Healthier fast food options are out there but take effort to find. I’ve got you covered with the tips and tricks to make the best choices when ordering.
When you are running around doing your holiday shopping, at some point, you’re going to find yourself far from home and in need of food. You’re gonna be crabby from low blood sugar and there will be nothing but fast food around. Of course, you know there are better choices than fast food. But don’t worry. You can still find something to eat without compromising your diet and healthy, slim lifestyle.
Just last week, I had fast food. My kids and I were traveling for the holidays and got stuck at the airport. Ugh. Airport fast food. We wandered around the terminal, checking out our options. I usually suggest planning ahead to know what is available. But this time, we had to go with the flow.
And I, fortunately, ran across something I didn’t even know existed, Farmers Fridge. (1) It is a healthy vending machine, believe it or not, that contains salads, bowls, wraps, and trail mix. I was thrilled with this healthier fast food option. (Their containers and utensils are even recycled and recyclable.) So, I purchased a burrito bowl before jumping on our flight. And it was tasty and full of veggies. Great! I successfully navigated the fast food restaurant maze.
Help! Healthier Fast-Food Options
Fast food dominates our food culture. So, it’s important to know how to navigate these menus in a healthy way instead of just giving up and eating huge quantities of fried unhealthy food – and a supersized soda. I can’t give you a list what to eat at every fast food restaurant. Also, each restaurant changes its menu.
But, after reading this guide, you’re going to be strong in the face of the dripping Big Mac and the tantalizing aroma of fries. I will to teach you the key skills of making healthy choices at ANY fast food restaurant.
Your Healthier Fast Food Options Survival Kit
The answer for your health is to invest time in yourself by cooking. But, when you can’t do this because life is crazy and you need to eat out, respect your deeper need for health and happiness and make these healthier choices:
1. First, Cram in as Many Veggies as You Can
Adding more vegetables and fruits is one of the best food choices for your diet. To get this done this at a fast food restaurant usually means ordering a salad – though watch out for the dressing loaded with processed fats and sugar. If you do order something other than a salad as your main meal, get a side salad to go with it.
2. Add Protein.
You should eat 25 grams of protein at each meal if you are a woman in her 40s or 50s. You want to be tone. And you don’t want to feel like gnawing your arm off because you’re so hungry. Eating protein helps build muscle mass and create satiety. Also, avoid fried meats and opt for grilled. Getting enough protein in a meal already makes your choice a healthier fast food option.
3. Eat Vegan or Vegetarian. What?!
If you are in one of the sensitive seasons of life (pregnancy, nursing, perimenopause, or menopause), avoiding the hormones added to food is essential. Your hormones are already going crazy, and you don’t want to make it worse. So if you can’t find meats and dairy products that don’t have added hormones, i.e., pasture-raised, grass-fed, or organic, look for what is vegan (free of any animal products). This simple trick can make your life easier (and calmer with fewer night sweats) – try a bean burrito without cheese or a veggie burger.
4. Customize, Customize.
Before even getting in line and ordering, pull up the restaurant’s app to see all the available healthier fast food customizing options. Take out the fried ones and, whenever you can, opt for additional servings of vegetables.
Also, check the app for nutritional information and read the ingredients if you have the time. When I wrote my post, Healthier Drinks at Starbucks, I unhappily discovered tons of additives in Starbucks’ whipped cream: mono and diglycerides, carrageenan, natural flavors, and potassium sorbate. In my mind, whipped cream only has two ingredients, cream and a bit of sweetener; that is all it has when I make it at home.
5. Avoid Anything Fried.
Yeah, you knew I was going to say that. Picture yourself in a swimsuit. Don’t order the fries.
6. Skip Dessert.
Nope. Don’t order that either. You want sweets and foods that aren’t great for you. That’s how it is in our society with the commercials, the ads at the grocery store, how they cater to the mind, to kids, and every other way it goes in your head that you deserve to eat sugar. What you deserve is to be vibrant and healthy. And you are the one in charge of making that happen.
7. Don’t Overeat. Break your addiction.
It can be so easy to overindulge in fast food. In fact, fast food may even be addictive. In his book, Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions (2), Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Moss states simply that processed foods are addictive. “While heroin relies on morphine to draw out the addictive nature of the drug, fast-food turns to simpler elements like fat, salt, and sugar, all of which have the same impact on us once we take a bite.” So, don’t beat yourself up if you struggle with overeating, and do the best you can.
If you need help with overeating, check out the Learn to Stop Overeating Guide.
8. Drink Water or Unsweetened Tea.
Get the water. Bonus: it’s free! Any big soda or lemonade drink is full of empty calories and sugar. If you can’t do water, unsweetened tea is another healthier choice.
Also, be sure to get your 9 Healthier Habits for a Healthy You Guide to keep (or get) your health on track.
Put The Healthier Fast Food Options Method into Action
Based on what I have done in real life, I will show you how to order at two sample restaurants. When I did this, I enjoyed my food, felt satisfied, and could still button my pants. Healthy, slim lifestyle success!
First, get your veggies in by ordering a salad. Chick-fil-A has three options, and all these include lettuce as well as other vegetables. If you only need something light and choose to eat vegetarian, you can order the side salad; it does have seven grams of protein. There is a small kale vegan salad with 3 grams of protein. The kale salad is an excellent item to add if you eat something other than a salad as your main meal.
Customizing options include choosing grilled chicken versus fried as your protein. And ordering the grilled chicken nuggets instead of the sliced grilled chicken gives you six extra grams of protein. Also, you can opt not to top your salad with the included small packets of toppings. The granola contains added sugar, for example. You also can choose your dressing. The Light Italian Dressing has only 25 calories, three carbs (so it is low in sugar), and 1 gram of fat (so it is low in processed fats). A great choice.
Skip dessert and ordering fries. Choose unsweetened tea or water.
Be very proud of yourself for putting your healthy, slim lifestyle into action.
There are several healthy options available at Chipotle. Get your veggies in by choosing a salad or lifestyle bowl. You get all the same stuff as if you ordered a burrito, but you put it on top of lettuce instead of a tortilla or additional rice. Choose their healthy fat guacamole. Add your protein (animal, vegetarian, or vegan). Make sure to customize and choose the “extra” portion option for fajita veggies and salsa and add lettuce or mixed greens. Choose salsa as your dressing instead of the 220-calorie honey vinegarette that has added sugar.
Due to their food sourcing statements, see below (3), I usually don’t eat vegan at Chipotle, though they have vegan options. I go ahead and order the animal products. Choose water or unsweetened tea if available at your location.
Summary of Healthier Fast Food Options
When you choose to eat fast food, you can satisfy your hunger without compromising your diet and healthy, slim lifestyle. With this guide, you get the tricks and skills to make the best choices in the fast food checkout line. Fast food dominates our food culture, and it is an important skill to be able to navigate a fast food menu to find healthy choices.
Start with getting your veggies in. Then add protein. (Women in their 40s and 50s should eat 25 grams of protein at each meal). Also, consider eating vegan when you eat fast food to avoid added hormones. And always customize to get the best of what is available at each restaurant. Certainly, avoid anything deep-fried and skip dessert. Lastly, remember to avoid overeating and choose water as your beverage.
Congratulate yourself on navigating a challenging food situation!
Healthier Fast Food Options Resources
“One of the first national restaurant brands to commit to goals on local and organic produce. First national restaurant brand to commit to using only responsibly raised meat with some of the highest animal welfare standards.”
“The milk (or cream) used to make our sour cream comes from pasture-raised cows.”
“We currently source only Responsibly Raised birds, which means they’re fed a 100% vegetarian diet with no antibiotics, but we’re always striving to raise our standards even higher. That’s why we’re collaborating with organizations like Compassion in World Farming USA and The Humane Society of the United States to make some big changes. By 2024, we plan to buy chicken raised using practices aligned with the new requirements of the Global Animal Partnership’s (GAP) standard for broiler chickens.”
This blog post is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to treat any health condition or to be prescriptive for anyone. Always be sure to work with your healthcare practitioner before making any changes.
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