7 ways to make fast food healthier

What can you do if you’re away from home and fast food is your only option? Here are seven ways to make fast food healthier the next time you have to order

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drive thru

Make an informed choice

We all know that eating fast food can highjack a healthy diet. But what should you do when fast food is your only option, like when you are on a road trip or you are working late? We interviewed Edie Shaw-Ewald, a registered dietitian based in Halifax, to find out how to adjust fast food choices to make them healthier.


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unhealthy fried chicken salad

1. Choose grilled chicken, not fried

You’re feeling virtuous because you chose a salad, but if it comes with crispy or fried chicken instead of grilled, you could consume an additional 80 calories and an extra 8 g of fat. For example, the McDonald’s Mediterranean Salad with Warm Crispy Chicken has 290 calories and 15 g of fat, whereas the same salad with Warm Grilled Chicken has 210 calories and only 7 g of fat.


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2. Skip the toppings

“If you add pecans, bacon bits or croutons to your salad, it will really top up the fat, sugar, salt and calories,” advises Shaw-Ewald. Skip these toppers and you can retrain your taste buds to enjoy a salad without the extra calories and fat. At Wendy’s, adding gourmet croutons to your salad adds 80 calories and 3 g fat. Adding roasted pecans will add another 110 calories and 9 g fat and seasoned tortilla strips will add 80 calories and 4.5 g fat.

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Salad dressing

3. Choose a vinaigrette salad dressing, not creamy

“Always choose a vinaigrette salad dressing instead of a creamy dressing,” says Shaw-Ewald. Salad dressings are not equal alternatives when it comes to calorie count or fat content. Further, she advises that you don’t really need to use the whole packet – try using just half. On the McDonald’s menu for example, one packet of Renée’sMighty Caesar Dressing contains 260 calories and a whopping 29 g fat. Your better choice is Renée’s Ravin’ Raspberry Vinaigrette, which has only 60 calories and 3.5 g fat.

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4. Avoid milkshakes masquerading as gourmet coffee drinks

DQ’s Caramel MooLatte (24 oz.) has an incredible 900 calories and 24 g of fat. According to Shaw-Ewald, that’s about half the calories required by an average woman in an entire day. Even the lowest calorie 16 oz. Cappucino MooLatte will set you back 510 calories and contribute 18 g fat. If you’re craving a sweet a treat, it’s far better to have a Kids’ Vanilla Cone for only 170 calories and 4.5 g fat.

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hamburger double patties

5. Don’t quadruple, triple or even double the meat patties

Most people do not have a protein deficiency in their diet, advises Shaw-Ewald. The average person needs about 60-80 g of protein each day, or about 21 g of protein in an average meal. Burger King‘s Whopper Sandwich has 28 g of protein, which is certainly sufficient, but the Double Whopper Sandwich goes way beyond with 48 g, and the Triple version has even more at 68 g. Instead of multiple patty burgers, order a single flame-broiled Hamburger for 15 g of protein and have it with a carton of milk, bringing the protein total for the meal to 25 g.

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6. Muffins are little cakes in disguise

You may think that a Tim Hortons Whole Grain Raspberry Muffin is a healthy snack alternative because it has ‘whole grain’ in its name. But be aware that this treat has 400 calories and 17 g of fat.  Shaw-Ewald warns that even the Low Fat Cranberry Muffin, with 290 calories is still too much for a snack. If you’re craving a muffin, she suggests splitting one in half to share with someone else. Even better, choose Tim Hortons’ Strawberry Yogurt & Berries instead. Although it has only 140 calories, this yogurt snack will keep you satisfied longer because it has a better balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates. Yogurt also provides additional nutrients of calcium, magnesium, and friendly bacteria.

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grocery shopping

7. Grocery stores can be your best fast-food alternative

Don’t forget that you can put together your own, healthier meal from a grocery store. A McDonald’s meal of an Angus Burger, small fries and a small pop would set you back 980 calories and give you 38 g of protein. But if you buy your own no-cook ingredients at the grocery store, such as half a whole-wheat pita stuffed with a cup of mixed greens and topped with a small handful of grated cheddar cheese and 1 tbsp of vinaigrette, plus an apple and some water, you will consume a much more reasonable 380 calories and 23 g protein.


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