By Lynette Hingle
Although fast food is not an optimal heart-healthy diet choice, there are times when fast food is the only available meal option. However, do not let these occasions throw you off of your heart-healthy diet track. Familiarize yourself with heart-healthy fast-food choices, and select menu items that complement heart-healthy diet standards.
Choose green salads with grilled shrimp or chicken. Although fresh salads are appropriate heart-healthy diet choices, don't ruin them with the wrong condiments or dressings. Choose low-fat, fat-free or light dressings, and stay away from bacon bits, cheese, fried chips, croutons, sour cream or rice noodles.
Choose grilled, baked or broiled chicken. While chicken may be a healthier choice than beef, fast-food establishments may use hydrogenated oils to fry their chicken, which fills the fried chicken sandwiches and chicken nuggets with anti-heart healthy trans fats. Do not add cheese, special sauce or mayonnaise to chicken sandwiches. Instead, add tomato, onion and lettuce, mustard and ketchup to your sandwich. If fried chicken is the only option available, select the smallest portion, and pair it with a side green salad.
Select the smallest beef patty size when you order a hamburger. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the patty should be between 3 and 4 oz. in weight. Therefore, choose a single junior-sized or child-sized sandwich if the available options are larger than the recommended size. Again, do not add mayonnaise, cheese or special sauce to your burger, and opt for fresh vegetable toppings with ketchup and mustard.
Order fish sandwiches as a last resort. Most fast-food chains only offer fried fish options, which are high in trans fats. Dr. Melissa Stevens, a registered dietitian, states that you should eat only half of a fast-food fried fish sandwich and pair it with a baked potato or side salad. Order the sandwich without cheese or tartar sauce. Ask for tartar sauce on the side if desired, but only eat half of it.
Ask for reduced sodium deli meats when you visit fast food establishments that sell sub sandwiches. Although sub sandwiches aren't fried, the meats may have a high salt content, which is anti-heart healthy. Also, ask for half the usual meat portion on your sandwich to cut down on excess calories. Top your sub with an array of fresh vegetables, salt-free seasonings and vinegar.
Select heart-healthy side items such as plain baked potatoes, steamed vegetables, side salads and salsa. Avoid fried side or appetizer items such as fried vegetables, French fries, mozzarella sticks or cinnamon sticks.
Select water, tea, diet soda, low-fat milk or 100 percent juice to accompany your meals. Avoid high-calorie beverages such as sodas, fruit drinks, hot chocolate and cappuccino.
Heart-healthy fast food was originally published on LIVESTRONG.COM.
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By Lynette Hingle