Healthy Food Choices – Fast Food

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 15,141
    Dietitian Sonya Kaster discusses strategies, portion control, food safety and healthy items to choose when eating at a fast food restaurant.

    Sonya Kaster: Hi! I'm Sonya Kaster with the Oliver Foundation. Today, let's talk about how to make healthy choices on the go at a fast food restaurant. Remember to plan ahead before you go to your favorite fast food restaurant. Go to their website, take a look at the menu; you'll find that there are some nutritional choices that you can make when you're on the go.

    So now let's take a look at some of the choices you might have at a typical fast food restaurant. Today, I've got three different size burgers in front of me. This meal in front of me, actually the burger is going to be 790 calories and the French fries are going to be additional 500. So this meal is approximately 1300 calories.

    The next choice you have is the hamburgers, approximately 500 calories here, and then the French Fries are about another 380 to 400 calories. And then, finally we have what's typically considered a child's meal. And the cheese burger is 300 calories and then the French fries are going to be 120 calories. So you have quite a range in regards to the calories that you could possible consume at a meal.

    A typical American diet, we really recommend, based upon your activity level, can range anywhere from 2000 to 2600 calories in a given day. And that's going to depend upon your activity level with 2000 really being the recommendation for those adults that are going to be more sedentary; the higher 2600 calorie consumption is going to be the recommendation for those adults that really have a much more activity level as well as those that are actually athletes or those who train for competitions.

    But if you look, 1700 calories are already gone; if you've made that choice that has the most calories. While most people don't think about choosing the junior burger, I'll share with you that this is actually when I go to a fast food restaurant, this is my choice. You'd be surprised; you really do, you get full really to satisfy your hunger. So let's take a look at how I can make the smallest meal here even more healthy.

    This meal, the way that you see it, actually is approximately 600 calories once we have added our 12-ounce soda to the French fries and the cheese burger. So how can we eliminate some of those calories and bring in some added nutrients?

    First, let's substitute the soda pop for a milk. Not only is the milk going to give you calcium, but it's actually going to be so much better for those kids that are consuming this meal, because as we know, calcium is one of those nutrients really essential to creating healthy teeth and strong bones.

    But now, let's take it a step further. Let's take and substitute the French fries and we just eliminated another 120 calories, so now we've eliminated 280 calories and let's substitute apple dippers for those. The apple dippers are only going to be about 35 to 40 calories. You can also add -- some restaurants also include some sort of dip for the apple dippers, but even just the apple dippers, the cheese burger and the milk, we have already improved the nutritional quality of this meal as well as the calorie content.

    I don't want to try to mislead you and say that it's an easy choice to make. It has to be a very conscious choice that when you go out to a fast food restaurant that you look for those healthier choices and ways that you can make them really work for you, and this is just one example.

    Here's another way that you can make a healthy choice at a fast food restaurant. Look at the menu and find those salad choices. Many of them will offer side salads that you can use in replacement for the French fries and that really is going to save anywhere from a 100 calories and more, just by eliminating those French fries, and choosing a salad instead. That also is going to give you much more nutrient dense choice. You're going to get other added vitamins and minerals and essential nutrients by choosing these vegetables as opposed to the high-fat French fries.

    But be careful, not all salads are created equal. If you're taking your salad and adding things like croutons or high-fat salad dressings, this package, this one single package alone is going to add 170 calories to what was once a below 100 calorie salad.

    Be careful when you're adding another thing like protein to your salad to make it a complete meal. You want to choose those things that are going to be grilled and low fat choices.

    Now, speaking about things that are low fat and grilled, remember, not all fast food restaurants only serve cheese burgers; look for those things on the menu like grilled sandwiches. There are lots of different choices that you can make, still eat at your favorite fast food restaurant and really enjoy making healthy choices on the go.