By Brandi Koskie and Jenn Walters - DietsInReview.com
When you do find yourself in front of that backlit menu at a fast-food restaurant, ease the calorie burden, and maybe even the post-meal guilt, by making the healthiest choice possible. It's so easy to default to the number-one-with-cheese-and-fries and call it a day, but it probably isn't the best thing for you. If you really are watching what you eat, we want to point you in the right direction.
We've scoured fast food restaurant menus to find the healthiest offerings they have. In some cases, like Subway, the list could have been endless. In other cases, like Burger King, we did our best to suggest something. Our criteria was pretty simple, based on recommendations from dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield: Each meal couldn't exceed 500 calories and 500 milligrams of sodium.
Here are the results our team gathered.
(To see more options than what we've listed, click on each restaurant's name.)
Order the hamburger and a side salad. This combo has just more than 500 milligrams of sodium and only 270 calories. You get at least one serving of veggies, some carbs and 12 grams of protein to help fill you up. The dressings will push you way over on calories and sodium, so eat it dry, or add it to your burger with some mustard.
Order the sour cream and chives baked potato with 5-piece Crispy Chicken Nuggets. This is a very satisfying meal with slightly more than 500 calories and 480 milligrams of sodium. Remember dipping sauces are loaded with sodium and they'll push you over that mark. For 90 calories and zero sodium you can get one container of plain honey.
Order the Fresco Crunchy Taco to go, and pair with a side of your own fresh fruit or veggies. With just 150 calories and 350 milligrams of sodium, it's a pretty good lunch. For zero calories and 35 milligrams of sodium you can add the Border Mild Sauce.
Order two Grilled Chicken Drumsticks for 160 calories and 460 milligrams of sodium, and a side salad without dressing for an additional 15 calories and 10 milligrams of sodium.
Order the Oven Roasted Chicken Breast Salad with the Dannon Light & Fit yogurt. Loaded with veggies like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and olives, this will only set you back 130 calories and 270 milligrams of sodium. Drizzle your own balsamic vinaigrette on top to keep cals and sodium to a minimum.
Order a fajita vegetable burrito - and share it! You really only need half of it anyway, and splitting this big 'ole burrito gives you 280 calories and 500 milligrams of sodium, and that includes the sour cream and rice!
Order the half tuna salad on honey wheat with an apple, the only sandwich on their menu that (barely) meets our sodium criteria. This satisfying meal has 320 calories and 490 milligrams of sodium.
Long John Silver's
Order the two Grilled Pacific Salmon Fillets, with a corn cobbette, for 300 calories and 440 milligrams of sodium. It's an incredibly satisfying meal that tastes fresher than their batter-dipped options and is far more heart-healthy.
Order the Roast Chicken Sandwich and a Chopped Side Salad - and split it! Your half of this shared meal will have 270 calories and 485 milligrams of sodium. This was one of the restaurants that made it tough to find something to fit our criteria.
Order the Chargrilled chicken sandwich (and split it), a fruit salad, and use a half packet of the fat-free honey mustard dressing. This is a great option at 140 calories and 430 milligrams of sodium, from a restaurant often praised for the quality ingredients it uses.
When in doubt, a typical fast-food-made-better cheat sheet looks like this:
- Order whole grain bread options when available.
- Skip the cheese.
- Order sandwiches/burgers dry without mayo, and get mustard on the side.
- Skip the fries and order whatever vegetable or fruit option is available.
- Order a water instead of a soda.
- Skip the fried option when grilled is available.
- Order your sandwich/burger/taco/pizza loaded with extra veggies.
We certainly hope this makes it a little easier to order at your favorite fast food place. Or at least show you how difficult is to find anything on those menus that isn't loaded with calories, sodium, or both.
Read more about eating well in restaurants:
The Best and Worst Starbucks Drinks for Your Diet
How Fast-Food Buzzwords Fool Customers
Recipe: McDonald's Big Mac by Biggest Loser cookbook author Devin Alexander