Fast-food restaurants are often sought after because they are quick, easy and convenient. However, their grab-and-go qualities typically come packed with many calories. Recently, fast-food restaurants have been implementing new, healthier options into their menus as an alternative to the high-calorie, high-fat foods that customers typically think of when they hear “fast food.”
“We’re always looking for products and ways to make sure our food fits into a balanced diet,” Cindy Goody, senior director of nutrition for McDonald’s USA, said in an article from the Sun Sentential by Terry Rindfleisch from April 27, 2010. “We’re aware and engaged in lowering sodium. That [calorie and nutrition] information will be very visible, and that could have an impact on people making healthier choices.”
Though many of the items on the “lighter” menu may lead one to think that they are making a better choice, the items often just highlight the fewer calories while remaining uncomfortably similar to other regular-menu items. There could still be an excessive amount of sodium packed in one menu item.
However, there are a limited number of ways to get a meal quick with relatively few calories and great nutritional value.
For instance, McDonald’s offers a Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich that has 350 calories. This sandwich is healthy if it is customized with extra lettuce, tomato and has no mayonnaise added. To make it even healthier, you can take off the top half of the bun and save around 100 calories. An additional alternative is to replace the french fries with fruit and walnuts.
Sandwich shops can be deceptive as many people just assume that if they are eating a sandwich, then they are probably eating healthier. In order to actually make a sandwich healthy, opt for the wheat bread, light meat and load it down with vegetables. Again, avoid mayonnaise. If you can do this, then a sandwich can be a great source of protein, fresh veggies and good carbs.
Believe it or not, there is even a way to make a hamburger relatively healthy when on the run. Get a Whopper Jr. sandwich at Burger King; its 240 calories without the mayo. Instead of fries, go for a side salad; you can even use it to put some more lettuce onto your burger to make it feel more substantial. Cutting out condiments like ketchup and mustard are easy ways to save empty calories too.
“I think fast food restaurant items could sometimes be healthy, depending on what it is and where it is at, but most of the time it is probably not,” Callie Pfeffer-Hahn, freshman in kinesiology, said. “You can always have wraps, which I think are healthy at most places, but it is definitely more tempting to order the unhealthy foods like french fries because they just taste so scrumptious.”
Traditional sit-down restaurants are an option for people seeking to go out for a nice meal. However, they may not want to take in all of those “nice” calories with it. So while you’re dining out, avoid dishes at restaurants labeled deep-fried, basted, batter-dipped, breaded, creamy, crispy, scalloped and that contain Alfredo. Ordering items with more vegetables and choosing leaner meats will help to make a healthier choice with more nutrients.
Another way to cut calories at a meal is to drink water instead of soda. This simple decision can cut out around 380 calories and save your daily calorie intake. Again, taking the dressings off of your food is a way to ensure that you aren’t taking in empty calories.
“I do not think people really care about eating healthy when they go out to a restaurant,” Courtney Bruce, sophomore in interior design, said. “People are just thinking about the food tasting really good and just the fact that they do not have to make it. So the calories just kind of do not usually matter or cross people’s minds.”
While cutting calories at a fast-food restaurant may not be the first thing on everybody’s mind when they go to grab a bite to eat, it is essential to keep calories and nutrition in mind so you do not mess up an entire day’s calorie count on one quick meal.