We all know that fast food may be a hidden source of fat and excess sugar. And we probably all go to a fast food drive-through once in a while – right? While it may not be the best nutritious choice, you can make the choice a little bit safer and a little bit better if you AVOID certain choices and INCLUDE other choices. We’ve got quick tips on fast food – hot and ready to go!


Fast food is a billion dollar industry – so chances are you are one of the many customers who patronize these establishments.

Obesity. It’s no surprise that our tendency to eat fast food contributes to our waistlines. Nearly one in every two U.S. citizens is overweight or obese. We could be spending $957 billion on obesity-related issues by 2030.
  • Money. We spend about $110 billion annually on burgers and subs. That’s more than we spend on movies, books, music and newspapers combined.
  • Meat. We like meat. In 50 years we’ve gone from eating about 138 pounds per person per year to more than 195 pounds each, with most of the meaty boost coming from a spike in chicken and turkey consumption.
  • Big. Super-sizing does exactly what the name says it does. It super-sizes the calories and fat in a meal – to the tune of an EXTRA 630 calories for a total of about 1,350 calories for a burger meal.
  • Beverages. The ultimate in empty calories is the extra-large cola or fruit drink. A 40-ounce root beer, orange drink or cola can set you back 400 calories or more. That’s as much as the sandwich or sub you just ordered!

We know that you’re not going to quick fast food cold turkey (gobble gobble), but if you can avoid the big no-no’s, you can make a dent in your calorie, salt, fat and sugar intake. Here’s what you should avoid so you can plan your visits and make smarter choices.
  • Super-sizing. When a restaurant offers three sizes – pick the smallest - or even the children’s size.
  • Sweetened beverages are empty calories. Order water!
  • Any sandwich with more than one patty.
  • Deep fat fried and breaded food. Choose the grilled chicken sandwich instead. Another example: White Castle chicken rings are 790 calories, 640 of them from fat. If you simply must have something crunchy and fried, go for White Castle’s small onion rings at 210 calories, 120 from fat.
  • Dressings and mayo. The Chipotle jack cheese, mayonnaise, and guacamole may make that Quizno’s tuna mayo sandwich taste like a dream, but the calorie count -- nearly 1,900 -- is enough calories for three meals.  Instead, choose a regular-sized Quizno’s turkey breast on wheat, with mozzarella and fat-free balsamic for a more manageable 510 calories. Or, if you’re eating a salad, order the dressing on the side.

If you have one or two places that you like to go to on a regular basis, plan ahead and visit their websites. They often have nutrition information so you can make the smartest choice.

Not every smart choice is obvious. For example, if you were to add a topping on your sub sandwich, which one would you choose: a piece of Swiss cheese, bacon or mayo? Surprisingly, bacon would be your best choice. Two strips have 40 calories, while two rectangles of cheese have 50 calories, and a tablespoon of mayo has 110 calories.

No matter where you eat, you can make these smart choices:
  • Choose a healthy side. Go for the side salad, yogurt or fresh fruit.
  • Order off the children’s menu. The portions are usually filling enough for an adult and you’ll be saving calories.
  • Eat green. Most places have a selection of salads, although they aren’t always healthy. Watch the toppings and ask for the dressing on the side.
  • Skip the soda.
  • Skip the desert and ice-cream options.
  • Choose brown rice instead of white. There are a lot of variables here, but in general, brown rice is the better option. Brown rice has more fiber and it is also linked to a reduced risk for diabetes.

    One of the organizations that has nutritional information on their website is a group called FastFoodNutrition.org. They have an annual contest in which they choose the tastiest fast food menu items. This year’s winners are:
    • Wendy’s Asian Cashew Chicken Salad. Crisp mixed greens with fire-roasted edamame, spicy roasted cashews and warm grilled chicken, topped with a Light Spicy Asian Chili Vinaigrette. 380 calories (including toppings and dressing).
    • Chipotle Steak Burrito Bowl. With 300 fewer calories than a burrito, the Steak Burrito Bowl features grilled steak marinated in smoky chipotle adobo sauce and your choice of beans, rice and other toppings. 190 calories (before optional toppings).
    • Subway Oven Roasted Chicken Salad. A chopped salad with tender oven roasted chicken breast and your choice of vegetables. 140 calories (before optional toppings and dressing).



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