With so much attention on food these days, many fast food restaurants are responding to consumer demand for healthier options. In addition to the usual greasy guilty pleasures, lighter fare such as salads, soups and deli sandwiches are becoming the norm rather than the exception in the world of fast food. Many restaurants are switching to using healthy fats like olive oil rather than the usual artery clogging peanut oil, and most offer grilled or fresh sandwich options rather than the usual fried fare. Here are some tips for eating healthy on the go.
Most people automatically equate salads with health food, but the presence of lettuce and carrots don't guarantee a low calorie lunch. Consumer groups have found that certain salads contain more calories and fat than a Big Mac [source: Hodge]. So how do you know which salads are the healthy options? First of all, look for leafy greens, such as romaine or arugula. These types of lettuce have more nutritional value than iceberg lettuce, which is mostly water. You'll also want to choose salads that have a variety of color which means a surplus of vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and peppers. Some fast food restaurants even use organic vegetables. Salad dressing is a huge source of calories and fat, so ask for low-fat options, or just use a little olive oil and vinegar. Skip the fried meats and opt for grilled chicken instead, and eschew cheese and nuts, which also pack the calories and fat grams. And when it comes to high carb toppers like croutons and pasta, remember that less is more.
It's a no brainer that grilled is preferable to fried when it comes to selecting a sandwich. Fast food burgers are typically high in saturated fats, calories and sodium, so it's always better to choose a leaner option such as grilled chicken. Some fast food restaurants offer deli style sandwiches, and you can look for ones that offer whole grain breads and a variety of veggies to dress your sandwich. Look for restaurants that advertise their use of hormone and antibiotic free meat as well as other organic ingredients. If you want to mix it up a little, fast food tacos can be healthy alternatives to a burger. Choose restaurants that offer soft taco shells and grilled meats, and load up on veggies and black beans. It's best to skip fattening sauces like sour cream and guacamole and ask for a little salsa instead.
Fries are to burgers like potato chips are to sandwiches. At least that's always been the norm in most fast food restaurants. But now some offer a side salad -- with low-fat dressing, naturally -- or even a piece of fresh fruit to complement your entrée. If your sandwich just isn't the same without a side of chips, look for restaurants that carry natural chip options that have three ingredients: potatoes, a healthy vegetable oil and salt. And if you have to have some French fries with your burger, resist the urge to supersize and go with a small fry.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- "Healthy Fast Food." Helpguide.org, 2009. http://helpguide.org/life/fast_food_nutrition.htm
- Hodge, Katie. "Shop salads have more fat than a Big Mac." The Independent, June 25, 2009. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/news/shop-salads-have-more-fat-than-a-big-mac-1718050.html
- "Iceberg: Bad for the Titanic and for Your Salad." Beinghealthy.tv, February 17, 2009. http://www.beinghealthy.tv/archives/iceberg_lettuce/
- Minkin, Tracy and Renaud, Brittani. "America's Top 10 Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants." Health Magazine, February 19, 2009. http://living.health.com/2009/02/19/americas-healthiest-fast-food-restaurants/