“Fast Foods” Your Way!

A couple weeks ago I addressed baby boomers and older adults about fast food dining.  It turns out this portion of the restaurant industry, while not the most healthful, has been booming in the past few months.  Customers’ order sizes and the average checks have gone up–we’re eating more or buying for multiple people. Digital orders, either through third-party services like Uber Eats or a chain’s own app, also grew substantially.

Americans have also put on weight since March, and this eating trend, along with less physical activity, is partly to blame:  in general, fast food meals are notoriously high in calories, fats, sugar, and sodium.

We know that, yet we still purchase them—there’s no denying they’re convenient, fairly inexpensive, and still a way to treat yourself.  I mean, we can only cook so many dinners each week!

What’s a consumer to do to support their health?   Here is a quick look at best picks from fast food restaurants, and easy ways to make homemade versions.  Note: While I’m NOT advocating you buy fast food meals, I do acknowledge that the craving will grab you from time to time, so here are a few dietitian-recommended best practices!

Burger Meals

Best choices (at your favorite fast food restaurant):

The easiest way to guard your health while dining out is to control your serving size.  A large soda is a whopping 30 ounces, a burger with cheese and all the fixings can top 600 calories; the same is true for a large serving of fries.

Instead of supersizing your meal, go for a child-sized serving or split the meal with someone.  Another option, ask the server to cut your burger in half, and take half home.  Avoid the mayonnaise and secret sauce, skip the cheese.  Order a bottle or glass of water to save hundreds of calories and lots of sugar!

Better choice (at home):

Barbecue two of your favorite patties and refrigerate one for a quick microwave heating later in the week.  (You can refrigerate cooked burgers for 5 – 7 days.)  Low-calorie mayonnaise is available, as are whole-grain buns.  Look for beef burgers with the lowest amount of fat, or switch out for a turkey or vegetarian version.  Buy frozen fries and bake them.  According to delish.com, the best frozen fries are Ore-Ida Extra Crispy Fast Food Fries.

Freshen it up:

Have a big green salad (minimal dressing); add lots of lettuce and tomatoes to your burger.  Bonus hint:  make a huge salad on the weekend, or whenever you have time, and use throughout the week to enhance the “fast” feeling of your homemade burger meal.

Mexican Food Meals

Best choices (at your favorite fast food restaurant):

Some of the same recommendations apply here:  go with smaller sized products with less cheese and sour cream.  Avoid fried tortillas; opt for soft tortillas and grilled chicken fillings.

Better choice (at home):

It can’t get much easier than opening a can of refried beans (fat-free versions are available).  Plus, beans offer a big boost of dietary fiber.  Heat and mix with taco seasoning or salsa, then spread on a tortilla of your choice.  You can even collect packets of taco sauce from your favorite Mexican fast food joint and use those to mimic the taste you’re accustomed to at the drive-through.

Freshen it up:

Add chopped cilantro or lettuce, diced tomatoes, sliced red or green onions for lots of healthy nutrients.

Pizza Meals

Best choices (at your favorite fast food restaurant):

Skip the high-fat processed meats and go for a veggie pizza.  Opt for a thinner crust, and limit to two slices of a small or medium “pie.”  You can even ask the pizza makers to only toss half the cheese on your pizza; you’ll still get the gooey cheese you love, but with lots less fat and saturated fats.  And of course, mInimize beer drinks.  

Better choice (at home):

Start with your favorite frozen pizza dough (lots of choices are now available, including tasty gluten-free ones).  According to thetakeout.com, Contadina Original Pizza Squeeze and Pastorelli All Natural Pizza Sauce are the best sauces.  And here too, cut back on cheese for a much healthier selection.

Freshen it up:

Add lots of chopped or sliced vegetables, or canned pineapple.

Choose well, don’t overindulge, and enjoy you fast meal!

And for the easiest way to add the nutrients of fruits and vegetables to your daily diet, check out Juice Plus+ plant-based solutions!

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