Something has been happening to fast-food restaurants. As Americans have become fatter and more concerned about what they eat, the McDonald’s and Burger Kings of the world have taken notice. They’ve added salads that actually fill you up, reduced serving sizes, and added more healthful options to their menus. Here’s how to take advantage of it.
1. Go for the salad, minus the fried toppings. Although most fast-food restaurants offer decent-sized salads these days, if you top them with fried chicken, fried noodles, and the entire contents of the dressing packet, you will wind up with as much artery-clogging saturated fat and calories as if you’d had the double-cheese and fries. Instead, choose broiled or roasted chicken as your protein source, skip the croutons, and ask for the low-fat dressing — then only use half.
2. Skip the cheese. Craving a hamburger? That’s okay — just get a plain hamburger without the cheese. For instance, at McDonald’s, that saves you 50 calories, 40 of them from fat, and 2 grams of saturated fat.
3. Ask for extra onions, lettuce, and tomato. Whatever sandwich you choose, it’ll be healthier crunchier, and more filling if you add these classics. And it ticks off one more serving of vegetables from your day’s quota.
4. Order unsweetened iced tea or bottled water. A king-size Sprite at Burger King is 420 calories. This one change might save you the same number of calories as the meal you’re about to eat!
5. Choose 1% or skim milk as your drink. At just 100 calories (less for skim), it provides much of your daily dose of bone-building calcium, as opposed to soft drinks, which can suck the calcium from your bones.
6. Always say no to the special sauce. Many are just dressed-up mayonnaise, and thus overflowing with fat and calories. The best topping for your chicken, fish, or burgers? Mustard (no calories, lots of flavor). Second best? Ketchup (no fat, but a fair amount of sweetener). Other good choices: olive oil and vinegar (in moderation), hot sauces, red pepper spreads. Worst choices: butter or mayonnaise.
7. Use hot sauce, not ketchup, on your french fries. Hot sauce is low in calories, has a big, adventurous flavor, and contains nutrients that are particularly good for your body. Plus, it gets you drinking lots of water, which reduces your appetite.
8. Do not supersize. Ever. Even McDonald’s has finally wised up to the evil of its ways, and is phasing out some of its supersized items.
9. In fact, order a kid’s meal. A small hamburger, a small fries, and an orange juice is surprisingly filling for most adults, and much fewer calories than the adult version. Plus, you get a free toy!
10. Get a sub sandwich. A six-inch sub (or hoagie, wedge, grinder, or whatever it’s called in your area) with roast beef or turkey and lots of vegetables is an outstanding fast-food choice. Choose a whole grain bread, and as we said, skip the mayo — a little bit of vinegar and olive oil is acceptable, or choose mustard. As with the burger stores, skip the value meal — chips and soda are no match for an apple or salad and a low-fat milk or orange juice.