Healthy Fast Food Choices: Eating on a Budget and on a Diet

Page content

Cheap and Convenient

Try as we might, there will be occasions we’ll find ourselves stepping through the double doors right into the brightly lit interior of a fast food restaurant. The main culprits of alluring you are probably the cost and convenience. With value meals, meal deals and many items under a dollar, fast food is an appealing option for those of us on a budget.

Wherever you may be, chances are you won’t be far from a fast food restaurant. Fast food is now served almost everywhere including restaurants, drive-throughs, universities, schools, zoos, airports, train stations and stadiums, making the cheap and quick temptation difficult to resist. This article will focus on making healthy choices when eating at fast food restaurants so that you can eat healthy on a budget.

Healthy Fast Food, an Oxymoron?

Usually a meal at a fast food restaurant is often laden with enough calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar (if you add soda) for an entire day. Although healthy fast food does sound like a contradiction in terms, it is possible to make healthy choices at fast food restaurants. Sure we like our burgers and fries, but the nutritional and fat content varies greatly between different chains. The most nutritious common fast food menu items from the major fast food restaurants are discussed below, making your menu selection a little bit easier

Hamburger: A regular White Castle hamburger has the smallest serving size at 58g, 140calories, 7g of total fat, with 2.5g coming from saturated fat and 0.5g coming from trans fat. It also has the lowest sodium content in comparison to other hamburgers at 210mg. OK, so the burger is tiny but in fast food “tiny” equates “good”. Comparatively, a regular hamburger from Burger King contains 560mg of sodium.

Chicken Pieces: 5 piece crispy chicken nuggets from Wendy’s contain 230 calories, 15g of fat, 3g of saturated fat and no trans fat, and 520mg sodium.

Chicken Sandwiches: The KFC (Honey BBQ) Snacker, comes in a serving size of 101g with 210calories. It contains 3g of fat and 0.5g trans fat with no trans fat and 530mg of sodium.

Pizza: A slice of Little Caesars 14’ inch ‘hot n ready’ cheese pizza contains 200 calories, 7g of fat, 3.5g saturated fat and no trans fat, with 340mg of sodium.

Sandwiches: The six-inch turkey breast sandwich from Subway contains 280 calories, 4.5g fat, 1.5g saturated fat and no trans fat, if you need your meat fix then go for Subways six-inch Roast Beef sub on whole wheat bread, which contains 290 calories, 5g total fat and 2g saturated fat.

Salads: Grilled Chicken Breast Salad from Sonic contains only 106 calories, 2g total fat, 0.6g saturated fat with 0.1 g trans fat. It contains a healthy mix of iceberg lettuce carrots and cherry tomatoes, red cabbage, croutons, grilled chicken with Colby jack cheese.

Don’t Blow your Calorie Budget: Follow these Tips

  • Do your homework: Most fast food restaurants have websites where you can view the nutritional content of all the menu items. You can view the calorie, fat, sodium, protein, cholesterol, carbohydrates, fiber and sugar content, as well as, calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C. Go online and make a list of the healthiest options available, and keep it in your bag.
  • Opt for water instead of soda: Sodas are laden with sugar, which provides no nutritional value only “empty” calories. A regular 20 oz. side of soda can contain over 150 calories
  • Go for salads, they are often more satisfying then we think, but avoid or minimize the following: high fat dressings, cheese, croutons and mayonnaise.
  • Keep updated. Many of the fast food restaurants are now aware that customers are becoming more health conscious. Hence they are starting to introduce and advertise items with lower calorie and fat content, as alternatives to the usual burgers and fries. These included various salads and wraps. So next time, instead of ordering the same thing you always do, keep an eye out for new arrivals.
  • Don’t shake, fast food already contains a lot of sodium, so there’s no need to add more, try adding vinegar.
  • Avoid adding extra cheese, super sizing anything, and onion rings.

By being aware of what fast food contains, the next time you drop into a fast food restaurant make healthy choices that you won’t feel guilty about afterwards.