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Drive-Thru Dining: Fast Food and You

Drive-Thru Dining:
Fast Food and You

Can I eat fast food and be healthy?
Which fast foods are healthy?
Can I eat fast food without gaining weight?
More tips for healthy ordering
What are the unhealthiest fast foods?

Life in the fast-food lane can mean nutritious food, when you're prepared. If you know what to look for, you can make healthy food choices anywhere you eat. Of course, fast food doesn't make a solid base for MyPyramid, but a trip to the take-out window every once in awhile won't make you unhealthy. It all depends on the choices you make when you are faced with that menu. back to top

Can I eat fast food and be healthy?
Fast food doesn't have to mean a bacon double cheeseburger with large fries and a chocolate shake. To make healthy food choices, look for words on the menu like baked, broiled, and grilled. Foods prepared in these ways usually have less fat than fried foods. Many fast-food restaurants also provide nutrition content details (like a food label) to help you make informed decisions. back to top

Which fast foods are healthy?
Look for fast-food restaurants that offer the following:
  • Lean meats, hummus, tuna, or veggies in wraps or on whole-grain breads. Some tuna salads are prepared with a lot of mayonnaise, so ask about the fat content before ordering.
  • Pizza piled high with your favorite vegetables instead of extra cheese.
  • Chili. Chili is lower in fat than some hamburger sandwiches, and the beans add fiber to your diet.
  • Chicken or fish sandwiches. Be sure they are grilled, broiled, or baked, not fried.
  • Salads or salad bars. But go easy on the dressing and prepared salads, which can have a lot of hidden fat. back to top
Can I eat fast food without gaining weight?
An occasional fast-food meal isn't going to make you overweight. But if you eat fast food several times a week, you'll want to make healthy choices. Take a look at MyPyramid to make sure you are getting the variety of foods your body needs. And skip those super-size and value deals. Those big meals may look like bargains, but eating more calories than your body burns makes you gain weight. And when you increase your small fries to king-size fries, you add about 540 calories to your meal! back to top

More tips for healthy ordering
Little things mean a lot when it comes to making smart fast-food choices. Here are some little things to look out for:
  • Sauces, dressings, and toppings can add lots of fat to your meal.
  • Choose mustard and a little ketchup instead of cheese or "special" sauces.
  • Hold the mayo, or ask for light mayonnaise.
  • Flavor your baked potato with a little butter and pepper instead of sour cream, bacon bits, and cheese.
  • Choose oil and vinegar or low-calorie salad dressings instead of high-fat options like ranch and blue cheese.
  • Drink low-fat or skim milk, water, or iced tea instead of shakes. back to top
What are the unhealthiest fast foods?
Some fast foods should be called fat foods. If you've just gotta have the following foods, eat them only occasionally, not for supper every Friday night.
  • Hamburgers: A Whopper at Burger King weighs in at a whopping 660 calories and 40 grams of fat. Can you guess the calorie and fat count for a Double Whopper? Forget about holding the pickles, lettuce, and special sauce—nothing can make this burger healthy.
  • Fried chicken: Chicken is a good source of protein, but once it's coated in batter and deep-fried, beware! Just one piece of the Hot & Spicy Chicken at KFC contains 530 calories and 35 grams of fat.
  • French fries:
  • A large order of fries at McDonald's has 450 calories and 22 grams of fat—that's more than 20 percent of the total calories your body needs in a day in just one box of fries! back to top
Last Modified Date: 12/5/2000
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