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How to Make Healthy Choices at Fast Food Joints

Updated on March 27, 2011

How can you blend convenience with healthiness?

It can be difficult to find healthy options at fast food restaurants, but it is becoming easier. With so much emphasis on health, obesity, and portion sizes in the news these days, fast food restaurants are quickly jumping (at least partially) on the healthy bandwagon by advertising options on their menues that are low-fat and healthier.

Although it is best to eat well-balanced nutritious meals, sometimes you need something as convenient as a fast food restaurant. Or, you might simply want to fulfill a craving. However you end up deciding on fast food, remember to make the healthiest choices you can.

Tips to Remember

  • Order Salads (but go easy on the dressing--it might do you in)
  • Order Grilled Sandwiches (skip the fried and breaded ones)
  • Watch Out for Condiments and Extras (ketchup, "special sauce," sour cream, cheese, "super-size")
  • Drink Ice Water, Juice, or Milk (skip the soda)
  • Choose Chicken (beef has more fat)
  • Have Fruit or Side Salads (instead of fries - but watch out for calorie laden dressings)
  • Downsize with the Kiddie Meal or junior size (sometimes it is the perfect portion)
  • Share (split the order of fries with a friend)
  • Ask for Different Sauces (mustard instead of mayo, salsa instead of three different cheeses)
  • Skip the Cheese (simply adding cheese to a burger can add over 100 calories to your meal)

Find Healthier Foods on a Budget!

Under $5:

Subway: Various 6" sub sandwiches (under 6 grams of fat)

Under $4:

Many fast food chains offer yummy salads

Under $2:

McDonalds: Grilled Chicken Sandwich (10 grams of fat, 230 calories)

Wendy's: Jr. Hamburger (9 grams of fat, 270 calories)

Some places, like Jack in the Box, offer sides of fruit for around 99¢.

Skip Dessert--sure, it might be on the dollar menu, but the costs and calories quickly add up.

Look for new menu items - many fast food joints are trying to provide healthier options.

For example, Taco Bell now has "diet" items on its menu. But don't just believe what these places say - most will provide nutritional information if you ask (and many places already post it on the menu) - so check out the facts for yourself.

Choose the Healthier Option:

What You're Eating
A Better Choice
What You Save
Beef'n Cheddar = 440 calories & 21 grams fat
Junio Roast Beef = 270 calories & 9 grams fat
170 calories & 12 grams fat
Burger King
Orginial Whopper = 700 calories & 39 grams fat
Hamburger = 310 calories & 12 grams fat
390 calories & 27 grams fat
Double Thickburger = 1240 calories & 90 grams fat
Thickburger = 850 calories & 57 grams fat
390 calories & 33 grams fat
Big Mac = 560 calories & 30 grams fat
Hamburger = 260 calories & 9 grams fat
300 calories & 21 grams fat
Big Bacon Classic = 580 calories & 29 grams fat
Jr. Hamburger = 280 calories & 9 grams fat
300 calories & 20 grams fat
SuperSonic Cheeseburger = 839 calories & 55 grams fat
Jr. Burger = 353 calories & 21 grams fat
486 calories & 34 grams fat
Five Guys Burgers & Fries
Bacon Cheeseburger = 920 calories & 62 grams fat
Little Hamburger = 480 calories & 26 grams fat
440 calories & 36 grams fat
In-N-Out Burger
Double-Double = 670 calories & 41 grams fat
Hamburger = 390 calories & 19 grams fat
280 calories & 22 grams fat

You can fit fast food into your healthy diet - just remember to eat it in moderation and to choose the healthiest menu items you can.

While you can find healthier options at fast food restaurants, it is important to remember that you should only eat fast food in moderation. If you choose fast food for lunch, opt for an even healthier dinner.

Just remember to skip the tortilla chips, or order a baked potato instead of a burger, the next time you hit the fast food joint.

Your heart, hips, and wallet will thank you.

Learn about fast food around the world by clicking here.


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wish I had the answer you want. truth is you've got to be prrpeead to stick at a new way of living permanently otherwise you will just join the thousands that yo-yo, losing a bit then sticking it back on.All the fad diets and exercise trends are short lived and so is the weight loss that comes with them. The truth is that our modern lifestyles just don't fit with our body programs. Our bodies like to conserve energy and store any excess as fat. it comes from the times when food was not so plentiful and we all had a lifestyle that burned calories.Now we eat processed food the manufacturers stuff the food with additives, sugar and fat to make it taste good and set up an addictive cycle getting you to crave more.Food is plentiful and eating is part of our social lifeWe drive everywhere and most of our work is not so physical.The result is we pile on excess pounds and find it difficult to lose itTry to change by choosing fresh food whenever possible. Cut down your portion sizes it helps to get a smaller plate. Reduce the amount of sugar you eat. Try to eat your biggest meal at lunch-time so that you don't go to bed and spend the night converting all those calories into fat. If you are feeling hungry between meals have a glass of water and wait a while. often we mistake thirst for hunger. If you still feel hungry after half an hour go for something healthy fruit is goodTake exercise regularly. Brisk walking is great, but you could take up the gym or swimming or join a sports club.Our bodies will try to find a way to carry out any exercise using the least calories. you can beat this by mixing it up. Try to alter the exercise you do each day and vary the intensity. Start off moderate then do a burst of really hard then go back to moderate. This will maximise the calories you burn and raise your metabolic rate so you go on burning after you stop exercising.The most important thing is to stick at it. you will look and feel great when you start losing weight

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I am not consuming enoguh calories then, i am losing too much weight at a time thanks for the tips though, that will help. Do you think you can help me with a diet/workout plan? I like your ideas, so far!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I must say a biiiig THANK U. Was searching for such info and they make a great list. Enjoyed bit of it.

    • joecseko profile image

      Joe Cseko jr 

      12 years ago from New York, USA, Earth

      Nice work here. I like the expose' theme that you're using. Obviously knowledge is one of the biggest things missing from many diets. I'll continue to visit between my hubs.

      Again, I commend you on a well organized and informative hub.

    • avatarlagi profile image


      12 years ago

      you did a great job now good article with intersting picture :) I wanna eat I am huinger ... I am from Indonesia I eat junkfood such mcdonall too

    • Angela Harris profile image

      Angela Harris 

      14 years ago from Around the USA

      Thanks for the useful information. I'm really trying to eat more healthily. But with teenagers and college kids in the house, it's very difficult. The next time they want to go to a burger joint, I can make more healthy choices, thanks to you.

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile imageAUTHOR

      Stacie Naczelnik 

      14 years ago from Seattle

      Hi Carol--I will have to check that book out. I used to make a veggie sloppy joe recipe that my younger cousins loved, but haven't made anything like that in a long time. Healthier fries that taste yummy sound great.

    • Carol Bancroft profile image

      Carol Bancroft 

      14 years ago

      Great article! I have the book "Fast Food Fix" by Devin Alexander, and I can't reccomend it highly enough. She "makes over" dozens of popular fast food sandwiches, fries, and treats to make them healthier. I've tried several of her recipes and the healthier versions are almost indistinguishable from the real versions (and actually, hers taste better, which probably doesn't come as a suprise!)

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile imageAUTHOR

      Stacie Naczelnik 

      14 years ago from Seattle

      I don't eat much fast food--basically french fries once in a long while. But my husband likes it, so if he really needs to fulfill a craving, he tries to compensate by having healthier foods for his other meals. He has also stopped ordering the "super size" and Large sized fries and soda.

    • alphabetsoup profile image


      14 years ago from Staten Island

      I LOVE SUBWAY, and I love this article! Sometimes if I'm really itchin for some junk food I'll get a JUNIOR bacon cheeseburger or a Kids Meal to satisfy my craving. Um, like the one I have right now

    • cgull8m profile image


      14 years ago from North Carolina

      Great Hub Stacie, I try to eat as much healthy food as possible. I exercise regularly so I have to keep an eye. I like to eat breakfast and dinner at home, only lunch I eat outside. The above suggestions are very healthy, sometime we go overboard just because it is on sale :)


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