Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, PhD
Lack of time is a major reason why many people forego healthy eating. Fast food is readily available and it's temptingly cheap and filling. While eating fast food is never as healthy as a well-planned, balanced diet, if you must eat fast food, you can easily take steps to improve the quality of your nutrition when on the run.
- Watch portion sizes. Your craving will likely be satisfied after you have finished a small order of fries, and you'll save over 100 calories when compared with the supersized order. The same holds true for sandwiches. Order the regular version or even a kid's meal for yourself.
- Seek out deli-style fast-food chains where you can order a sub or sandwich on whole wheat bread or a wrap, a lower-fat and lower-calorie option than fried food.
- Many fast-food chains now offer healthy sides in place of the ubiquitous French fries. Take the healthy option. Or if you can't bear to give up the grease and salt, get the healthy side order, too.
- Always order a side salad when eating at traditional fast-food outlets. You will be less likely to fill up on only the unhealthy items, and the salad will provide some fiber and vitamins to balance an otherwise unhealthy meal.
- Remember that chicken isn't always a healthy choice. Many fast-food chains offer fried breaded chicken sandwiches on white bread that are actually richer in fat and calories than a burger. Grilled chicken is a better option.
- Make it a habit to eat a piece of fruit, a bowl of cereal, or some lowfat yogurt before you set out to run errands. Regular eating can help you feel full and avoid temptation.
- Stock your car with bottled water and healthy snacks. Have a small snack before the cravings hit and you're less likely to pull into that drive-through fast-food outlet.
- Consider a supermarket for your fast-food break. You can pick up precut and washed fresh fruit or vegetables, yogurt, or lowfat cheese. Many supermarkets also offer sushi, wraps, salads, or other healthy prepared items.
- Hold the mayo. A tablespoon of regular mayonnaise has almost 100 calories!
- Don't add a sugary, calorie-rich drink to an already unhealthy meal. Water is available everywhere and is good for you. Drinking a large glass of water with your meal will help you feel fuller earlier.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005: Key Recommendations, Dept. of Agriculture, Dept. of Health and Human Services, http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/recommendations.htm