Healthy slice of pizza

When fast food's the only option

It happens to all of us. We plan to eat healthy, but scheduling conflicts throw off our best intentions. What can you do when fast food is the only food option? I’ll tell you what nutritionists like myself eat when we’re in the same predicament.

Rules for healthy road food

  • Skip the mayo and substitute mustard, if possible. Remember that mayo lurks in tuna and chicken salad, so that’s generally not your best choice.
  • Serving size makes all the difference, so order the half sandwich or the smallest size available. Sometimes I order from the kids menu!
  • Watch out for spreads and special sauces — they are often full of fat-laden ingredients. Keep your condiments simple — tomato, lettuce, mustard, etc.
  • When you’re talking pizza, order thin crust and lots of veggies, and go light on high-fat toppings like sausage and extra cheese.
  • Beware of little salad dressing packets. One packet is typically a quarter-cup of dressing — use half.
  • Here’s a good guideline: when you read "crunchy," assume it’s fried. And assume it’s fried unless it says grilled.

Sane swaps

Burger King

Substitute the Whopper Jr. for the Whopper, and hold the mayo.

Wendy’s

Go for the ultimate chicken grill (hold the mayo) over the homestyle chicken filet sandwich. Here "homestyle" doesn’t mean healthy; it means fried.

Chipotle

Chipotle is healthy, but the servings are huge. One burrito is enough for a couple of meals. Dine here with the idea of sharing. Or order your burrito fixings in a bowl and forgo the tortilla entirely. You’ll still have leftovers.

Panera

Panera is one of my favorites in a pinch. I order a half roasted turkey and avocado BLT (minus the bacon) on sourdough with a half bowl of low-fat vegetarian black bean soup. Or skip the soup and go for the fresh fruit cup, or order the sandwich on a whole-grain roll. Either way, this swap is a much better choice than the roasted turkey artichoke panini on asiago focaccia (the artichoke’s in a spread).

Subway

Fish is healthier — right? The trouble is that mayo is holding the 6-inch tuna sub together. A saner swap is the 6-inch roast beef sub on wheat bread. Better yet, go for the veggie delight on whole-wheat bread.

Taco Bell

Remember the code for crunchy? Fried. Skip the crunchy taco supreme and upgrade to the fresco chicken soft taco. A soft taco with all the fixings is lower in fat and calories than its crunchy counterpart.

McDonald’s

Bye-bye, Big Mac. The McDouble is a far better choice. Again, blame it on the mayo, the main ingredient in the secret sauce, along with that unnecessary in-between bread layer.

KFC

One more time: grilled beats fried every time, especially here, where the "F" rules. So rather than the Original Recipe fried chicken breast, try the Kentucky grilled chicken breast.

Panda Express

Start your meal with some hot and sour soup. It’s satisfying and will help fill you up. Beware of high-fat dishes like orange chicken. Instead, the string bean chicken breast delivers less fat and more veggies for a healthier meal.

Pizza Hut

I gave you some pointers for pizza in the Rules section above, but here’s a meatier example that still lets you cut the calories and fat in half. Order two slices of the 12-inch medium thin ’n crispy pepperoni and mushroom instead of two slices of the meat lover’s 12-inch medium pan pizza. Have your meat and eat it too! Just don’t order a pie piled high with pepperoni, ham, beef, bacon, and sausage.

The French Twist: 12 Secrets to Decadent Dining and Natural Weight ManagemenRead more in my book, The French Twist: 12 Secrets of Decadent Dining and Natural Weight Management.

More on fast food

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Healthier fast food menu choices

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