The definition of fast food has undoubtedly changed when compared to the past. What would usually refer to cheap burgers and fries has altered quite a bit as businesses enter the “fast casual” industry or expand their menus to include healthier alternatives.
There are more plant-based alternatives available, and it is getting rather simple to get a salad or a wrap in a short amount of time.
However, sometimes all that you really want is a burger and fries so here is some advice from experts on how to still consume fast food but also make it as healthy as possible.
According to professor and nutrition educator Luanne Hughes, the healthiest fast food isn’t any certain restaurant, but like most things, rather a mentality.
Hughes explained that “Just because here says McDonald’s and the place next door says Chipotle, it does not matter, it does not mean that you are going to eat healthier. If you go to Chipotle, it means that you still have to make smart choices.”
Hughes advises picking a restaurant that offers “a hybrid between traditional fast food with a drive-thru and a restaurant where you’d go in and sit down.”
The healthier options are often found in places that offer customizable menus, where you have more control over the protein, vegetables, and sauces than at other fast food outlets.
“You also need to look for menu items that have vegetables on there. Those sandwiches that either come with tomatoes, lettuce or spinach, any sort of vegetable on there or allow you to add those options,” the expert went on to say.
All that being said, here are some of Hughes’ top recommendations for boosting the nutritional content of your favorite fast food treats!
- Check Outside the Main Menu
“Don’t jump right to the entrees, look at sides that you can get. Can you get a baked potato or salad and a yogurt parfait and is it something that would still appeal to you instead of just a traditional burger?” Hughes suggests considering.
In addition, many fast food chains are starting to offer bowls as an increasingly customizable alternative to burgers and sandwiches.
“Instead of a classic sandwich, you can also get a bowl that has all the ingredients that you may get in a sandwich, but you also have the ability to get extra vegetables,” the nutritionist notes.
- Keep Portion Seize in Mind
A 2019 study found that even though McDonald’s “Supersize” option was discontinued almost 20 years ago, fast food portions are still significantly larger than they were back then.
Additionally, according to hosts of Food Wars, portion sizes are significantly larger in the U.S. than in the U.K.
Hughes advises pausing when hunger or cravings strike and considering how much food is actually necessary to satiate you and ordering accordingly.
- Customize Your Sauce or Salad Dressing
Skipping the sauce altogether is undoubtedly the healthiest decision, but occasionally a great sauce can really make the whole meal.
With that being said, try requesting light sauce or on the side if it isn’t a huge deal breaker for you. And as far as salad dressing is concerned, the same holds true.
Hughes shares that “Many times you find a sandwich that’s grilled chicken, but you’re trying to figure out why does it have so many calories, and where’s all the fat coming from and the sodium? And many times it’s in those special sauces that they add to the sandwich.”