yourself ahead of time with what options are a good idea. And speaking of which…
Rule 3: Decide what you want ahead of time. If you’ve committed to buying a healthy option before you pull up at the drive though window, it’ll help control the temptation to let your whims dictate your decisions. And if you’ve decided that the salad is a good idea…
Rule 4: Handle salads with caution. If your salad comes loaded with meat, thick dressing, and cheese, it’s no better than the filling inside a high-calorie sandwich. Ask for no dressing, or get the dressing on the side. Ditto for the cheese. Ditto for the meat, and if you can, make that meat grilled chicken (and not fried). If you can assemble the salad yourself or create one at an in-restaurant salad bar, you’ll be in charge of how much fat and calories go into the final meal. It’s awfully hard to pick out big glops of ranch dressing someone else has put into your greens, after all.
Rule 5: Don’t get a drink with that. Many fast food chains only offer soda and milkshakes for drinks, which have a ton of sugar your body definitely doesn’t need. Other places offer juices, which might sound more healthy, but don’t be fooled. Many juices and smoothies, while offering vitamin A and C, also offer loads of dissolved sugar. So when it doubt, leave it out. Carry a reusable water bottle with you or keep one filled and in your car. Water is always a healthy choice.
You can incorporate fast food into a balanced diet. Though Morgan Spurlock might not have done this successfully, he didn’t make very good choices. (Okay, Don Gorske—who has eaten Big Macs almost every day for 36 years—maybe hasn’t made good choices either, but his health is probably an exception!)