You’re on the road, in a hurry, and hungry. You didn’t pack a lunch so your only option is fast food. What do you do? While fast food is never the best option, sometimes it’s necessary. Find out how to order with your health in mind.
Before we begin, we need to go over some basic dietary guidelines. While many of the options shown below are recommended for meals on the go, they should by no means be consumed on a daily basis. Pay attention to what you’re eating in terms of fat, calories, and perhaps most importantly, sodium.
Sodium – It’s difficult to eat out without consuming high levels of sodium. If you need to hit the drive thru, make sure your sodium intake is on the low end for the rest of the day.
Drinks & Sides – The following guidelines are written under the assumption that you are drinking water and only eating an entree. French fries or soft drinks are not recommended.
Overall Health – Everyone should be packing lunches and eating fresh, whole foods as much as possible. This guide is intended only as an alternative when food choices are limited.
Is there anything “good” at McDonald’s? That depends who you ask! If you ask me, their fries are pretty on point. OH. You meant “good” as in healthy? Let’s discuss. Healthy is a word that can be thrown around loosely. For the purpose of this post we can’t say McDonald’s is healthy – but we can say they have some foods that are acceptable in moderation. The following items are totally fine for eating on the go. And, no, they’re not salads. Just remember to ditch the fries and soda, and definitely don’t supersize!
Panera Bread Co.
Panera is where you go for a healthy lunch, right? I mean, they have soups, salads and sandwiches. They don’t serve fries or frozen desserts. Totally healthy. Or is it? It’s true Panera has a ton of better-for-you lunch options, but that broccoli cheddar bread bowl isn’t one of them. Truth be told, even salads can contain a hefty amount of calories and fat – which is fine if those are coming from whole foods. But added cheeses, dressings, croutons and things of the like aren’t slimming your waistline. If you truly want to stick to mindful eating, Panera makes it possible. Plus, the You-Pick-Two option allows you to cut portions and calories in half. Try these items that are low calorie and low fat!
Vegetarian Black Bean Soup + Classic Salad – Low calorie but sodium is a little high.
Lentil Quinoa Bowl w/ Cage Free Egg – Low calorie plus protein and fiber galore.
Garden Vegetable Soup + 1/2 Roasted Turkey Avocado BLT – A good source of protein and veggies.
Chipotle is one place that never makes me feel “guilty.” Yes, it is high calorie. Yes, I indulge in cheat-worthy toppings like cheese and sour cream. But overall, the average Chipotle burrito bowl packs a lot of essential nutrients. Depending on what you get, many Chipotle orders contain veggies, grains, protein and dairy. There are also plenty of ways to lighten things up. Ditch the cheese and sour cream. Or, request these on the side so you have control over how much you use. Bottom line: stick to salads or burrito bowls. A flour tortilla alone can be up to 300 calories! My go-to order below:
Chicken Burrito Bowl
Total Calories: 555
Fresh Tomato Salsa
Believe it or not, Burger King has a handful of smart menu options. We’re showing chicken sandwiches and a veggie burger below, as many of their beef burgers contain trans fat. Their salads can also be good options, but keep in mind that the dressings can rack up your sodium intake.
Flame Grilled Chicken Burger (no mayo) – Coming in at 370 calories, it has 0 trans fat and 0 saturated fat.
Tendergrill® Chicken Sandwich (no mayo) 350 calories and low in sodium.
Morning Star Veggie Burger – Hold the mayo and you’re looking at less than 5mg cholesterol.
There are plenty of other fast food places out there. Since I couldn’t cover them all in one short post, I have some parting advice. Use your judgement! Grilled is always better than fried. Water is always better than a soft drink, even if it’s diet. Always skip fries or other side options. Say “no” to cheese, mayo or other sauces when possible. When it comes to eating out while staying in shape, less is more!