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Finding low calorie options in your favorite fast food restaurants

By on January 4, 2013

Getting healthy is a top concern among truckers these days, and many have made a point of changing their eating habits so they can shed some extra pounds. Being on the road once meant facing limited dining choices, especially when pressed for time. But these days fast food establishments are meeting the public’s call for healthier, more nutritious and lower-calorie menu items. They offer light menus, make calorie counts available and most include some type of salad as a meal choice.

Think before you speak

Automatically going for the supersized meal or getting extra mayo is one habit that has to change to dine fast and healthy. The double bacon cheeseburger or chili cheese fries may be calling your name, but you can ignore that voice.

“Just because certain types of food are offered doesn’t mean we have to gravitate toward the less healthy choice,” says Lisa Johansen, MS, RD, in her book Fast Food Vindication.

She suggests stepping back and following a set of guidelines when ordering at a fast food eatery to ensure you’re making the healthiest choices.

1 Avoid the words, “double,” “triple,” “extra large” and “supersize.” Don’t add cheese or mayo if you want to lighten up a dish, says Johansen who works as a registered dietician at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles.

2 Grilled chicken is always a healthier option than beef. Fill up the sandwich with veggies like lettuce, tomato, onions and even pickles. Salads, yogurt parfaits and apple slices are better for you than fries. It’s OK to eat fries on occasion, but ask for the smallest size.

3 Pay attention to the number of calories you eat. If the restaurant doesn’t have them posted next to each of its menu items, ask for a nutrition brochure. If you like to plan ahead, visit the food establishment’s website to find calorie counts and walk in knowing exactly what you will order. To monitor calories throughout the day and week, record your meals and snacks in a food journal.

4 Johansen says it’s easy to ingest a lot of calories drinking regular soda. Some of the larger ones contain as many as 500 calories. Don’t drink your calories. Fancy coffee drinks can have 900 or more calories in them. Water is the gold standard and by far the best choice, but diet soda is OK, too. Fast food has always been convenient. Now it can also fit into a healthier meal plan.

Order in the Food Court
Meal choices under 600 calories

Burger King: Tendergrilled chicken sandwich without mayo, side salad with fat-free honey mustard dressing, light lemonade or unsweetened iced tea (or add artificial sweetener if you like)

McDonald’s: Regular hamburger, side salad with light or fat-free dressing, vanilla ice cream cone, diet soda or iced tea

Arby’s: Roast beef classic sandwich, chopped farmhouse salad with turkey (no dressing), iced tea

Subway: Any six-inch sandwich with 6 grams or less of fat, apple slices or yogurt or baked chips, diet soda or water

Pizza Hut: Two slices veggie lover’s pizza (from a 12” medium pan pizza), diet soda

Popeyes: Naked chicken wrap, regular green beans, applesauce and unsweetened tea

Taco Bell: Fresco chicken soft taco, fresco bean burrito, diet soda or water (skip the rice and beans)

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