A Review of the Healthiest Fast Foods Part 1 of 2
Most fast food menus have some low calorie, low fat, and low carb food options. Such food choices however need not necessarily constitute healthy eating options. The problems with fast food, apart from the high calorie and saturated fat levels are the inevitable high sodium levels, artificial colors, flavoring, and preservatives.
Healthy choices at fast food restaurants include low calorie and low fat foods made from whole grains, fresh veggies and fresh lean cuts of meat, low on saturated fats and condiments.
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Whole Grain Foods
Whole grain sandwiches with fresh lean meat or veggies, and with little or no dressing, sauces, and condiments make for the healthiest fast foods option found in most fast food outlets. One good example is the Subway 6" Roast Beef Sub made from whole wheat bread, containing veggies and no sauce. This menu option provides 290 calories, 5 grams of fat including 2 grams of saturated fat, 45 grams of carbs, 19 grams of protein, and 920 mg of sodium.
Another healthy choice is whole grain based pizza with fresh meat toppings, and cottage or cheddar cheese on the crust. California Pizza Kitchen offers such a whole-grain honey wheat topping pizza on any of their pizza toppings that not only cuts off 20 calories from the standard pizza alternative, but also makes for a healthier pizza base and topping.
Grilled and roasted chicken items usually make good fast food choices, as such foods have the lowest calorie, fat and saturated fat, and sodium levels among all fast food menu groups.
- KFC’s grilled chicken thigh for instance contains 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 350 mg of sodium, and 17 grams of protein, with no carbs or sugar.
- KFC Original Recipe Chicken Breast with breading and skin removed, and with a side of green beans provide 190 calories, 4.5 grams of fat including 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 5 grams of carbs, 34 grams of protein, and 870 mg of sodium.
- Popeye’s Mild Flavored Chicken Breast provides 270 calories, 16 grams of fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 660 mg, 9 grams of carbs, and 23 grams of protein
Another good fast food menu option is chicken salad with mashed potatoes. Burger King’s Tender Grill Chicken salad, which comes without dressing or croutons contains 270 calories, 9 grams of fat, 900 mg of sodium, 17 g of carbs, 4 grams of sugar, 3 grams of dietary fiber, and 30 grams of protein. A small serving of mashed potatoes provides about 90 calories, 2 grams of fat, 410 mg of sodium, 17 g of carbs, 1 gram of sugar, and 1 gram of protein. This makes a healthier alternative to the popular French fries with extra crispy fried chicken.
Veggies rank among other healthy food options in a fast food menu. Foods such as mashed potatoes, coleslaw, baked beans, and salads make for healthy low calorie and low saturated and trans fat options.
- A serving of Green Beans at Popeye’s provide 70 calories, 1 gram of fat, 14 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, and 400 mg of sodium.
- Papa Murphy’s traditional vegetable garden salad provides 200 calories and 12 grams of fat for an entire salad, and the classic Caesar salad provides just 100 calories and 2 grams of fat for a 240-gram serving.
- California Pizza Kitchen’s Tuscan white bean minestrone with cannelloni beans, tomatoes, zucchini, spinach, onion, celery, Parmesan cheese and garlic-herb croutons is another innovative healthy vegan option. The white bean minestrone cup provides 157 calories, 2 grams of saturated fat, 21 grams of carbs, 5 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and 383 mg of sodium.
Fish based foods rank among healthy choices at fast food restaurants owing to its high protein, low fat and rich omega-3 fatty acid nature. The key is to opt for grilled or boiled fish rather than fried fish, for frying reduces the possible health benefits of the food considerably.
- Mc Donald’s Filet-O-Fish with for 380 calories, 18 grams of total fat and 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 38 grams of carbs, including 5 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, 15 gram of protein, and 640 mg of sodium.
- Popeye’s Crawfish Etouffee provides 180 calories, 5 grams of fat, 25 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein, and 640 mg of sodium.
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For desserts, opt for fruits without cream toppings. McDonald’s Fruit ’n Yogurt Parfait without Granola provides 130 calories, 2 grams of fat including 1 gram of saturated fat, 25 grams of carbs including 19 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, and 55 mg of sodium
The healthiest fast foods beverages are milk and 100 percent fruit juice.
- 1% low fat milk jug at McDonalds contains 100 calories, 2.5 grams of fat including 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 10 mg of cholesterol, 125 mg of sodium, 12 grams of sugar, 4 mg of Vitamin C and 30 mg of Calcium.
- Minute Maid Apple Juice Box contains 90 calories, no fat or cholesterol, 15 mg of sodium, 21 grams of sugar, 100 mg of Vitamin C, and 10 mg of Calcium.
In comparison 12 fl oz of Coca Cola contains 110 calories, no fat or cholesterol, 5 mg of sodium, 29 mg of sugar, and no vitamin or calcium.
This article is for information purposes only and does not provide dietary advice. Readers are requested to consult with a certified dietician before starting a diet plan. The nutritional values provided in this article may change, and readers are requested to verify the same from the menu of the respective fast foods.
- University of Minnesota Extension Service. “Healthy Fast Food Choices.” https://www.extension.umn.edu/family/W00028.pdf. Retrieved 12 January 2011.
- Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. “Drive Thru Diet.” https://www.wfubmc.edu/Drive-Thru-Diet.htm. Accessed 12 January 2011.
- “Healthy fast Food Choices.” https://www.askmen.com/sports/foodcourt_100/135b_eating_well.html. Retrieved 12 January 2011.