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Healthy fast food options

Diana De Cicco is a food editor and writer based in New York City. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies. Her passions are eating, traveling, and eating while traveling.

Smart choices for fast food

Sometimes when you are in a rush, fast food is the only option. Eating healthy at a fast food joint isn't impossible, but it does take some food-choosing smarts. Here are some healthy tips to follow the next time you need food fast.

Drive Through Window
Eating out can be a diet disaster, but it doesn't have to be (read Top 3 pitfalls of eating out and how to avoid them). Even the drive-thru lends some healthy options.

Dunkin Donuts

Go plain. An old-fashioned plain doughnut has 300 calories. A corn muffin has 510.

McDonalds

Lower the carbs. An Egg McMuffin has 300 calories with healthy protein from the egg and Canadian bacon. To trim extra calories and carbohydrates, remove top of muffin and replace it with a fresh orange slice.

Swap and downsize. Instead of ordering chicken nuggets with ranch sauce and large fries, ordering barbeque sauce and medium fries can knock off 345 calories from your meal.Ditch the high-fat dressing. Order low-fat vinaigrette dressing with a salad instead of a creamy dressing.

Burger King

Kids' meals. Instead of ordering a Whopper, order a hamburger from the kids' menu. Do you ever really need a Whopper?

Order chicken instead of beef. Instead of a hamburger, order a grilled chicken sandwich sans sauce or mayonnaise. Ask for extra lettuce and tomato with no sauce or mayonnaise.

Wendys

Reload the potato. Instead of a loaded baked potato with bacon, cheese, sour cream, and butter, save 16 grams of fat by loading your potato with low-fat sour cream, chili, and broccoli. Your pared down potato will have a satisfying 370 calories and 13 fewer grams of fat.

Kentucky Fried Chicken

Go with the original. Instead of extra crispy chicken, order original recipe.

Have a cluck sandwich. The honey barbecue chicken sandwich only has 300 calories and 6 grams of fat.Order healthy sides. The best sides are mashed potatoes without gravy, green beans, and corn on the cob.

Taco Bell

Go soft. Substitute crispy shells for soft shells.

Top with low-calorie salsa. Load up on salsa instead of cheese and sour cream.

Subway

Order Jared style. Order any sandwich from the "6 grams of fat or less" selections on a whole-wheat roll. You can also order from the Fresh Fit Choices menu.

Cut the cheese. Order your sandwich without cheese and save yourself at least 100 calories.Baked not fried. Order baked chips if you need something crunchy.

Chinese

Get steamed. Order steamed vegetable dumplings and brown rice instead of noodles or white rice.

Sans sauce. Order steamed vegetables and shrimp in no sauce. You can dip them in low-sodium soy sauce.

Pizza

Thin is in. Thin crust pizza loaded with vegetables and grilled chicken is a smart choice.

Safe starters. Order minestrone soup or salad with low-fat dressing to supplement your meal. If you start your meal with soup or salad, you will likely eat less pizza and consume fewer total calories.

Italian

Lighten up. Instead of chicken Parmesan with spaghetti, order grilled chicken on a bed of whole-wheat pasta with a light tomato sauce.

Know the language. "Primavera" means packed with vegetables. Just don't order primavera dishes swimming in cream sauce. Go plain and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese or order with a tomato sauce.Broiled or grilled. For the most part, broiled or grilled dishes are cooked without a lot of extra fat. Order a meat, fish, or vegetable dish that is not fried.

Japanese

Healthy substitutes. Substitute one item with miso soup or steamed edamame.

Cut the fat. Avoid tempura, which means the dish is fried, and any other dish that comes with creamy dressings.Healthy choices. Choose sushi with tuna, salmon, avocado, and vegetables.

Indian

Sideline samosas. Replace fried samosas with a cup of spicy lentil soup.

Naan is the word. Dip unstuffed naan in chutney or yogurt sauce. Better yet, order light pappadams.Try the tikka. Order chicken tikka, which is grilled chicken without cream sauce.

Mexican

Fiber up. Order vegetarian refried beans or plain black beans.

Heart-healthy guac. Ask for extra guacamole instead of sour cream.Soften up. Choose a taco salad on a soft shell taco instead of a hard shell.Ask for extra. Add extra vegetables and salsa to your dish to round out your meal with fewer calories.For more information, read Fast food: The fat facts. And before you head to the drive-thru, be sure to check the restaurant's Web site for nutritional information or request it at the counter.

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