11. Don’t be fooled by low-carb claims. Although many fast-food outlets have added low-carb offerings to their menus, it doesn’t mean the selections are any healthier for you. For instance, the Carl’s Jr. Breakfast Bowl has only 5 grams of carbs, but, composed of two scrambled eggs, a sausage patty, and a slice of Swiss cheese, it packs a whopping 900 calories and 73 grams of fat, nearly half of them saturated.
12. Use a fast-food item as part of a meal. In other words, rather than buying the entire meal through the drive-through window and eating it in your car, buy a sandwich or salad, bring it home, then add to it with some raw veggies dipped in low-fat ranch dressing, a cup of yogurt, or some other healthy side dish that still doesn’t involve cooking.
13. Get some kind of vegetable and/or fruit with every fast-food meal. Salads are an obvious choice, and as mentioned, you could also ask for extra tomatoes and lettuce on sandwiches, tacos, and burritos. Other ways: Order a veggie burger (available at Burger King), add broccoli to your baked potato, and pick a fruit and yogurt parfait from McDonald’s.
14. Get skinless chicken. This is particularly important when you’re hitting KFC, home of the finger-lickin’ good fried chicken. Ditch the skin — and much of the batter — and you’ll save 240 calories and 16 grams of fat on a typical serving.
15. Order a taco salad without the shell or sour cream, and ask for only half the cheese. You still get the spicy meat and save about 300 calories and 10 grams of fat.
16. Look for ways to sneak in fiber. That means the baked potato (with skin) and chili (without cheese) from Wendy’s, bean burritos and tacos from Taco Bell instead of meat (a Bean Burrito packs 12 grams of fiber — nearly half your daily needs met!), and baked beans and corn on the cob (without butter) as side dishes (or even main dishes) at KFC.
17. Look for the word “Jr.” You’ll get a smaller portion. Ironically, what’s considered a junior portion today used to be considered a regular size 20 years ago.
18. Avoid value meals. An oversized sandwich (fat), lots of french fries (fat), and a large soda (sugar) add up to major calories and minimal nutrition. Burger King’s Value Meals are some of the least healthful among fast-food chains, says Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and coauthor of the book Restaurant Confidential. One of the lowest-calorie value meals, he notes, is the Whopper Jr., medium fries, and medium Coca-Cola Classic, with a whopping 1,000 calories. McDonald’s value meals average about 1,200 calories. In comparison, the typical woman needs to eat just 1,800 calories in a whole day.
19. Look for the words “grilled,” “baked,” or “broiled.” If they’re cooked that way, they’re not fried — and you’ll automatically be reaping some savings in terms of fat and calories.
20. Have an apple, banana, nonfat yogurt, or some other healthy snack an hour before you hit the fast-food line. That way you’re not showing up starving. If you’re too hungry, one whiff of the enticing fast-food smells will send all your good intentions of a salad right out the drive-through window.
21. Eat breakfast at home and save fast food for lunch or dinner. At least you’ll know you’re getting one wholesome meal. Plus, since it’s hard to eat high-fiber cereal in your car, you’re more likely to order a high-fat option, like a sausage biscuit.
22. Make a supermarket your fast-food restaurant. Run in, grab a piece or two of fruit, a cup of yogurt, an energy bar, a salad at the salad bar, a turkey sandwich at the deli counter, and you’re out through the express lane with breakfast, lunch, and snacks in 10 minutes.
23. Avoid processed or cured meats. We’re talking hot dogs, salami, bologna, and ham. These heavily processed meats are filled with fat, salt, chemical additives, and in some cases, sugar. At a deli or a sub shop, go for turkey breast, chicken breast, or roast beef instead.