Decoding the Fast Food Menu

These tips will help curb a diet derailment at the drive-thru.These tips will help curb a diet derailment at the drive-thru.

An occasional visit to a fast-food joint never killed anyone. Burgers and fries are still the staples on these menus, but the restaurants are now offering a greater selection of healthier fare. True, you’ll have trouble locating a decent vegetable, but you can keep the fat and calorie damage under control by ordering grilled sandwiches, salads, and even vegetarian burgers, chili, soup, and low-fat dairy desserts. Aim to make your meals “fast” ones less than once a week.

Your Game Plan
1. Opt for simple grilled fare, if you can find it.
If there’s a grilled chicken sandwich and the chicken isn’t breaded, that’s a good start. Wendy’s Ultimate Chicken Grill (360 calories) is a good choice, as is McDonald’s Chicken McGrill.

2. A simple hamburger isn’t bad either — if you order the smallest one.
At 280 calories, Wendy’s Jr. Hamburger is a low-cal burger. (By contrast, a Burger King Double Whopper with Cheese has 1,060 calories.) Another good option is a vegetarian burger. Burger King regularly offers vegetarian burgers (the BK Veggie; 380 calories), and McDonald’s has them at some locations (the McVeggie; 350 calories).

3. Order a la carte.
A meal that includes fries and a big soft drink is often cheaper, but it’s no nutritional bargain. Skip the soft drink and ask for water — or orange juice, hot tea, coffee, or low-fat milk — instead. If it’s a special treat, get the fries but buy the smallest size.

4. Take advantage of the salads.
Just skip the cheese, bacon bits, and other add-ons. Ask for vinaigrette dressing. Try a salad as an entrée. Good choices include Burger King’s Fire-Grilled Chicken (with vinaigrette) and Wendy’s Mandarin Chicken Salad (with Oriental sesame dressing).

5. Have yogurt.
At Wendy’s, you can get fresh fruit with yogurt (220 calories); McDonald’s offers Fruit ‘n’ Yogurt Parfait (160 calories).

Just Say No

  • French fries
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Fried fish or chicken sandwiches
  • Onion rings
  • Special sauce
  • Bacon
  • Double burgers
  • Cheeseburgers

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest