December 28, 2012

How to Make the Best Choices When Fast Food’s on the Menu

By Barbara Pronin


It’s pretty common knowledge that fast food the cheeseburgers, pizzas, sodas and tacos we tend to consume on the run are nutritionally less than desirable. They contain fat, carbs, salts and sugars that wreak havoc on any sensible diet.

But there are instances when time really is a factor, and you can’t opt for a sit-down meal or when you’re craving for the ‘bad’ foods you learned to love simply will not be squashed.

The good news is that at least 20 states have enacted or are considering laws requiring fast food restaurant chains to plainly post the nutritional content of their food. Additionally, many chains have added healthier options, with reduced fat and calories, to their menus.

As a result, you may now be able to make fast food choices that satisfy your cravings without totally destroying your resolve to eat healthier. A quick review of nutritional postings shows, for example, that Del Taco’s chicken taco del carbon has 40 grams of fat while its crispy fish taco has 150 and that a McDonald’s triple thick shake has 1,000 calories more than a Wendy’s small Frosty.

Even when nutritional values are not easily available, there are options available to consumers who want to make better choices. Doctors at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in northern California suggest the following options:

Order smaller portions while promotions may make the bigger burger seem more affordable, order the standard or even the kid-sized burger to satisfy your taste buds while slashing fat and calories.

Choose low-fat milk, diet soda, plain iced tea or water. Not choosing that sugar-filled soda can save you 100 calories or more.

Get it your way Ask to have your burger wrapped in lettuce instead of on a bun. Or leave out the mayo or ‘special sauce’ in favor of mustard or a little ketchup.

Choose grilled or baked instead of fried At KFC, a grilled chicken breast has half the calories (180) and 20% of the fat grams (4) of the chain’s original fried chicken breast.

Beware of salads A McDonald’s Crispy Chicken Bacon Salad has 660 calories and 51 grams of fat, while it’s Grilled Chicken Caesar has 230 calories and 9 grams of fat. At most chains, you can ask for reduced calorie dressings or use just half a packet of the regular.