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?

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LIZZIE138 5/5/2018
I have been ordering apple slices with my regular burger & a bottled water. Very satisfying if eaten slowly. Report
ALEXTHEHUN 3/24/2018
Great tips. This is useful. Report
When my husband and I eat fast food, sometimes one of us will order a combo meal, the other will order just a sandwich and a drink (or complientary water) and we split the fries. I wish more fast food places would offer a selection of sides like Wendy's does that instead of fries for a side you could get a garden salad or a small soup. Report
If I know what restaurant I'm going to beforehand, I always look up their menu and nutrition facts before I go. I can't believe how many calories are in so many salads at these chain restaurants! Sometimes it does almost seem better to just go with a burger! Report
My husband and i was gonna order a pizza, and after logging on and finding out the calorie and fat count. we cooked chicken and veggtables for dinner.
just do it before you eat it. Report
WOW! I never realized the impact. I try not to eat fast food if I can help it. Cheaper to eat at home. I also go th the grocery store and pick up a roasted chicken if I don't have time to cook, or I am home alone for dinner. I am going to go to my favorite fast food website and check out the nutritional facts and make some new choices.

Thanks for the great information! Report
great info!
In NYC they have a law or something like that that the calories are shown on menus now Report
I don't eat fast food. Great info. Thanks Report
Due to budget and time constraints, food on the go is part of my life. I agree with the folks that have stated you can make decent choices with respect to calories anyway - you just have to know ahead of time what your options are - and thankfully the fast food web sites are very helpful in this regard. Report
Most of these places also serve up a side salad that is a mix of lettuce greens, carrot strips, radish slices, and tomatoes plain. The dressing and croutons are always on the side. Also, they will serve any of their sandwiches "bun-less" so you can get a plain burger and cut it up on your salad and have a low-cost meal for a lot less "cost" nutritionally speaking. Report
Thanks for the ideas. I do fast food for lunch sometimes. It's good to know these options. Report
I love the apple and walnut snacker at McDonald's. I don't eat most of the walnuts and only half of the yogurt. It's probably not that economical - and I hate all of the packaging because of the environmental impact - but at this point, I am glad to find something halfway healthy that I can grab in a pinch. Before I found this snack, I used to eat the onion petals at Arby's, so I guess this is a step in the right direction! Report
thanks alot. i will keep all these tips in mind next time im at Mc.Donalds. i dont really eat any other fast food anyways. Report
These are very good ideas Report
Wendy's nutrition site is pretty good. You can customize the sandwich based on what you ate. You are not stuck with boiler plate nutritional info. For example, a grilled chicken sandwich with onion, mustard and tomato is 260 calories if I figured it right.

Not to bad if you are on the run from one appointment to the next. Report
More times than not I will order grilled chicken with mustard or plain. I will snitch a few of my husband's fries rather than order my own. Report
I love the kids menu, if I have no other choice than to eat fast food. In sit down restaurants, though, where the kids menu has only childish items, I ask them to split my order and box up the second half to go. This way, I am not tempted to keep eating just to "clear my plate," and it's much closer to an actual seving size! Report
I had lapband surgery in July 2007 so I now eat smaller, more frequent portions of food. Wendy's chili is one of the most healthy fast foods out there. It is high protein and fiber and low fat.If you ask, they will add extra onions. If I have to eat fast food and I can actually sit down to eat, I get chili, otherwise it is a jr hamburger, no cheese and a small fry. I eat, maybe, one side of the bun, often times I eat a couple bites of the bun. Report
Thank you, so much, to the person who posted #4 with the link to the video of Super Size Me ... wow - I watched the video and it was extremely eye opening. An hour and 39 minutes, but worth every minute. Rather than sitting down with a fast food meal to watch this, probably super-sized, that I might have done before joining SparkPeople (and being sick for the last 4 days), I was happy that I sat down and had a microwaved baked potato with some garlic powder w/parsley and S&W Vintage Lites Oil Free.Fat Free Raspberry Blush vinegar dressing instead ... actually tasty, satisfying and much less dangerous. Report
I do eat at fast food places occasionally, but I almost always get one of their salads. I'm not trying to advertise for these places, but Wendy's, McDonald's, and Chick-Fil-A are all close by where I live and have good grilled chicken salads with lots of veggies and lots of flavor (at least in my opinion). I don't really like salad dressing, so that always saves me some calories, too. Often times at Chick-Fil-A, I'll also pick up a small chicken soup so that I have more of a meal. I find this convenient to pick up dinner at one of these spots once a week or every other week. I know these places serve a lot of tempting foods, but anything occasionally should be fine, and I really think there are a lot of healthy options now. Report
If I have to eat fast food on the go I'm all for taking off the bun and I don't order cheese of anykind. That will usually get me by until I can get home to eat something better. And, when I go to resturants I do take home what I cannot eat but it usually gets thrown away in the next 2 days because it just doesn't look that good anymore. Report
I try to avoid them at all cost, but if I must, I order small portions. Report
Best tip? Education- Read Fast Food Nation- Eric Schloser. This book changed the way I ate, and the way I see the entire food industry, especially fast food. McDonalds is NOT your friend, they want your money and they don't care about your health..you may just get angry enough to ban them from your vocabulary... Report
I've become accustomed to taking leftovers home from restaurants and splitting meals with family and friends when I dine out. Practically every restaurant has some sort of container to take home food with and it's better than gorging myself in order not to waste food and/or an option to split entrees. Report
This is why I PACK MY LUNCH! :o) I travel each day with my job and I usually eat in the car. Fast food just wears me out and I'm tired before my shift ends. It takes a lot of creativity, and some days I just don't get it done, but it IS one of my Spark People Goals! :o) Report
Whenever I went to McDonalds drive thru I always got the Quarter Pounder with cheese meal. Now I get the fruit and Yogurt Parfait. They are great. Report
When I am craving a certain "fast food delicacy", I've discovered it is easier to keep myself in check if I can split the meal with my dw.. Report
I think it's good that fast food places are making some changes and creating some healthier menu choices.

Sadly, I got food poisoning a couple years ago from Taco Bell, and I am stickler about other people preparing my food. Even at sit down resturants. Report
Because I do Weight Watchers and have to watch my points, I keep a little list in my car of all the places I like to go or might find myself going with a friend. The list keeps me on track because I automatically know what I'm going to order or at least that I have some options. My favorite nowadays though, is Taco Bell's Fresca menu. One Chicken Ranchero Soft Taco Fresca style is 3 points! That means I can have two and still make it a low-point lunch/dinner. Report
I have been eating half a bun for the longest time and now I very rarely eat out so its nice to know there are a few small ways to eat less junky! Report
My daughter and I split a baccon muhsroom melt from "Wendy's" and keep the chilli for a sepeate meal. It is a nice way of sharing.
- Flash Gorden Report
I really enjoy eating out and fast food is no exception. I ALWAYS order a small anything. Often I order a kids meal with no toy, they never look at me funny so others must do it to. I think the kids meals are more to the right proportion then their regular meals anyway. I find I can do this and still stay in my calorie limit. Report
As most of the people here, I rarely eat at a fast food place, but if I do, there are some basically healthy choices. McDonald's Asian Chicken Salad with Grilled Chicken and dressing only has about 400 calories, which is what I try to eat at a meal anyway. Also the regular hamburger (not quarter pounders or whoppers) aren't too bad calorie wise either. So, you can eat fast food and not ruin your diet. But the sodium content is high, so you should be careful, especially if you have problems with cholesterol.

Also, sometimes you should just get what you want to get, even if it isn't healthy. If you can't treat yourself once in a while, it isn't a healthy diet, it's torture. Report
Being a full-time student and part-time employee, I always keep some kind of granola bar or carrot/celery sticks with me. Either in my backpack or in my purse. It helps curb the "I gotta have something, ANYTHING NOW!!" cravings. Also, it helps to keep me satisfied until I can get something healthier than fast food. Special K bars not only taste better but they don't have the hard texture most granola bars have. Go to Big Lots to stock up. About a third of the price as the ones at the grocery store.

Plus, ALWAYS keep a bottle of water with you. Saves you from breaking down and getting soda and sometimes hunger is mistaken for thirst (Sounds crazy but it's true!).

If you need flavor you can't get from water, add a lemon or lime squeeze to it or try sparkling water like Perrier or something similar (Arrowhead makes sparkling water now too and is only 99 cents a liter). Plus, some are made with lemon or lime flavors and with out sugars, carbs, or calories! Must say, they are delicious :-) Report
I just stay away from fast food completely. If I really wanted a hamburger, I just make it at home...that way I control every ingredient and proportion. Makes it a ton easier! If I need a meal on the go, I grab some fruit or a muffin. Just plan ahead and you'll be good to go. Report
I am not gonna lie, when I go to a fast food place, i usually do get a combo meal but I never upsize and I usually try to get the chicken combo so that my meal is not so fattening and when I am on a tight budget than I get something light off the $1 menu. People forget that you can eat at fast food joints, but you just have to limit urself. Report
On the rare occasions when I do go thru a fast food drive in, I treat myself & order a small side of french fries (love them!!!) - - BUT I ask for NO SALT on the fries, and then when I get them, I blot them out a little on some napkins. That way I enjoy the taste without the high blood pressure & extra calories. Works for me. :)
I've joked that I'm on the fast food diet. I just love a hamburger and fries from mcdonals, but I get a regular hamburger and small fries. Its really comforting. I've lost 37 pounds while eating fast food 3-4 times a week, but I always get small portions and consider it in my total calorie count. Report
my problem is snacking... i guess i'm not eating unuff for breakfast or lunch what is the deal i have tried chewing gum or drinking water not working Report
I am a fast-food addict of sorts, but i carry around a nutrition fact book, and try to look for things under 200 calories. A good trick i use is to just eat half of what i get, and give the other half to my dog when i get home. Salads are also a great calorie saver (side salads, not entrees) and i just use a small portion of the light dressing packet. Report
I really enjoy reading the comments a lot of things I learn was very interesting and informative I will be reading some of the books that were mention for myself I am a fast food junkie I love McDonald's and so do my children unfortunately I have not work on their poor eating habits since I have lost weight I will order $1 Mchicken sandwich and a $1small fry I always carry water what I usually do is take 1 piece of the bread off of the mcchicken bun slice the chicken in half usually I am full after I eat this combo in the past was Double Quater pound meal I feel great that I have achieve this I would like to eventually stop going to fast food but with a 2 year old and a 16 year old this would be next to impossible Report
Just the other day I took my daughter over to McDonald's. I was also hungry and was going to wait til we got home to eat something more healthy, but I couldn't wait. So instead of getting a burger like I really wanted, I got their fruit & yogart parfay with the granola and a grilled chiptole bbq snack wrap. It was very fulfilling and I didn't feel like I messed up.
Few days before my daughter & I went to Burger King and I really wanted a burger. I got a small burger and gave the fries to my daughter. I don't make a habit of going to fast food places, but if it hapens I try to make better choices. Normally it's about once a month IF that we'll go get fast food. Report
I know that this is a men's magazine but I find this info fantastic for fast food places... Eat this...not that!!
/ Report
I have turned the grocery store into my favorite fast food drive through. A trip through the fruit and vegetable section is all I need and want. My kids have adjusted along with me. My youngest thinks a big-ol carrot is great treat. Report
My favorite "Gotta Have It" meal is Wendy's Southwest Taco Salad. I order it without their salad dressing and sour cream. Then I eat about half of the salad using the chili as "dressing" for lunch (very satisfying). I save the other half, take it home, add some additional veggies, the taco strips, and my own low cal dressing, and have a second meal that feels totally different from lunch. I can divide the posted cal. count in half for each meal, then add the extras for veggies etc. It works out great.
Now, honestly, sometimes I NEEEED a hamburger! so I get one - kid's meal or dollar menu size. It's the taste I need, not the belly buldgeing bulk of of a triple decker. Report
Im not big on fast foods either. I rather know whats really in my foods I eat. BESIDES what caveman had fast foods??? Ya want to keep healthy you dont eat junk foods or processed foods.. The salt alone will kill you . Let alone the bad fats.. Report
i work in a fast food restuarant so sometimes i can either get a salad or a diet soda...yeah diet soda is not good fer ya but it helps maybe to shed some weight off. Report
My favorite fast foot burger was always the Whopper Jr. I always felt better about getting the Jr. because it was smaller and I like the flame-broiled taste. A vegetarian friend of mine suggested ordering a whopper without meat! The weird thing is, I tried it and didn't even miss the meat!!! Don't laugh until you try it. If that is just a little too strange for you, try ordering the Whopper veggie burger (a veggie patty instead of beef). It's not bad and you still get to smell the flame-broiled beef when you go in or use the drive thru. Report
am not a fast food fan,but even if i had to,i always go on salad and gril fish,sometimes cook patato,
which at the end my calories will clock to 320 -400.is okay by me,for a special treat.good luck for your individua Report
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