Nutrition Articles

Fast Food: Convenient and Healthy

This Doesn't Have to be an Oxymoron

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There is always the fresh and fast option of Subway, which has 6 sub sandwiches under 6 grams of fat, all under $5. Even though we are all familiar with Jared and his love for Subway, his ability to have the discipline to limit the type of fast food he put into his body helped his weight loss more than anything. So come on! It’s simple and you can do it! Eat to fill your nutritional needs, not just to curb your hunger. You can eat healthy while still getting the treat of eating out if you practice these simple ideas:

  • Ask or look for the nutritional information available for restaurants. Be mindful of what you are eating.
  • Go easy on the condiments and extras, i.e. cheese, sauces, super-sizing.
  • Eat in moderation.
  • Eating fast food here and there won’t hurt, but don’t make it habitual.
  • Substitute grilled for fried.
  • Drink ice water or milk instead of soda.
  • Beware of fat filled salad dressing.
  • Chicken is often less fatty than beef.
  • If you splurge on fast food for lunch, make extra sure that your dinner is healthy and nutritious.
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About The Author

Jennifer Putnam Jennifer Putnam
Jennifer earned a master's degree in nutrition from the University of Cincinnati.

Member Comments

  • What I got out of this was that moderation and small changes are truly the keys when it comes to eating healthier. I believe you can still enjoy fast food or restaurants now and then, as long as you don't go to an extreme and overdo it. Great article! - 1/4/2014 8:56:10 PM
  • I really don't eat out like that. So I don't have to think about that. - 7/3/2013 9:21:26 PM
  • Someone mentioned going to the health food store and getting pre-made sandwiches or lentil wraps instead of fast food. What a great idea! Because of my lifestyle I do have to eat out frequently but I chose with care. Unfortunately I don't have the luxury of a health food store where I can just drop in and get something, but I do try to plan my meals accordingly so that I am okay on the sodium and such when I do eat out. - 6/14/2013 9:41:41 AM
  • I agree with the author's statement that grilled chicken sandwiches are amazing, BUT I was very surprised to see the statement end there. Grilled chicken sandwiches tend to come with 2+ tablespoons of mayo, which destroys a lot of the gain for swapping to grilled chicken. Most fast food chicken is moist enough you don't need the mayo, especially if you add juicy tomatoes. It adds the moisture to the bun without the calories and fat! - 12/8/2012 5:21:59 PM
  • AZURE-SKY
    As with many SP articles, the focus is on fat and/or calories. What you fail to mention is the high sodium content of most fast-food chains and restaurants. Even if you pick a "healthier" alternative, you will be amazed at the amount of sodium.

    For example, McDonalds has a Premium Caesar Salad with grilled chicken - without any salad dressing, it has 580 mg sodium. BUT, add on any of the Newman's Own low-fat dressings, and your "healthy" salad is nearly 1,000 mg sodium.

    400 mg of sodium comes from the grilled chicken alone. That's more than 2x the amount of sodium in a chicken breast you cook at home (unless it's prepackaged/froze
    n & injected with broth).

    The RDA for sodium is 2300 mg per day for a healthy person. But, if you have health issues, like high blood pressure, or heart problems, the RDA is reduced to 1500 mg per day. So, the above salad is either between 50% - 75% of your daily sodium recommendation. - 12/8/2012 1:19:19 PM
  • This is SO true. I lost over 50 pounds eating quite a bit of fast food. One just needs to choose wisely. That said, some of the statistics in the article are out of date. McDonald's new grilled chicken sandwich (fall 2012) is delicious, but it's closer to 300 calories without mayo. - 12/8/2012 6:47:52 AM
  • I just tried the new Cantina Salad at Taco bell and it is 560 calories, but it was fantastic. - 8/1/2012 6:58:36 AM
  • The REALLY FRUSTRATING Thing is that NONE of the healthy choices are EVER on the dollar menu - and eating healthy foods costs so much more even when you do it yourself. I SO OFTEN have to choose between one good meal a day (fairly good) or enough food to eat - but the cheaper stuff. If anyone REALLY cared about lowering medical care costs in the long run, they would see that healthy food is available for the most financially desperate people. Maybe life would feel worth living again. I'm so tired of distressed (broken) packages and one day from the deadline food. - 3/29/2012 9:55:17 AM
  • It is really hard to stick to your calories when going out to eat. That "healthy-sounding
    " item on the menu can have more calories than what you need all day long. I've been browsing through the "Eat this, not that!" books and I'm just amazed at how bad most restaurant food is (high in calories, sodium and fat). One of the book in the "series" is actually all about restaurant food and how you can make better swaps and choices. Very interesting and certainly eye-opening! - 2/3/2012 10:36:36 AM
  • METAMORPH2010
    Fast food restaurants are evil! Having read "Fast Food Nation," I will never step into one ever again. I don't care how many so-called "healthy" options they offer.

    I often stop off at a local supermarket to pick up something from the deli, which still requires choosing with care, but at least you're supporting your local economy, not trampling it. Also, as others have suggested, health food stores often sell much better take-out food. I also love sushi restaurants, which seem to be springing up all over, and which serve fast, nutritious, and delicious food.

    Better yet, plan ahead and pack something to take along.

    For emergencies, I like to carry along some trail mix made with raw almonds, sunflower seeds, and raisins. I pack this in measured bags, and try to save them for when I'm in a real pinch. I also like to have Rebar nutrition bars on hand, which aren't very tasty, but which are high in fibre and have no added sugar (only natural sugars from dried fruit). The Seeds 'n' Greens bar isn't too awful.

    A nutritionist I work with suggested that I stash some tins of tuna, a can opener, and a fork in my car, but I haven't done this yet.

    No fast food for me! - 11/13/2011 3:17:54 AM
  • @ Bamajam

    I know that my taco bell has the "Fresco" line that is supposed to be lower in fat. Most items don't include cheese, but instead include the very flavorful "fiesta" salsa.

    I've worked at McDonald's for over 10 years, and we do have some options that are much better for you than others. It has been my experience, that if you step out of the "value Meal" box, then your healthier options become much more obvious. For lunch, I usually get a hamburger and small fry, or a grill chicken sandwich with barbeque instead of mayo, which I don't like anyway. McDonald's snack wraps are a great option if the restaurant offers grilled chicken, and most of the time, you can add extra veggies such as onions, pickles, and tomatoes for little to no extra cost. If you prefer beef, getting a quarter pounder without cheese is not bad at all, and without the cheese, it gets knocked down to less than 15 grams of fat! For breakfast, nothing beats the egg mcmuffin for calorie control. The canadian bacon is only around 10 calories whereas the sausage patty alone is something along the lines of 270 calories. DONT GET SAUSAGE! lol

    McDonalds' salads are great. They offer the darker green lettuce instead of just iceberg, and at my store, the side salads are just $1!

    The best advice I can give is to watch your sauces. Ask for them on the side, and only add as much as you want to give you the flavor that you like. Don't get cheese unless you'll totally miss it, or only get one slice instead of two on bigger sandwiches. - 4/11/2011 4:20:02 PM
  • Personally I don't think they try nearly hard enough. I don't care much for Subway and if I go to MR Sub I am too tempted to get the "Super" assorted. As to the rest the only one I care for is Wendy but even then its too tempting to get a burger and chips. Not good the restaurants (oh sorry they are now called "STORES") all care about their BOTTOM LINE not the well being of their customers. - 1/1/2011 3:51:14 PM
  • Even before I started on SP, I didn't eat much fastfood. It's never really appealed to me - definitely not a burger person, so it was only the occasional kfc.

    Ofcourse, being in the UK we have different options. None of the ones here do chili as far as I know. But we do have kebab shops on every corner. - 4/18/2010 5:27:18 AM
  • BAMAJAM
    Hey folks...

    Are there any good choices at TACO BELL.... Their value items look good on TV but are probably B A D !! ??? - 1/12/2010 4:44:18 PM
  • Good job!!!!! All of you are a big help to me.!!!!! When going out to eat, I don't know what to eat and now I know I can do this!!!!!!

    sharon - 11/13/2009 10:31:18 AM