Healthy Fast Food

Fast food meal options are very customizable and can be very nutritious, too. 

Healthy Food

By: Kristen Castillo

Eating healthy at fast food restaurants is easier than ever. The idea that fast food is just greasy and fried is changing. Nowadays most fast food eateries offer healthy fare including salads, wraps, soups and sandwiches – all of which can help support weight loss. Even foods you might not consider healthy, like pizza and tacos, can be very good for you.

Fast food meal options are very customizable (great when you want to lose weight!) and can be very nutritious, too. But here’s the thing: You need to make sure your order is healthy, and even then, you have to eat even nutritious items in moderation. That means if the serving size is one six-inch sandwich, then you can’t eat two sandwiches. If you do, the nutritional profile of calories, fat, protein and carbs will double.

Getting a good-for-you, fast food breakfast is possible! Forget the pancake platters, and choose nutritious options like oatmeal, yogurt or egg wrap entrées. Consider breakfast tacos, too. Can you include a side of fruit as part of your breakfast?  Great!

Salad and Soup
Most quick-serve restaurants have a variety of nutritious and yummy salads on the menu. Examples include BBQ chicken salad, cranberry salad, and avocado salad.

Don’t overdo the salad dressing or extras like croutons. If you do, you’ll add lots of extra fat and calories to your otherwise healthy meal.

When ordering soup, choose a cup. The smaller portion is satisfying and leaves more room and calories for other foods like a salad or half a sandwich. Opt for broth based soups, too, since creamy soups like chowders and bisques are often made with whole milk or cream, which make them more calorically dense.

Enjoying a healthy, fast food burger is doable. Portion size matters, and so do the ingredients. Veggie and turkey burgers can be great choices. Order a wheat bun and request low-fat cheese or no cheese.

Deli Sandwich
Sandwiches are a lunchtime staple and popular for dinner, too. Start your sammie with a whole-wheat bun or roll. If it’s not listed on the menu, ask the restaurant if they can substitute whole wheat for the white bun.

If you have the choice to build your sandwich, choose lean proteins and low-fat cheese and add in lots of fresh veggies like lettuce, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and cucumbers.

Choose healthy, low-cal condiments like mustard or ketchup, compared to mayonnaise, which is high in calories and fat.

Pizza, Tacos and Other Quick Options
If you’re in the mood for pizza, don’t worry – a slice or two can fit into your healthy diet. Just don’t overindulge, and try to avoid more calorically dense pizza toppings like pepperoni or sausage. Instead, choose veggie toppings, and ask for whole wheat dough whenever available.

Mexican fast food—like tacos, burritos and chicken bowls—can be healthy, too. Stick to the portion sizes, and be cautious about adding extras like sour cream, and rich sauces, like cheese sauce. If you want to spice up the meal, use low-cal condiments like hot sauce or a squeeze of lime.

Typically, fast food meals include a side. Skip the fries and onion rings, and choose something healthier; fresh fruit, cut veggies, low-fat cottage cheese and low-fat yogurt are great choices.

Moderation is important when it comes to sweets. Many healthy treats are available at fast food outlets. Consider smoothies, yogurt parfaits and fruit cups. Split the sweet with a friend to save some calories and fat. That way your dessert will be even healthier for you!