Low fat fast food choices for busy students
So often I’m asked, “Are all fast foods bad for you?” and “Which is the best fast food place for low fat diets?”
Questions like these take me back to a time when I remember how much smaller fast food meals used to be . . . when chicken and fish arrived only deep-fried . . . and one’s choice of beverage did not include skim milk.
Times have changed in the fast food industry, and certainly for the better. For those of you who frequent the pick-up windows, check out these helpful hints for lower fat fare.
- Burgers and Fries They had it right in the beginning when they came out with small burgers. Common sense tells us that the bigger the burger, the more saturated fat – the kind that your liver loves to make cholesterol out of.It’s no surprise that the added cheese, bacon, mayonnaise and special sauces serve to top the fat off.Helpful hint:
choose your toppings wisely. Ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles offer no extra fat.
Same rule applies for fries: the smaller the better. Don’t be fooled by the “fried in vegetable shortening” ads. Like beef fat, shortening provides plenty of saturated fat.
The best potato choice? Go for the baked version and load it with salsa – definitely one of my favourites. And don’t forget to eat the skin.
- Chicken and Fish The rules are pretty simple here. If you’re going for the deep-fried versions, you’re in for a lot of fat.Methods of cooking that allow the fat to drip off would be a much leaner route.While chicken nuggets might be chosen every so often, a grilled, roasted or broiled piece of chicken or fish would be your best bet.
Like the burgers, it’s what you put on top that determines the total fat content.
Helpful hint: if your favourite fast food doesn’t offer a grilled version, ask to have it included on the menu. Menu choices are driven by consumer requests!
- Subs, Wraps and Pitas Subs can make for a healthy, low fat sandwich when prepared on whole grain buns smeared with a little mayo, oil, butter or cheese.Go for the cooked turkey or chicken breast versus the processed meat fillings.Feel free to load your sub with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, peppers, mustard and pickles.
While wraps are sweeping the US, they’re slowly creeping into Canada. They’re made from pita bread or flour tortillas and stuffed with salad ingredients, chicken, fish, beans and vegetables.
You just have to watch out for the dressings and sauces.
Helpful hint: ask that your wrap be prepared with half the fat. If you get the chance, give this heart-healthy sandwich alternative a try.
- Salads Most fast food places offer a decent sized salad that can substitute for a meal.The trick here is to choose a salad with lots of colour – plenty of reds, orange and rich greens. A topping of grilled chicken or a toss of sunflower seeds packs a little protein, while a breadstick rounds the meal off.Helpful hint: you control the amount of dressing that goes on your salad. Ask for the low calorie types or use half of the regular versions.
So there you have it. A quick, healthy, energizing lunch is available at most fast food restaurants. You need only to consider your options, and modify your choices to make them as lean as you wish.
Final hint: ask for some nutrition information when you place your order. Many restaurants now have these facts available.
Anita Romaniw B.A.Sc., R.D.N. is the Community Nutritionist for the Fraser Valley Health Region. Used with permission.