Health fast food doesn’t exactly go together, even if the menu suggests you’re making a “healthy” choice. For instance, a McDonald’s Fruit & Maple Oatmeal contains more sugar than a Snickers bar. That’s why it’s so important to read the labels and find out what’s in it. Unfortunately, most people don’t. A recent survey by Technomic, a food research team, found that even though 47% of Americans want restaurants to serve them healthier choices, less than one fourth actually order the healthy choices. Here are some fast food facts from Men’s Health modified by a few tips of my own to take a little of the junk out of fast food and improve your fast food nutrition.
CHOOSE MEATS WISELY
Turkey, roast beef, and ham trump processed foods like sausage or bacon. They not only lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes compared with processed foods like sausage and bacon, you’ll save up to 500 calories a week. To lower your risk of type 2 diabetes even more, substitute whole grains, low fat yogurt or nuts for one serving of meat.
KEEP IT SIMPLE, KEEP IT DRY
In general, the fewer ingredients, the fewer the calories. And if your order includes bread or a bun, ask for it dry. Many restaurants butter the buns which adds about 100 calories.
KEEP PIZZA CRUST THIN & TOPPINGS HEALTHY
Thin crust is definitely better than thick and if whole wheat is an option, go with that. It shouldn’t be a surprise that toppings like spinach, broccoli or onions are healthier than pepperoni—4 pepperoni pieces add about 100 calories and a lot more unhealthy fats.
MINIMIZE CONDIMENTS & AVOID THE “SECRET SAUCE”
A 1-tablespoon serving of red ketchup is only 20 calories but has 160 mg of sodium. But red ketchup and yellow mustard are much better than creamy mayo, and “secret sauces” which often add an additional 100 to 200 calories to a burger. Substituting salsa is a lower calorie approach, and it contains vitamins A and C from its tomato base as well as the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene.
FLAME IT, DON’T FRY IT
Whenever possible, get a grilled piece of chicken substituted for a fried piece. Some restaurants will do that for you even if it’s not on the menu.
You can eat most foods if you watch your portion size. A serving size of beef is 3 ounces. That’s about the size of a deck of cards. I often cut a portion in half and take half home for the next day. So whether it’s a huge steak or Chipotle’s Mexican Grilled Chicken Burrito which Men’s Health says contains 1,179 calories, taking home half the portion saves half the calories.
COFFEE’S HIDDEN CALORIES
It’s not the coffee (zero carbs, zero calories), it’s what goes in it. The sugar mountain or the added syrup whirled into your latte puts lots of calories in coffee. So substituting a plain old cuppa Joe for a white chocolate mocha with whipped cream adds 58 grams of carbs and 510 calories for a “medium” 16 oz. Switching to a cappuccino (especially if you use low-fat milk) will save you about 360 calories a cup. Or just consider an Americano—a few shots of espresso and hot water. If you skip the whipped cream you save 70 calories and 7 grams of fat.