Fat Food…I mean, Fast Food


I try not to eat fast food, but I’ll always cave for a White Castle hamburger when I’m in NYC. Sometimes you just don’t really have a choice in the matter.

So at the request of my brother, here’s some of your better options and some helpful tips when eating fast food.

First up are a few tips from AskMen.com.

Remember that good options include:

  • The smallest size of burger
  • Grilled chicken sandwiches or salads
  • Low-fat dressings and sauces (or none at all)
  • Diet soft drinks or water

A few things to avoid:

  • Super sizes of anything
  • Fried or breaded chicken or fish
  • Chicken nuggets
  • High-fat sauces and dressings
  • Onion rings
  • Extra cheese

Those are pretty obvious, but Real Simple has tips when ordering at some of the more popular fast food places.

For example, when dining at…

Burger King

If You Usually Order: A Whopper with cheese and a side salad.

Make It Healthier: Satisfy your burger craving (and cut out almost 500 calories) by replacing the Whopper with a hamburger from the kids’ menu. (Kids’ menus offer smaller portions.)

Better Yet: Order the Tender Grilled Chicken Sandwich – there’s no crispy fried stuff and no creamy sauce, and you can ask them to double up on the lettuce and tomato for an extra helping of vegetables.


If You Usually Order: Six-piece Chicken McNuggets (with a side of ranch sauce) and large French fries.

Make It Healthier: Ask for medium fries and replace the ranch sauce with barbecue and you’ve knocked 345 calories off your meal.

Better Yet: Get the California Cobb Salad with grilled chicken. Just beware of what you put on the salad: The Cobb dressing adds 120 calories and 9 grams of fat. Opt for the low-fat balsamic vinaigrette.


If You Usually Order: A loaded baked potato (stuffed with bacon, cheese, low-fat sour cream, and Buttery Best spread) and a small Original Chocolate Frosty.

Make It Healthier: Save 130 calories and 16 grams of fat by loading your potato with chili, low-fat sour cream, and broccoli.

Better Yet: Try a baked potato topped with chili, broccoli, and chives. It is filling, has loads of fiber, and has a mere 370 calories and 3 grams of fat. Add a glass of 1 percent reduced-fat chocolate milk to satisfy a sweet tooth.


If You Usually Order: An Extra Crispy chicken breast and a side of mashed potatoes and gravy.

Make It Healthier: Order an Original Recipe wing and leg (290 calories and 17 grams of fat total). Though white meat seems a wise choice, the breast is one of the worst items on the menu, with 460 calories and 28 grams of fat.

Better Yet: Get the Honey BBQ Chicken Sandwich. It only has 300 calories and 6 grams of fat. Among sides, best bets include mashed potatoes (without gravy), green beans, and a small corn on the cob.

Taco Bell

If You Usually Order: Chalupas (fried taco shells filled with cheese and ground beef).

Make It Healthier: “Avoid the crispy things in favor of soft tortillas,” says Leslie Bonci, director of sports medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. (Indeed, the word crispy is often a euphemism for “fried.”)

Better Yet: Order food “Fresco-Style,” which replaces a dish’s normal sauce and cheese with fresh salsa. Loading up on salsa instead of cheese and other sauces can save you hundreds of calories and 10 or more grams of fat.


If You Usually Order: A classic tuna sandwich with Cheddar cheese and potato chips.

Make It Healthier: Get a wheat roll, and add extra vegetables. If you can’t omit the cheese, know that American cheese is the lowest-fat option, followed by provolone, with Swiss and Cheddar tied for last. Choose baked chips.

Better Yet: Subway’s tuna salad contains lots of mayonnaise, so a less cholesterol-raising option would be the Veggie Delite or Turkey-Breast Sandwich from the “6 Grams of Fat or Less” side of the menu.


Just remember that if you don’t think it’s a healthy choice, it probably isn’t. Some other things to remember when ordering:

BURGERS – Keep in mind lots of burger joints (fast food included) now offer “protein style” where they wrap your burger in lettuce instead of a bun. If you need the bun, see if they offer a whole wheat option. Also turkey burgers are usually healthier than beef.

PIZZA – Go thin crust. Light on cheese, and pile on veggies and protein (like chicken).

PASTA – Ask for a whole wheat pasta option, or get a chicken parm sans bread.

JAPANESE – Avoid anything “tempura” and stick to fishes high in omega-3’s and things like salmon, veggies, and avocado which include healthy fats. Also a soy option (miso soup or edemame) is a good idea.

INDIAN – Replace pappadams (thin and crispy) with naan (thicker bread) and order your food grilled rather than smothered in sauces.

MEXICAN – Limit yourself to chips. Instead of tacos or anything cripsy, stick to a flour tortilla and fill it with extra veggies, lots of salsa, leaner meats and a lot of guacamole instead of sour cream.

If that’s not specific enough for you, check out this site which includes a pretty comprehensive list of various fast food places and their healthier options.

Photo from Flickr, where I found this poem attached to the photo. Pretty much sums up our fast food nation.

Fast Food Nation.


They say we’re in the middle of an obesity epidemic.
An epidemic like it is polio.
Like we’ll be telling our grand kids about it one day.
The Great Obesity Epidemic of 2004 (-07 and counting)
“How’d you get through it grandpa?”
“Oh, it was horrible Johnny, there was cheesecake and pork chops everywhere.”

Nobody knows why were getting fatter?
Look at our lifestyle.
I’ll sit at a drive thru.
I’ll sit there behind fifteen other cars instead of getting up to make the eight foot walk to the totally empty counter.

Everything is mega meal, super sized. Want biggie fries, super sized, want to go large.
You want to have thirty burgers for a nickel?
There’s room in the bag. Take it!
Want a 55 gallon drum of Coke with that? It’s only three more cents.

Adapted from Underwear Goes Inside The Pants – Lazyboy.


19 comments so far

  1. Diana on

    Naan and pappadams are confused. Naan is the thicker bread while pappadams is the thin and crispy bit.

  2. Tusk on

    Chipotle Chicken Burrito in a bowl, sans the sour cream, cheese and guacamole.

    If memory serves that is about 620 calories and 20 grams of fat. Replace the chicken with the Guac and you are at 576 calories but 24 grams of fat. The guac fat isn’t nearly as bad for you.

    Personally I ignore fat and try to keep myself to about 600 calories a meal.

  3. cincodemayo1 on

    So much for copying and pasting! The naan/pappadams confusion has been fixed. Thanks!

  4. Brian on

    Lots of great pointers!

    What I think people don’t realize is the importance of NOT eating out once in a while. I’ve noticed my weight is far more stable and manageable since I’ve started packing my lunch and eating at home. (As a side effect, it’s had a noticeable impact on the wallet too!) And I put a good helping of junk in my lunch pail too!

  5. Top Posts « WordPress.com on

    […] Fat Food…I mean, Fast Food [image] I try not to eat fast food, but I’ll always cave for a White Castle hamburger when I’m in NYC. […] […]

  6. Becks on

    Great suggestions. You know what else would work? If fast food restaurants had to post calories on their menus. NYC passed a law to implement this idea, but several companies are suing the city over the law. We’ll see what happens…

  7. may on

    i think you got naan and pappadams mixed up.

  8. startingtoday on

    I love burgers wrapped in lettuce.. The buns are usually so big that it fills me up anyway and then I don’t get to enjoy my burger. So much less (overly) filling without the bun. Less carbs too.

  9. Rebecca Aguilar on

    re: MEXICAN “stick to a flour tortilla”?

    Flour tortillas are CERTAINLY not good for you. How about a CORN tortilla (not fried) filled with avocado, beans, tomato?

    This would be a healthier option!

  10. day24day on

    I needed that great post!

  11. clericalsolutions on

    It is okay to eat out every once in a while but not all the time because fast food isn’t very healthy. It is cheaper to eat at home and stick with lots of fruits,beans, other vegtables,whole wheat bread,add flax seed or ground flax seed to your meal and brown rice.Drink lots and lots of water everyday. Drink more water than soft drinks, eat very little of fast food. Only eat sweets in moderation don’t eat sweets and candy everyday, maybe once a week. If you must eat fast food, eat it twice a month or once every two weeks.

  12. Josiah Robertson on

    That’s funny but is smart

  13. marimann on

    Good post, except for the part where you put “diet soft drink” under “good options”. Tons of empty corn syrup calories, nothing “good” about it. My suggestion for anyone looking to cut out or cut back on fast food? Read the first section of Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”.

  14. jane on

    Good tips… only one thing it’s actually better in most fast foods to go for onion rings than fries the calorie and carb content is lower and i personally find that since they taste stronger u dont need the extra salt or the ketchup to spice things up

  15. josh on

    seriously? you just implied the tuna is healthy.

    puh-lease. a six inch tuna sub has AT LEAST 31 grams of fat. wanna know how the employees make it? take one package tuna (~2 lbs) and 3.25 cups regular mayo, blend well and serve.

    also, the “wheat” bread has more fat (but a little more iron) and more sodium. it’s not “whole wheat”. just before i quit, there were “new formula” boxes in the freezer… “whole wheat flour” was in the recipe… coming in at number five or six, i believe.

    if you want “healthy”, get something off the “jared” menu. the catch? you can only have white or wheat bread, no cheese, veggies, and fat free dressings (no salt or pepper).

    when i gets down to it, you’re better off packing a lunch.

  16. cincodemayo1 on

    Thanks for all the comments. Just so everyone knows, this article isn’t saying fast food is good to eat. It’s simply suggesting what your best options are at these kinds of restaurants.

    As for the comment by Josh, he’s right, tuna might not be the best option (as was suggested by the linked article) however, it may be a better option than loading a meat sandwich with cheese, mayo, and dressing.

    Just be smart and think about what goes into your mouth.

  17. Tusk on

    Diet soda doesn’t contain corn syrup. The sugar/corn syrup is replaced with either aspertame or Splenda. Which is the literal difference between Diet Pepsi and Pepsi One.

    Not everyone has the option of brown bagging it. I’ll have a solid week of traveling with maybe 30 minutes a day for lunch in a city half a continent from my kitchen. I will eat fast food at least 1 meal a day.

    Easiest way is planning ahead. There are a ton of sites out there that can tell you the calorie and fat count at various fast food places. Even let you build the food as you go.

    So just find a site that lets you build your food, aim for a number of calories. Then when you are done, make yourself a list of places and what you can have. Then stick to it.

  18. Turkleton on

    This REALLY did not help with my school project…i hope your happy with yourself.

    please email me on hawkflame@hotmail.co.uk if you can help meon 5 a day.

    *slashes wrists*

  19. Phoenix Criminal Lawyer on

    I think moderation is the key. I eat junk food and I eat lots of fruits and vegetables.

    Why give up everything. Add some fruits and vegitables and some exercise and you will be okay.

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