11 Quick Tips: Slim Down Your Fast Food Orders

By , SparkPeople Blogger
We all know fast food isn't good for us,
but sometimes it seems like there's no other option.
Follow these rules, and you can drive through
with a clear conscience!

11 Ways to Beef Up (the Nutrition in) Your Fast Food Meal

  1. Look up nutrition info online before you go so you can plan your meal.

  2. Say no to combo meals, even if you'll save a bit of money. They're inevitably larger and full of empty calories.

  3. Say no when asked "Do you want fries with that?" Get a baked potato, a fruit cup or some vegetables instead (check the kids menu). If you can't resist, get a small order and split them with a friend. Eat them one at a time to savor them.

  4. Eat side dishes, like chili, soup, or baked potatoes, as a main course, or split appetizers among several people.

  5. Order from the kids menu. The portions are smaller and there are usually healthy side dishes (fruit cups and carrot sticks) and drinks (milk or real fruit juice).

  6. Drink water. Regular sodas can have as many as 400 calories!

  7. Ask to order sauce on the side and nix the cheese. (It's just processed American cheese anyway, so you're not missing much in terms of flavor.)

  8. Choose ketchup, mustard and salsa over mayo or creamy dressings.

  9. Take off the top slice of bread or bun to save calories (at least 75)!

  10. Nix anything "crispy," breaded or fried. Opt for grilled or roasted meats instead.

  11. Avoid trendy or specialty menu items. They're likely to have high-calorie extras like bacon, cheese or creamy sauces. Stick to original or traditional hamburgers and other sandwiches.

What's your tip for surviving a fast food drive through?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


Someone told me that Fast Food french fries will not mold. That sounds awful. I don't know if it's true, but it was enough to keep me away from there. I go to Subway instead.... *grin* Report
On the go and haven't planned ahead; I always default to the Whopper Jr with out mayo. I ask for extra lettuce and tomato. It's 310 calories and eaten slowly puts enough in my stomach to call it a meal. It's not an every day thing but there are a lot worse things out there to grab. And best of all it only costs one buck. Report
In Canada, we have pita fast food restaurants that have their nutritional information on the wall where you order. It's great, because you can see exactly what your fast food meal is going to set you back in terms of calories, fat, sodium, carbs, and everything else.

On another note, I have found that if I crave fast food, the craving won't go away unless I have something. Denying cravings has, in the past, made me completely fall backwards and end up in worse shape than when I started. I allow myself to go out once per month and have something unhealthy. That way, I don't end up going on fast food binges where I gain back everything that I have lost. Just one tip: if you are going to give in to a craving, make sure that you are sure about what you are craving before you eat. Otherwise, you may end up expending a lot of empty calories finding the perfect treat. Report
Wanted to add that these are all good suggestions though and when and If I do have to ever eat on the road I'll be sure to follow them. Report
If I want a treat I do mcdonalds medium iced coffee, with no sugar or that flavoring stuff they add and just splenda with it, its like 90 calories. I get my kids a cheeseburger meal to split, but its not an everyday or every week thing either, maybe once a month or less. Report
I agree with the comments stating that the best thing to do is stay away from fast food in the first place. If I am going to do fast food, I try to go to Subway. I feel like it's the best value in terms of getting a filling meal without too many calories. I love Chick-Fil-A's grilled chicken sandwiches. They come on a whole wheat bun & they're great plain or with extra pickles. If I go to Wendy's I usually go with a baked potato & chili. I was a big fan of the Asian Chicken Salad from McDonald's, but I haven't had one of those in a while. All the other places I stay away from! Report
Taco Time has a really great "less than 300 calories" meal. White-bean and chicken chili with a crisp-shelled taco. :) It's quite tasty, though the sodium content is probably out of this world. Report
We do fast food occasionally, esp. weekends. Usually Subway (6" on wheat - no sauce, just lots of veggies and maybe bag of Baked Lays chips), Wendys (chili, jr cheeseburger w/o bun) or McDonalds (plain hamburger happy meal w/apples, no dip, and milk - then share w/my 3yr old). Sometimes will opt for salad but find it easier to bring from home to work - lettuce same cost as one side salad but will yield more. Report
Buy "eat this not that" it's a book by David Zinczenko that shows you what to eat and what not to eat at fast foods. Report
I love the $1 menu at Wendy's. I can get a small chili and baked potato (plain) and mix them together for a great $2 meal!!! The fresca menu at taco bell is also great! They list the calories and fat grams right at the register so I know exactly what to order. Report
If you want something fast food but not so bad for you...try Taco Bell's Fresca Menu....they have quite a few different choices and the calories range from 130-330. I always find a nice treat there....good luck! Report
I don't eat fast food normally but, both McDonalds and Wendys have a grilled chicken snack wrap. They're delicious and if you order them without the sauce, they're even healthier. They probably have about 1-1/2 oz. grilled chicken, lettuce and a little shredded cheddar. If I'm really hungry, I'll order 2 and put the chicken on 1 wrap. Get it with a side salad and low cal dressing and it's a great lunch. Really good if you're traveling and fast food is the only option. Report
Wow! What a great gift! I am a McDonald's addict, self proclamed. My husband is also an addict. I am working on my cravings there by ordering milk instead of pop and sticking to a single burger, no cheese and I find lately I can't even eat half of what I order! Yeah! Report
Wow! With this being such a tight Christmas this would be a great gift! Report
I rarely do fast food, but if I do I usually go for the Chicken Fajita Pita which is delicious and low fat. Occasionally, I go to Subway for theit low fat subs. I feel much more "in control" of what I eat at home. LOL...unless I'm really stressed. Report
i usually end up with a grilled chicken salad and the lowest fat dressing they have-and then use about a 1/4 of the packet. if i want fries, my boyfriend and i split an order. and i NEVER drink soda, so my entire meal usually comes to around 400 calories. (we usually get fast food on our way to go hiking, so i don't feel too bad about it.) Report
Do you guys all order from the kids menu at regular resturants too? Anyone ever get any grief for doing that at the non-fast food establishements? Report
I have a wordpad document saved on my desktop telling me what foods I can order at every restaraunt within a mile of me. I write how many calories are in it, and how to order it "ketchup only, no cheese" etc. Report
Like many of you, I try to head to Subway (the Turkey/Bacon Wrap melt with the cheese and the Southest Sauce is only 330 calories) to get the healthiest options. But I did find that I can get a Whopper Jr. (WITH the cheese & mayo) and a side salad with FF Ranch for 435 calories which fits right in my calorie count for lunch. I am a cheese junkie and have to dance a jig when I can include it in meal! Report
I use a fat free or low fat salad dressing on my baked potato instead of 'butter' and sour cream. It adds tons of flavor and has less calories/fat. I especially like a garlicky Italian! I have also added the potato to my salad for an interesting change. Report
i did have to laugh at the comment about beef not being safe for us or the environment! lol! Report
I recently went to Jack in the Box and ordered their new chicken terriaki rice bowl. Sounds healthy right? I found out later that night that it was over 500 calories for the whole bowl. Well, I only ate half of it for lunch, and saved the other half for dinner. Then at 250 calories a piece, I could afford to steal a couple of my kid's fries for lunch and savor a piece of fruit for dinner. Report
The ONLY fast food I eat is Wendy's taco salad. With no sour cream or salad dressing, just using some hot sauce with the chili, it knocks off a ton of calories and fat. Very enjoyable and filling! Report
Absolutely agree - time is NEVER so tight that you have to resort to fast food. And even when $ is tight, whole, close-to-the-source foods are the way to go - I can buy a bag of rice and a bag of beans that will cost the same as a fast food meal and last me for a week with $ left over for some vegetables. Report
I love that guy that did the "30 Days" program about McDonalds. It made the fast food world better for all of us and it is still changing.

I go online and ck the calorie stats. If a company doesn't list it's stats, it's best to steer clear. There is a reason they don't want us to know their calorie counts.

Be sure to look up salad stats. It is wrong to assume that a salad has fewer calories when fast food is concerned - some of their salad choices are crazy high in calories.

Sometimes I'll order a kids meal when I'm wanting the more traditional fast food fare. It's smaller portions help to control calories. Report
All fast food restaurants have healthier options. I have all the nutritional information and try to pick the best choices. Ocasionally, I'll have onion rings or fries so I don't feel like I'm depriving myself. It's not about never having it again, it's about moderation. Report
I get a baked potato at Wendy's instead of fries. They give out reduced fat sour cream at out local Wendy's so that helps also. I get grilled chicken instead of the fried breaded chicken. If I go anywhere else it is usually Panera, Jason's Deli or Subway where I can get a healthier sandwich and maybe soup. I don't do McDonalds or Burger King, nothing like that. Report
Chick Fil-A has some good grilled sandwich options that go as low as 270 calories. Even the breaded chicken sandwich only takes you up to 410. Report
There are many ways to have fast food and cut calories and lower points..yes WW talk here :-) McDonalds side salads (no dressing I either use vinegar or lemon juice) and a parfait, if I must have a hamburger it is always a kids meal no cheese and a bottle of water. Taco Bells fresco menu fits in with my plan, no cheese and still a taco:-) Subway of course is my place of choice, either a huge salad with ham or turkey no cheese and a package of vinegar. I love their subs and will get wheat have them remove most of the bread leaving just the outside and totally load it with veggies and again either ham or turkey. Since I do have the bread removed for the most part I go for the extra points and have them add half the cheese they usually would and toast it. Report
A BigMac Value Meal is about 1140 calories. I order a Big mac with a large Coke Zero and I bring the total down to 540 calories. That's one of my fast food strategies. Report
Just watch the documentary "Supersize Me!" and you'll never go to a fast food place ever again. I remind myself of it everytime I pass by a Mcdonalds (Dirty Burger place, lol) Report
I have a couple of things. 1. Do not eat at the fast food place. You may be tempted to go back for seconds or refills on soda. 2. Only get a green salad at most fast food places. Once they add the chicken (even if it's grilled) the calorie count goes way up. 3. Read the salad dressing packages many are loaded with a lot more calories than you think especially the fat free. 4 At subway get the Sweet Onion dressing instead of Mayo or lite mayo. Finally, park as far away from the front door so at least you have to walk a little farther for it. Report
I work at an office. I do my best to bring my lunch everyday but if not then I have found the only place I can go to get the freshest most healthy food for lunch quickly is the grocery store. I can run in and get a whole roticery chicken and fresh produce and all the water I want. At the store close to me in the deli they also have BBQ chicken and what we call Tri-Tip. It is an amazing cut of meat that is tender delicious and when it is trimmed fairly lean. MMMM Protien. I am on Atkins so these are all amazing treats for me. I could never get this many choices anywhere else. :o) Report
I read the book "Fast Food Nation"...everytime i think i might want fast food, i remember what i learned in that book! Haven't had fast food in years now...it's just not worth the extra calories. Report
Try the Chicken Fajita Pita made with Whole Grain bread at Jack In The Box. It is very tasty and it only has a total of 9 grams of fat. And only 3.5 are saturated fat. Order a diet drink to go with it and you are good to go. Report
It is at least 3/4 an hour drive to the nearest fast food outlet so I an lucky I dont have temptation near Report
Sometime on the weekends we eat out, it gives me a break on cooking because it's not my favorite thing to do but with sparkrecipes i'm finding it alot more fun being in the kitchen. Thank you.... Report
I order a kid's meal. Report
Wendy's has great choices available. I'm happy to go there and get a great salad. Report
I usually just stay away from fast food. If I do want it, I go to Subway and I stick with the subs that are low in fat. I usually get the roast beef sub with lite mayo on wheat and I get spinach instead of lettuce. It's much healthier. No sides and I stick with water. Report
These are excellent suggestions. I already do a lot of them but got a few more tricks now to be successful. Thanks! Report
Dunkin Donuts has a turkey sausage egg-white flatbread sandwich for 310 calories. It's tasty and filling. I always take away half of the flatbread. I've noticed that Dunkin Donuts has a list of items that are reduced calories. They taste great! Report
We go to McD occasionally, but I know what to get, and the kids eat healthy too. I get the Big and Tasty, but with mustard instead of mayo. That bring the sandwich down to 390 calories. Add a side salad and ice tea, and you're under 450 calories, if you watch your dressing intake. I stab my fork in the dressing and then the salad. If I pour, I get wayyy to much.... Report
We go to McD occasionally, but I know what to get, and the kids eat healthy too. I get the Big and Tasty, but with mustard instead of mayo. That bring the sandwich down to 390 calories. Add a side salad and ice tea, and you're under 450 calories, if you watch your dressing intake. I stab my fork in the dressing and then the salad. If I pour, I get wayyy to much.... Report
What really decreased the need for fast food for me was the movie "Super Size Me" I never wanted to step into a McDonalds again seeing how it caused physical damage. Report
Guess what? I went to McDonald's the other day and on the back of the paper on the tray was a list of all their menu items as well as the nutrional info for each item!!! I was so spectacularly happy! You'd be surprised by which foods have the most and least calories. That day, I got two snacks wraps and my mom got a cheeseburger kid's meal. My mom's cheese burger was less calories than the one snack wrap! Crazy huh? Anyway, if you go to McD's look on the back of the tray paper and see if they have the list! Report
#3 made me laugh. It seems like every time I go through the McD drive-thru and order a Southwest Salad they ask me if I want fries with it. If I wanted fries, I would have ordered fries. I guess that's their way of getting the idea in our heads that some fries would taste good. Report
the ONLY fast food I eat, EVER, is Wendys Chili. It is actually quite a good choice--good protein and fiber source, low in fat, moderate sodium, and no "bad" stuff in it. Plus, it's YUMMY! Report
I simply don't do it! Cut out fast food years ago. Yay for me! Report
I try to stick to chicken meals because beef just isn't healthy for us or the environmemt. McDonald's Grilled Chicken Snack Wrap is pretty good, hold the sauce and the cheese. If I am at Wendy's, I sometimes do get the Jr. Hamburger with only lettuce and extra tomato. Sometimes I eat it "on the 1/2 bun." That helps keep down both the carbs and the sodium (usually high in breads). Report
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.