Denver to DC: Fast food

Denver to DC: One RD’s quest to find good food on the road

Day 5: Milwaukee, WI to Ann Arbor, MI

Today we saw the first McDonald’s restaurant… arguably the forefather of today’s fast food. While you can’t buy any Big Macs in the original building–which now houses a museum–you can, of course, step across the street to buy yourself a burger.

All this led me to thinking about fast food… both our country’s obsession with fast food and our ever-expanding waistlines. Is the fast food industry to blame for our obesity epidemic? My opinion is no, not really… there are way too many other factors at play here. Overweight and obesity naturally occur over time in a society that drives everywhere (and walks little), sits all day, eats very few vegetables/fruits and subsists on excessive amounts of processed foods.

So, what do you eat on the road when you’re surrounded by fast food joints and no whole foods? Make healthier choices. I’ve come to accept that eating well really boils down to making the wiser food choice.

My standards for road-side foods are a turkey sandwich, veggie burger, salad or bean burrito. Today I stopped at Starbucks for a decaf soy latte (130 calories, 4 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein) and the chicken/flatbread/hummus plate. Tasty little snack or small meal, it weighs in at 250 calories and 9 grams of fat (with 5 grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein). I followed it up with an apple I’d brought along with me. The fiber in the hummus (thanks to the garbanzo beans), whole wheat flour in the flatbread (also contains enriched flour), veggies and apple actually kept me feeling fuller longer.

But, what if you–like my husband–would rather indulge in a burger? That’s fine, too… just reach for one that doesn’t eat up your entire daily calorie allotment in a few bites.

Here are some healthy options for fast food meals at burger chains…

Healthy options at fast food restaurants

  • Regular or single patty hamburger (hold the mayo and cheese to save yourself about 150 calories each)
    McDonald’s hamburger, 260 calories, 9 grams fat
    Burger King Whopper Jr. (no mayo), 310 calories, 13 grams fat
    Wendy’s Jr. hamburger, 280 calories, 9 grams fat
  • Grilled chicken or fish sandwich (hold the sauce)
    McDonald’s Chicken McGrill (no mayo), 305 calories, 4.5 grams fat
    Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich, 367 calories, 4 grams fat
  • Veggie burger (hold the cheese)
    Burger King Veggie Burger, 340 calories, 10 grams fat
  • Turkey sandwich (hold the cheese and mayo)
    Subway 6″ Turkey Sandwich, 280 calories, 2.5 grams fat
  • Mixed greens salad with grilled chicken, tofu or fish (ask for dressing on side)
    Wendy’s Garden Side Salad, 170 calories, 6 grams fat (with Pomegranate Vinaigrette dressing)
  • Yogurt and fruit parfait (add nuts for protein)
    McDonald’s Fruit ‘n’ Yogurt Parfait, 167 calories, 2 grams fat (snack size)

Instant meal makeover?

Add a side salad or extra veggies to your sandwich, salad or burger. The salad and veggies add extra fiber, vitamins and minerals without a lot of calories.

Just remember…

Like most processed foods, these options are still high in sodium and should be consumed in moderation. Enjoy them while eating out, but aim to get the bulk of your calories from fresh, whole foods, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans.

1 Comment
  1. Tell Adam there’s no shame in eating hummus. Also tell him that accounted for 35 referrals to ElevateYourHealthCO site, compared to 2 from the Post.