If you have to eat fast food

Many of us lead such busy lives that we can't get by without eating on the run, often in the car. It is possible, however, to make your fast-food choices a little lighter just by being careful which toppings you choose on your menu item. When making your selection, keep the following information in mind.

If you have to eat fast food

Hamburgers

Basic hamburgers are in the 250 to 350 calorie range, with about 10 to 20 grams of fat, while deluxe, all-dressed cheeseburgers weigh in at about 500 calories, with 26 grams of fat. Choose a basic hamburger, no cheese, no mayonnaise and no bacon. Order it dressed with mustard, pickle, fresh onion, tomato and lettuce.

French fries

Of course we all want fries with that, but we must be prepared to pay the nutritional price. Just one medium size serving of French fries delivers between 360 to 450 calories and a hefty 17 to 22 grams of fat. A large order of fries from several chains provides almost 600 calories with 27 grams of fat, part of which is trans fat.

Try to skip the fries, or eat them only occasionally. If you must have fries, get the smallest order, and avoid those cooked in anything but vegetable oil (always ask the counter person to verify). And if possible, order wide, large-cut fries. They are usually slightly lower in fat and salt than the skinny ones because in an entire order of fries, there is less surface area for the oil to cling to. Do not add extra salt or ketchup.

Hot dogs

The traditional North American hot dog contains about 240 calories, and 16 grams of fat. Typically, 60 percent of the calories come from fat, with only a small percentage from protein. Eat hot dogs only occasionally, and watch the toppings: skip the cheese and chili; stick with mustard, relish and onions.

Tacos

A regular beef taco with the traditional toppings of lettuce and cheese in a hard taco shell has approximately 180 calories, with 10 grams of fat. Stick to one taco, with only the regular toppings.

Pizza

There's no question that pizza is one of our all-time favourite fast foods. Unfortunately, it is also a major source of fat. One 14 inch (35 centimetre) commercial pizza has anywhere from 22 to 36 grams of fat. When eating pizza, try the following: Stick to one slice. One or two slices of pizza with a side salad or vegetable sticks will boost the nutrition of your fast-food meal while decreasing the fat and calories.

Load up on vegetable toppings. They have the least calories and fat and the most nutrients. Lean meats like chicken and ham are better choices than fatty sausages and pepperoni. Cut down on cheese. Ask for more sauce and less cheese. If your toppings are grilled vegetables, chicken, seafood and herbs, try having no cheese at all.

By following these guidelines, you can cut down on calories, while still enjoying your favourite fast food items.

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