Fast Food Does Not Have To Signify Fat Food: Slimmer Options

Fast food. Some of us hate to love it and others love to hate it. Fast food can be a guilty pleasure, or just a downright pressure of eating on the fly, especially for college students crunched for time. Some days we face a heavy work load and barely enough time to eat. That is when we virtually have to opt for fast food. We just need to put something quick and cheap in our bellies on the go.

According to Fitness Magazine, the Center For Disease Control found that fast food makes up more than 15 percent of daily calories for people in their twenties and thirties. While most fast food might as well be called fat food, there are options that aren’t all that bad. When choosing these quick dining options, its helpful to know what items on the menu pose the least threat to your body.

When you hear fast food, you often think: McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell. None of these are held high in regards to health. McDonalds has an especially bad rep since its SuperSize me days and is infamously known for salty french fries and questionable meat products.

If you must make the trip to the Golden Arches, a premium caesar salad with grilled chicken and low-fat balsamic vinaigrette will do. Add a fruit ‘n yogurt parfait and you’ll total just 375 calories and less than ten grams of fat. A veggie burger and apple slices from Burger King is 440 calories. Furthermore, a smart menu choice at Wendy’s is a large chili with a side garden salad with fat-free dressing. Taco Bell calorie savers include fresco chicken soft tacos.

Chicken products over beef may seem like a good idea at these places; however, due to processing, this is not always the case. Amanda Enright Unanski, an adjunct nutrition professor said, “I don’t recommend menu items like frozen chicken fingers or frozen chicken nuggets and the quality of the meat used is questionable. The breading just adds extra calories. This actually goes for most frozen meals- they are full of added calories (usually from fat) and are high in sodium, which is something we want to try and limit from our diet.”

Jackie Leming, a senior health studies major, tries to avoid fast food all together. “If I did have to get fast food, I would order a grilled chicken sandwich over breaded and not eat the bun.” she said.

While these chains are generally what we think of when we hear fast food, there are other places where items should be chosen wisely. Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are college favorites for coffee and a snack before or in between class. Starbucks Nonfat Caffè Latte and Skinny Vanilla Latte are only 100 calories. You can also ask for any drink to be made “skinny” to save calories.

At Dunkin’ Donuts, the Smart Swaps program allows you to see what items can be exchanged for healthier choices.

For example, according to Dunkin’s website, subbing an english muffin for a plain bagel saves 170 calories. The menu labels breakfast items like the egg white flat bread under DD Smart, as a part of a marketing campaign to label the healthiest choices.

Panera Bread is a convenient café that offers soups, sandwiches and salads which may seem healthy. Some of these are loaded with sodium since they are pre-packaged, however. Professor Enright recommends either chicken noodle soup or garden veggie soup with sandwiches like the smoked turkey or mediterranean veggie.

Even though places like Subway, Saladworks and Chipotle use fresh ingredients in front of the customer, there are still unhealthy add on’s to be avoided. Calories at these places can rack up quickly if you do not pay attention. A turkey club salad from Saladworks only has 220 calories and five grams of fat. This is a steal compared to other salads like the fire roasted cabo jack, which has 390 calories and 19 grams of fat.

If at Subway, choose six inch wheat bread with tons of veggies like peppers and cucumbers along with lean meats like turkey or chicken. The menu item of a six inch Subway club with sweet onion sauce and a side of apples is 445 calories. Avoid condiments high in fat like mayonnaise, the Chipotle Southwest sauce and ranch.

When at Chipotle, it is tempting to get a fully stuffed burrito: chicken, black beans, cheese, rice, sour cream and guacamole. According to Chipotle’s website, burritos with these ingredients total 1200 calories. Add chips on the side and you are already at your days’ worth of calories.

Instead, have your burrito choice between chicken or black beans combined with fajita veggies for less than 500 calories. The kid’s menu cheese quesadilla is just a mere 190 calories as well.

Rebecca Zidik, a senior communication major, said, “I get the kid’s quesadilla at Chipotle because it’s half the calories of the regular quesadilla. Plus, it comes with a small side of rice and chocolate milk if you want.”

You should not feel ashamed when you are in a rush but need to eat. Sometimes fast food is unavoidable. These quick pick me up’s can easily be the healthiest on any given menu though.

All of these food companys’ websites provide nutrition information, so it can be quite simple to choose healthy as long as you are informed. Remember, fast food only equals fat food if you make it that way.