When your only option to eat on the road is fast food, we want you to feel confident in your choices so that you can eat food that satisfies you and makes you feel good. Healthy fast food eating isn’t as difficult as it is made out to be, as long as you know what to look for and what to skip out on. Let’s go over our tips and recommendations so that you can choose options that are best for you.
What to Focus On
When choosing a meal from a fast food restaurant, we want you to consider focusing on two things, protein and fiber. Having both of these in your meal will ensure that you stay full and satisfied until your next snack or meal. At these fast food restaurants, your protein source will most likely be the meat. Many of these protein sources are high in saturated fat, or they are deep fried in oil, which adds many more calories to the meal. Instead, we’d suggest to pick a leaner meat, such as chicken, and have it grilled. That way, you are still getting an adequate amount of protein without the negative additives that would typically be found in a greasy burger. In regards to fiber, you can find it in the fruits and vegetables at a fast food restaurant. We suggest that you incorporate them by getting a salad, a side of fruit, or loading vegetables into your sandwich.
Even when eating a meal at a fast food restaurant, we want you to think about the idea of creating a balanced plate. Ideally, we suggest having half your “plate” be vegetables and/or fruit, a quarter of grain, and a quarter protein. This may be difficult to visualize when eating out, but try to think about the portions of the food you are eating. So, you want to be consuming more vegetables and or fruit than you are grain/protein. To do this, maybe you incorporate a salad as your side to a grilled sandwich.
What to Avoid
As stated before, foods from these restaurants are typically high in saturated and trans fat, as well as sodium. Knowing what foods to skip can help avoid these things, as an excess of them have been proven to lead to health consequences such as heart disease and strokes. Avoiding fried, greasy food is one way to lessen the amount of sodium, trans, and saturated fat in your meal. This includes your side options, such as fries, onion rings, tater tots, etc. Condiments and sauces can also be tricky, as they often rack up extra calories without you even realizing. You can still have your favorite sauce, just keep in mind that creamier sauces (mayonnaise, honey mustard) are typically higher in calories and fat rather than others, such as ketchup. Lastly, we would suggest skipping the soda when on the road. They are filled with added sugar and extra calories, so we recommend sticking with water.
Even though it may seem daunting, there are still ways to eat mindfully and healthfully at fast food restaurants. As previously mentioned, stick with grilled protein options, such as a grilled chicken sandwich or salad. This way you can incorporate both protein and fiber into your meals. Also, be conscious of your serving sizes. Portion sizes have increased dramatically at fast food restaurants over the years, so don’t feel like you should eat everything in your meal, or get smaller portions of sides, etc. Lastly, we want to remind you to be mindful. Don’t restrict yourself from your favorite food, but choose food that will make you feel good! If eating at a fast food restaurant is not common for you, feel free to lean into your cravings and enjoy the food that you would like in that moment! However, if you want to opt for a more healthful option, think about what elements you can add to your meal to make it more nutritious.
If you have more questions regarding fast food eating, click here to schedule a call with Alli.
This article was written by Emma Bulan, nutrition intern. Fact checked by Allison Tallman RD.