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Healthy Options for Fast Food

Fast Food OptionsI have many busy clients who travel a ton and are looking for some healthy options when on the road. They always ask me “What can I eat when I am traveling that is semi-healthy?”. After hearing this question over and over, I decided to do some investigation. I evaluated the nutrition facts and ingredient lists for some of the top food chains and I am sorry to say that I am frightened by the results. I did my best to find you at least one semi-healthy meal option from the popular food chains.

Before I provide you with your semi-healthy options, I feel it is essential that you understand some of the basics of my research. First of all, most of the fast food and restaurant chains do not offer ingredient lists, which is the most important information. I am sure that they hide this information on purpose. I did locate McDonald’s ingredient lists and learned that even the simplest things are filled with chemicals, preservatives, artificial colorings, sugar, and trans-fats. Here are two good examples:

McDonald’s French Fries Ingredients:
Potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]*, citric acid [preservative]), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintain color), salt. Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent…YUCK!

Big Mac Bun Ingredients:
Enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, enzymes), water, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated soybean oil, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, wheat gluten, ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, datem, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, mono- and diglycerides, ethoxylated monoglycerides, monocalcium phosphate, enzymes, guar gum, calcium peroxide, soy flour), calcium propionate and sodium propionate (preservatives), soy lecithin, sesame seed…YUCK!

SEMI-HEALTHY FAST FOOD CHOICES

I honestly had a tough time finding anything healthy or fresh from the menus so I lowered my nutrition standards for this article. Next time you are on the road and you are hungry, here are some semi-healthy options.  Note:  If you have food allergies or intolerances to gluten, dairy or soy, do not eat at any of these restaurants.

McDonalds: Premium Southwest Salad
Suggestions: Ask for lime wedges as your dressing. Minimize the cheese and tortilla strips.

Wendy’s:
Apple Pecan Chicken Salad
Suggestions: Minimize bleu cheese crumbles and croutons. Light on the dressing – they are all filled with chemicals, preservatives, and soy oil.

Taco Bell: New Cantina Chicken Tacos
Suggestions: Chose the chicken over steak or pork, even though they are all pumped with hormones and antibiotics. I couldn’t find the ingredients list, so I am unsure whether their corn tortillas are made with hydrogenated oils.

Jack in the Box: Chicken Teriyaki Bowl
Suggestions: Between the white rice and sauce, it has a ton of carbs and sugar – eat half portion in one sitting.

In and Out: Protein Style Burger (No bun – lettuce wrap)
Suggestions: Light on the sauce.

As for the rest of the fast food chains, I was unable to find any semi-healthy choices. Most foods were deep fried or soaked in hydrogenated oils and made with tons of chemicals.

SEMI-HEALTHY RESTAURANT CHAIN CHOICES

I was unable to find ingredient listings for any of the chain restaurants but I am assuming that they would be a bit more fresh than the fast food chains! It’s always smart to order simple meals and salads and avoid heavy sauces and cheesy foods.

Applebee’s: Asian Crunch Salad, Grilled Shrimp and Island Rice

Chili’s: Caribbean Salad, Grilled Salmon served with Rice and Seasonal Veggies, Chicken and Green Chili Soup

Olive Garden: Minestrone Soup and House Salad (minimize the bread sticks)

PF Chang’s: Chang’s Lettuce Wraps (Chicken or Vegetarian), Chicken Chopped Salad, Asian Shrimp Salad

Bottomline: Try to avoid fast food joints at all costs. Make smart and simply decisions at chain restaurants. Your best bet is to choose higher quality restaurants that utilize fresh ingredients. It’s always a good idea to plan ahead by packing healthy snack and food bars. When you eat balanced snacks every 3 hours, you are less likely to become starved and make bad meal decisions.

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