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A Blog by TA & Petro Stopping Centers

Dr. John's Big 5: Recommendations for Eating Healthy at Fast Food Restaurants

burger in a car

Courtesy of Dr. John McElligott:

Whether it’s a personal craving or pure convenience, sometimes fast food is what’s on the menu. Your stomach might be rumbling, but remember, the nutrients you choose to put into your body still matter. Although fast food traditionally gets a bad rap, it is possible to construct a healthy meal at your favorite fast food joint.

Today, Dr. John’s Big 5 focuses on how to make healthier choices the next time you stop for fast food.

  1. Limit or avoid foods and drinks with added sugar.
    Not only do foods with added sugar increase your calorie intake, they also have very little nutritional value for your body. Remember food is fuel, and you want to choose items that will keep your engine running smoothly. While at a fast food restaurant, start with small changes like eliminating soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks and milkshakes. Even bypassing ketchup is one small step to reducing the amount of sugar you consume. Instead of fries with your meal, try a side salad, order fresh fruit or a plain baked potato as a healthier option.
  2. Focus on grilled, baked or roasted lean meats.
    Avoid fried and breaded items, such as crispy chicken sandwiches and breaded fish fillets. Choose turkey, chicken breast, lean ham or lean roast beef instead. Grilled, skinless chicken is usually your best bet. While eating fast food, look for meals under 500 calories. Grilled chicken sandwiches on whole grain buns are good options, but skip the mayo and sauces. Salads with grilled or lean meats are also a tasty alternative. Remember, skip the creamy dressings which can also be hiding sugars.
  3. Choose water as your primary beverage.
  4. Be aggressive to ensure you drink adequate amounts of water daily. Strive to drink a minimum of two liters a day. Water is vital for our bodies – the average adult is made up of over 70 percent water! Sticking with bottled water at a fast food restaurant eliminates extra calories often found in sugary drinks.
  5. Choose fast food chains that allow you to customize your order.
    It is easier to add extra veggies and eliminate condiments and fat when your food is prepared in front of you. Vegetables are higher in fiber and keep you full longer. This will decrease your need to snack in between meals or have spikes in your blood sugar levels. Remember to choose whole wheat bread whenever possible. It’s lower in calories and sodium and higher in fiber. Be sure to include healthy fats in your diet too. Avocado is the perfect special treat.
  6. Moderation is always key.
    One rule of thumb while eating fast food is to choose smaller meals. Avoid super-sized combo meals. It is better for our bodies to eat regular smaller meals rather than overeating one large meal high in fat and calories. Rather than eating three large fast food meals a day, opt to eat several healthy snacks like nuts, cheese and fruits and limit yourself to one fast food meal per day. In addition, an intermittent fast of 6 hours followed by one healthy fast food meal may also help maintain a diet and healthy weight.

If you have any questions or need advice, Dr. John’s Medical is here to help you with your healthcare needs. You can reach us at 865-438-0184.

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