Friday, July 22, 2011

The Lesser of the Evils (Navigating Fast Food)

Eating out is so much a part of American socializing.  This is especially true if you are a teen or 20-something.  My own son is living 600 miles away from home this summer working as an intern and doesn't have a kitchen OR a college meal plan, so he's been frequenting those fast food joints way more than I want to think about.

One way to become better informed about what's in those sandwiches and combo meals is to visit  There, you'll find listings of menu items from just about any restaurant chain imaginable.  One of my college-aged clients last year was shocked to discover that his favorite go-to meal at a Mexican chain contained over 2,000 calories and more than 40 grams of fat, thanks to a peak at  Here's a quick list (compliments of Women's Health Magazine) of some ways to 'healthy up' your choices at some of the more popular establishments:

  • At Starbucks, ask for your favorite beverage "short"(8 oz).  You'll reduce the amount of calories, sugar, fat and even money spent!  
  • Red Robin gives the option of having your burger wrapped in lettuce leaves rather than on a bun.  In-N-Out Burger does this too, offering any sandwich "Protein-Style", saving you 70 calories.
  • Burger King has a "Veggie Whopper" (not to be confused with their "Veggie Burger") that has all of the trimmings of the Whopper EXCEPT for the meat (what's in that meat, anyway???).  You save 240 calories.
  • Wendy's "Veggie Burger" is a sandwich without the patty.  It saves you 220 calories.
  • At Moe's Southwest Grill, ask for your burrito "Streaker Style" and you'll get it without the 310 calorie tortilla.
  • Want to save 400 calories at Pizza Hut?  Order your pizza "Fit 'N Delicious" to get half of the cheese PLUS extra sauce and veggies (this method saves 100-300 calories for each slice of a medium pizza).
  • By getting your favorite Subway sandwich as a salad instead, you can save up to 520 calories.
While I am not a huge proponent of counting calories, I think it's important to understand what the food we are putting into our mouths is going to be doing in our bodies.  In many of the instances listed above, by omitting the bread or the cheese (which really don't add much nutrition to your meal anyway), you can make room for more foods that actually do more than take up space in your stomach (and later in undesirable places around your body), bringing nutrients like enzymes, fiber and phytonutrients into your body.  Most breads quickly breakdown into sugars in your system, increasing insulin levels and actually leaving you hungrier than if you'd skipped them in the first place!

Eat mindfully!  Make it count.

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