Decoding the Fast Food Menu

These tips will help curb a diet derailment at the drive-thru.These tips will help curb a diet derailment at the drive-thru.

An occasional visit to a fast-food joint never killed anyone. Burgers and fries are still the staples on these menus, but the restaurants are now offering a greater selection of healthier fare. True, you’ll have trouble locating a decent vegetable, but you can keep the fat and calorie damage under control by ordering grilled sandwiches, salads, and even vegetarian burgers, chili, soup, and low-fat dairy desserts. Aim to make your meals “fast” ones less than once a week.

Your Game Plan
1. Opt for simple grilled fare, if you can find it.
If there’s a grilled chicken sandwich and the chicken isn’t breaded, that’s a good start. Wendy’s Ultimate Chicken Grill (360 calories) is a good choice, as is McDonald’s Chicken McGrill.

2. A simple hamburger isn’t bad either — if you order the smallest one.
At 280 calories, Wendy’s Jr. Hamburger is a low-cal burger. (By contrast, a Burger King Double Whopper with Cheese has 1,060 calories.) Another good option is a vegetarian burger. Burger King regularly offers vegetarian burgers (the BK Veggie; 380 calories), and McDonald’s has them at some locations (the McVeggie; 350 calories).

3. Order a la carte.
A meal that includes fries and a big soft drink is often cheaper, but it’s no nutritional bargain. Skip the soft drink and ask for water — or orange juice, hot tea, coffee, or low-fat milk — instead. If it’s a special treat, get the fries but buy the smallest size.

4. Take advantage of the salads.
Just skip the cheese, bacon bits, and other add-ons. Ask for vinaigrette dressing. Try a salad as an entrée. Good choices include Burger King’s Fire-Grilled Chicken (with vinaigrette) and Wendy’s Mandarin Chicken Salad (with Oriental sesame dressing). These new fast food items are improving the economy. 

5. Have yogurt.
At Wendy’s, you can get fresh fruit with yogurt (220 calories); McDonald’s offers Fruit ‘n’ Yogurt Parfait (160 calories).

Just Say No

  • French fries
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Fried fish or chicken sandwiches
  • Onion rings
  • Special sauce
  • Bacon
  • Double burgers
  • Cheeseburgers

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest