Most people eat fast food at some point in life. While it would be great to be able to avoid it completely, eating on the run is something I like to have a strategy for instead of forbidding it.
Are there choices that make more sense for someone who is trying to be healthier? Yes!
Instead of calling them “swaps,” or referring to “eat this, not that,” take on some new behaviors, such as the following:
Jill Koegel is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer based in Omaha. She blogs every Wednesday. Read more from Jill.
Pay no attention to “value” meals.
Instead of ordering a combo meal, order a la carte. It is a much better value to order smaller meals, finish them and have room left in your stomach. Value doesn't mean stuffing yourself silly.
Remember it is about waist, not waste.
Toss some of your meal. Don't finish it! Before you start eating, throw out some of your fries or half of your bun. Then you won't have to think about it or look at it, or let it tempt you. Save your waist by wasting a little!
Order a non-fried food and eat it first.
Better yet, order nothing fried. Choose the grilled fish sandwich without sauce. Add salsa, a little teriyaki, or ketchup if you need moisture. If you are at a burger joint, a grilled chicken sandwich is almost always available, along with salads that can taste great and be healthy, if you leave off the heavy cheeses, croutons, and fattening dressing.
Order light versions of dressings, and stay away from cheese and mayonnaise.
Have your own side item with you, or realize that the entrée is likely enough to fill you until your next snack.
No need for the fries! Did you try the free Satisfries at Burger King over the weekend? Don't go after the free stuff, just because it's free!
Realize that the restaurant may be trying to drum up more fry-eaters. If you don't eat fries now, don't start just because they are a lighter version!
Don't order a drink, unless it's calorie-free.
The best option is to drink water. You can bring a powdered mix to make it more interesting, such as the Lipton green tea packets. My favorite is the strawberry acai flavor.
Though you will rarely see me at a fast food restaurant, here are some of my go-to healthy drive-thru meals:
Sub: Jimmy John's Turkey Tom with no cheese or mayo, and added hot peppers. For the carb conscious, you can order it breadless as an “unwich.”
Breakfast: McDonald's Egg White Delight McMuffin. I have argued with myself on this one for the 800 mg sodium. However, it is a lower fat option with 18 grams of protein. It's pretty satisfying, too. Order it without cheese to save yourself about 230 mg of sodium, 4 grams of fat and 55 calories.
Chicken Sandwich: Runza's Deluxe Grilled Chicken Sandwich with the honey mustard or barbecue sauce on the side.
Beverage: Starbucks Iced Americano with a little skim milk. I always carry a packet of Truvia, a brand of the sweetener, Stevia, but Splenda is a decent choice, too.
Mexican food: OK, it's not a drive through, but Chipotle is one of my favorite quick choices. The barbacoa salad with half a serving of brown rice, added black beans and salsa is a fresh, healthy option. Or, you can always go “fresco style” for tacos at Taco Bell, which replaces the cheese with pico de gallo.
Chinese food: Though I'd rather skip the Chinese food, my family likes it. So, Chicken and Mushrooms at JJ China near 182nd Street and West Center Road is my personal favorite. I don't know the nutritional information on this one, but for Chinese food, it is fresh, the chicken is lean and it has lots of veggies and a clear sauce. If you can limit or avoid the rice, egg roll and crab rangoon, you are doing great!
Dessert: While I'd rather have frozen yogurt that I can portion out myself, McDonald's has a great ice cream cone with only 170 calories and 4.5 grams of fat. Not bad for a yummy treat.
Try to change your mindset by including positive behaviors, instead of swapping or saying “no” to old favorites. Think about the above strategies as new behaviors to make your lifestyle healthier!