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Cheating at Fast Food Chains

You're entitled to a cheat day every now and then, and here's some tips to help you cheat on your cheat day.

Why do you like eating at fast foods? Probably the same reason everyone else does. It’s fast, convenient, cheap and most of all, it tastes great (at least most of the time). You’d think it has everything you’re looking for in a restaurant. But it lacks one adjective and it’s called healthy. When you eat at fast foods, you’ll pack in more than enough sodium, fats and calories than you’ll need for the entire day.

Take a good look at these examples. An order of potato snackers from White Castle gives you 10 grams of trans fat, when the American Heart Association tells us to limit daily intake to less than 2 grams. A Double Whopper meal with fries and apple pie from Burger King provides you with two days worth of saturated fat. Almost 60 percent of the selections in KFC and Popeye’s contain as much as 2,300 mg of sodium, exceeding the recommended 1,500 mg daily sodium intake.

Eating regularly in these places also increases the risk of various health problems including hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Unfortunately, these health dangers don’t do anything to stop people from going to McDonald’s and other popular fast food chains. If you’re one of them, the next best thing to do is to make the right choices so you can eat a hearty meal without sacrificing your health.

Healthy Habits

  • Prepare ahead of time so it will be easier to make the healthier choices when you’re at a fast food restaurant. Check out the nutritional content of the meals by downloading guides from fast foods’ official websites or other health websites.
  • Examine the menu carefully before ordering. Stay away from those that are labeled deep-fried, basted, breaded, crispy, scalloped, au gratin, batter-dipped, creamy and pan-fried. These dishes are packed with calories, sodium and fats. Choose dishes that focus on lean meats and vegetables instead.
  • Order water instead of soda. Soda is rich in calories. A 32 oz of regular soda sets you back 425 calories. If you don’t like plain water, add a slice of lemon or order unsweetened juice or iced tea.
  • Leave the dressing behind. If you think you’re doing yourself a favor eating a bowl of salad smothered with rich creamy dressing instead of pasta or burger, think again. The part where you dressed it up with rich creamy dressing is where you went wrong. Vinaigrette is the better choice over ranch or French dressing.
  • Ask for a special order. Most of the items in the menu would have been healthy if only they were prepared sans the fatty creams and sauces. If you’re going to order a meat or vegetable dish, it’s a better idea to ask for it to be served without the sauce. Have the sauce served on the side so you can control the portion of what you’re going to put into your food. If you’re ordering fried food, ask if it can be steamed or broiled instead.

Healthy Choices

  • At burger joints avoid ordering: double-patty burgers with cheese, mayo and bacon; fried chicken sandwiches; fried fish sandwiches; salads with ranch dressing, bacon and cheese; breakfasts with burrito steak; French fries, chicken tenders or nuggets; and milkshakes. Better options are: regular single-patty burgers without cheese and mayo; grilled chicken sandwiches; veggie burgers; garden salads with low-fat dressing and grilled chicken; egg muffin breakfasts; baked potatoes; yogurt parfaits; and grilled chicken strips.
  • At chicken food chains, less healthy choices include: fried chicken; Teriyaki wings; popcorn chicken; Caesar salad; and chicken and biscuit. Avoid adding extra sauces and gravy. It would be smarter to order: skinless chicken breast without any breading; honey BBQ chicken sandwiches; garden salads with low-fat dressing; and mashed potatoes.
  • At Mexican fast foods resist the temptation of ordering: crispy shell chicken tacos; steak chalupas; nachos with refried beans; and crunch wraps. Go for: grilled chicken soft tacos; black beans; veggie and bean burritos; and grilled steak burritos. Don’t add any sour cream or other sauces either.
  • At Asian restaurants veer away from: fried egg rolls; tempura; spare ribs; sweet and sour pork; deep-fried tofu; fried rice; and salads served with crispy or fried noodles. Recommended menu items include: egg drop, miso and wonton soups; stir-fried, steamed and broiled entrees like chow mien and chop suey; steamed or baked tofu; steamed brown rice; edmame; and cucumber salad.
  • At Italian places don’t be too keen in ordering: garlic bread; butter-crust pizza loaded with extra cheese and meat toppings; antipasto with meat; pasta with butter or cream sauce; and fried dishes. Favorable choices are: thin-crust pizza with extra veggies; breadsticks; plain rolls; antipasto with vegetables; pasta with tomato sauce; and grilled dishes.

Avoiding Temptations

  • Supersized meals. A small sized fast food meal is already packed with almost 1,000 calories. Imagine how much more you’d be getting if you supersize your meals. If you’ve watched the documentary “Supersize Me,” then you know how giant meals can be detrimental to your health.
  • Salt. Fast food meals are already loaded with sodium. You’ll be inflicting more damage if you sprinkle salt on your fries or burger.
  • Bacon. It’s the tastiest addition to any dish whether it’s a pizza, pasta, sandwiches or salad. Be smart enough to resist this temptation. Bacon is high in fat and calories and it doesn’t have that many nutrients. Adding pickles, lettuce, tomatoes or mustard is the smarter move.
  • Buffets. Always choose à la carte over buffets. You’re more likely to overeat when you’re in a buffet because you want your every penny to be worth it. If you’d like to try buffets once in a while, go for salads with low-fat dressings, steamed veggies, fresh fruits and broiled or grilled entrees.

Unless you’re totally devoted to it, avoiding fast foods entirely would be difficult. It’s not a crime to eat it once in a while. Just remember that moderation is key. Don’t make fast food a regular habit and be sure to follow the tips above, and you’ll do just fine.


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