7 Tips for Fast Food Survival
By Joe Wilkes
Guide to Eating
Out in Fast Food Chains
No, we haven't lost our minds here at
Beachbody. We don't actually want you to eat fast food. It's terrible for you.
It makes you fat. It destabilizes economies and nations. It kills the
environment. Read Fast Food Nation. See Super Size Me. If
you're really serious about getting or staying in shape, fast food restaurants
are not on your path to success.
However, sometimes fast food is the only
option other than starvation. Long road trips, coworker lunches, the only place
your child or childish companion will eatthese are all situations where
you may be forced to enter one of these fluorescent dens of gluttony and decide
which of their evilly delicious menu items you'll be naming your newly enlarged
While the fast food companies have generally shown an
appalling disregard for their customers' health, they have lately been shamed
by our nation's obesity epidemic into offering some menu items that have some
nutritional value. They still can't resist adding a little unneeded fat or
extra high-fructose corn syrup just to spice things up, so it's wise to take a
buyer-beware approach when ordering your meal. Here are some tips to make
healthier choices and some suggestions about the healthiest (relatively
speaking) things to order at some of the major fast food chains.
- Get less for your money.
This may seem counterintuitive, but the so-called
value meals really only offer you extra calories, saturated fat, sugar, and
other diet killers. While it may seem like an unbelievable deal that you can
get twice as many fries for only 19 more cents, it's a bit of a false economy,
unless you're saving up for a bypass operation. If you really want to save
money, pack a lunch.
of the biggest problems with fast food is that the food is incredibly dense in
calories, fat, sodium, and bad carbohydrates. They pack a lot of unhealthiness
into a small package. So you think you're just having a quick bite, but you're
really getting most of your day's requirement of fat, sodium, and calories.
This is where we get the term "gut bomb." Paying extra to ruin your health
makes no sense. Ordering the small size may not be as cheap per pound of food,
but it will save a fortune when working off pounds of fat later.
- Discover your inner child. The best place to find a reasonably sized portion for an
adult is sadly, the children's menu. Bowing to the horrible publicity created
by childhood obesity, fast food companies have made the most improvements to
the kids' menu. In fact, at some restaurants, the kids' meal is the only way
you can get healthy sides like fruit or carrots. It's great the kids are
getting healthier options. After all, the children are our future . . . organ
donors. We need to keep them healthy. But if you eat the healthy stuff on their
menu yourself, you might be able to hang on to your own organs a little while
longer. You don't need to impress the teenage cashier with your ability to eat
the maximum fries and triple patties. Don't be ashamed to order the junior
hamburger or even the kids' meal. And you might get a free toy in the
- Stick to salads. A big
problem with fast food is that many innocent-looking nuggets and patties are
loaded with added fats, flavorful chemicals, and high-fructose corn syrup which
wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels. Salads are a good way to eat
ingredients where you can easily observe whether they've been adulterated with
bad-for-you additives. Not to be deterred, the fast food companies will try to
get you with the dressings. Ask for oil and vinegar, if possible. If not, check
the ingredients and calorie counts of the dressings offered carefully. You're
better off with a vinaigrette or vinegar-based dressing like Italian. Also,
true to form, most places give you enough dressing to dress several salads.
Either use only half the packet of dressing or ask for a side cup you can
squirt it into, and then dip your fork in the dressing before you get a bite of
salad. Another way to avoid the dressing trap is to forego it completely, and
scam some fresh lemons from the condiment or beverage counter and squeeze them
over your salad.
- Beware of "theme" salads. It's called a salad. It looks like a salad. It has
lettuce. It must be a salad, right? Like the restaurant I went to that had a
"cheesesteak salad" on their menu (I kid you not). Don't be fooled by clever
naming tricks. A taco salad at most places is just all the unhealthy
ingredients you're trying to avoid dumped on a plate of lettuce. In some cases,
you're better off calorie-wise eating the taco in its original construction.
Use common sense when selecting a salad, making sure all the ingredients are
vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins you can recognize. Don't let restaurants
mislead you into eating crap disguised as food.
- Have it your way. Remember the old Burger King jingle, "Hold the pickle,
hold the lettuce, special orders don't upset us." Take them at their word. Only
don't hold the pickle and the lettuce, hold the mayo and high-corn-syrup
ketchup. Ask if you can substitute the grilled chicken breast for the breaded
chicken breast. Wheat buns for white buns. Lettuce cups for buns. Ask for extra
veggies. And hold the cheez, especially if it's spelled with a "z." Tell them
you'd rather salt the fries yourself. When you order the "healthy"
grilled-chicken or fish sandwiches, make sure they're not loaded with mayo or
special sauces. Ask for salsa or mustard instead. After all, one advantage of a
fast food joint over a fine restaurant: when they're annoyed with your special
requests, they can't spit in your food, because you'll see them do
- Watch what you drink. The
most profitable menu items for restaurants are soft drinks. Costing almost
nothing to make, they want you to get as big a size as possible and pay for it.
What you'll get is tons of sugar and chemicals. And maybe eventually, diabetes!
Read Steve Edwards'
911, Part VI, The Worst Food on the Planet if you need to know why soda
(and diet soda) will ruin your figure and your health. Try and stick with iced
tea or water. And to play the broken record again, if you must get soda, get
- And a milkshake is not a drink.
It will often be suggested that you wash down your
burgers and fries with a frosty milkshake. Sounds good, right? You can tell
yourself you're getting your calcium, fighting osteoporosis! You're also
getting over 1,000 calories if you get a large at some restaurants. Even the
kid sizes come in at 300+ calories. Your drink probably shouldn't have more
calories than your meal. Also, if it's called a shake, instead of a milkshake,
there's a good chance it doesn't even contain any dairy. Maybe some whipped
lard instead! Mmmmm, whipped lard . . . I guess Frosty Whipped Lard Shakes
didn't make it out of the marketing meeting.
Quick-Look Fast Food
All hope isn't lost, though. You can almost
find something healthy to eat anywhere. Here are the best bets at some of the
most popular fast-food chains. (Unless specified, salad calorie counts do not
include dressing.) McDonald's
- Small hamburger (260 calories)
- Asian Salad with Grilled Chicken (290
- Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken (220
- Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette (40
- Fruit 'n Yogurt Parfait (160 calories)
item: Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips. Premium chicken
breast sounds good on the surface, certainly better than the mysterious
McNuggets, but the 10-piece version will run you 1,270 calories, and that's
before you dip it in the sauce! You could eat two Big Macs and get fewer
calories. Burger King
- Chicken Tenders 5 pieces (210 calories)
- Tendergrill Chicken Caesar Salad (220
- Tendergrill Chicken Garden Salad (230
- Note: both these salads are without
dressing, where the "light" Italian will add 120 calories, and the garlic
parmesan toast another 70.
- Whopper Jr. (without mayo) (290
- BK Veggie Burger (420 calories)
item: Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich. At 780 calories, half of
which are from fat, don't think you're cutting calories with this batter-fried,
mayo-slathered doozy. It has 110 more calories than the grown-up Whopper!
- Mandarin Chicken Salad (348 calories)
- Caesar Chicken Salad (282 calories)
- Mandarin Orange Cup (80 calories)
- Low Fat Strawberry Yogurt (140
- Small Chili (220 calories)
- Plain Baked Potato (270 calories)
- Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich (360
item: Homestyle Chicken Fillet Sandwich. Apparently,
"Homestyle" is code for "mayonnaise." At 540 calories (only 40 calories better
than the Big Bacon Classic) you're better off with the more decadent-sounding,
but healthier, Ultimate Chicken Grill. Taco Bell
- Crunchy Taco "Fresco Style" (150 calories)
- Crunchy Taco (170 calories)
- Ranchero Chicken Soft Taco "Fresco Style"
- Taco Supreme (220 calories)
- Gordita (chicken or steak) "Fresco Style"
Most misleading item:
Fiesta Taco Salad. At 860 calories, this may be the most
highly caloric item on Taco Bell's menu. You can shave off over 300 calories by
not eating the deep-fried tostada shell it's served in, but still, a pretty
hefty calorie count for a "salad." Subway
Veggie Delite sandwich (230 calories)
- 6-inch Turkey Breast sandwich (280
- 6-inch Roast Beef sandwich (290
- 6-inch Ham sandwich (290 calories)
- 6-inch Subway Club sandwich (320
item: Meatball Marinara. What's in these meatballs? A
six-inch sub is 560 calories; a 12-inch sub has 1,120 calories, and if you
double the meat, you can get a single 12-inch sandwich with 1,920 calories and
84 grams of fat. On the bright side, I believe the defibrillation is