Fast food is everywhere… literally! It’s widely available, convenient, and inexpensive.
However, fast foods often contain large amounts of added sugar and are high in saturated fats and trans-fats. This combination is especially dangerous for diabetics as it causes food to be digested more quickly. Without good fats and fiber to slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, sugar levels can skyrocket and blood pressure can increase.
The saturated and trans fats often found in fast food can put you at greater risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. While there are good sources of saturated fats like coconut oil, butter, and full-fat cream, there is nothing even potentially healthy about trans-fat. This dangerous fat raises bad cholesterol levels and lowers good cholesterol levels.
Sugar is also hiding where you may not expect, even in fast food! Ketchup and BBQ sauce often contain a ton of sugar. The carbs in that bun and those fries can also cause blood sugar to skyrocket.
All that being said, we all indulge in fast food at one time or another. The key is not to tell yourself you can never have fast food again, but to make a commitment to smarter choices when you do eat fast food. These 10 tips can help get you there!
- Most fast food restaurant menus are available online, so you can check the calorie, saturated fat, and carb contents of menu items before you go. Look closely and you may be surprised at what you find. A salad being higher in calories than a sandwich? It’s definitely possible when the salad is covered in cheese and dressing!
- Try to avoid the drive-through. Give yourself at least 15 minutes to eat. Park the car, go inside and take a break. This also encourages mindful eating which will help make those calories more satisfying, and can help control the urge to snack later.
- Don’t order the jumbo or super-sized portion. You may see it as the best way to save money, but you’ll be doubling or tripling the amount of calories, fat, and sugar.
- Order off the kids’ menu. This makes portion control much easier, and takes the pressure off of you! For example, a medium order of McDonald’s French fries contains 340 calories. A kid’s size order of fries has 110 calories. A McDonald’s Quarter Pounder burger with cheese has 530 calories. A kid’s cheeseburger has 300. You still get your burger and fry fix, but for less than half the fat and calories!
- Choose to have your meat grilled instead of fried. For example, Wendy’s grilled chicken wrap has 270 calories, but the breaded and fried chicken wrap has 370 calories.
- Decline toppings like bacon or cheese, and choose lettuce, onion, pickles and tomato. By adding these toppings to your sandwich, you increase the volume of food you’re eating without increasing calories. By ordering your sandwich without the bun, you’ll save up to 150 calories and nearly 30 carbs!
- Be careful with condiments. Condiments like mustard, ketchup and salsa are lower in calories than mayo. (Be careful with ketchup as it contains a lot of sugar.) If you are a mayo-lover, order it on the side; you’ll end up using less. Also use caution with salad dressings. You think the salad is the healthier choice, but once you layer on dressing, you could be consuming a salad that contains more calories than a hamburger! Fast food salad dressings can contain over 200 calories per packet, along with added sugar. Ask for oil and vinegar for your salad, or if you want another dressing, try using only half of the packet.
- A side salad or fruit cup are two alternatives to French fries. They contain less calories, but far more fiber which keeps you feeling fuller longer, and aids in the digestion of the carbs in your meal.
- Drink water or unsweet tea instead of a soda, milkshake, or sugary coffee-latte drink.
- Ask if half-portions are available. For example, at Panera Bread, you can order half-portion sizes of salads and sandwiches. Their soups are also available in three different sizes, which can make a huge impact. A cup of Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup contains 230 calories, a bowl has 360 calories, and the soup served in a bread bowl packs 900 calories! If the restaurant you’re dining in does not offer half portions, choose a kid’s menu item, or split a regular size menu item with a friend.
Fast food is nearly unavoidable these days. Now with these tips, you can still eat “faster”, but can now also eat smarter!