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HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY FAST FOOD CHOICES WHEN EATING OUT

Fast food made healthyWe all love the occasional fast food fix. However, we also know that our favourite fast joints are famous for dishing out nutritionally-bankrupt meals and snacks loaded with excess kilojoules, salt, sugar and fat along with convenience. And we also know that indulging in these foods to often can lead to health problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

But let's face it, it's hard to beat the convenience of fast food as our lives become more and more hectic and sometimes just swinging by the drive-thru is the easiest option. So what's the answer? What are some healthy, practical fast food choices you can make, minus the guilt.

Some fast food retailers are making changes to their cooking methods and ingredients in order to improve their nutritional profile. However, one still needs to be savvy when making choices based on supposedly 'healthier' items, especially if you are trying to lose weight and stay in shape.

Many words, such as 'fresh', 'grilled', 'baked' and 'lite', are used to trick unsuspecting consumers into thinking they are making healthier choices. Chances are you could be getting freshly grilled food that's light in colour/texture but covered in fat and salt before it's cooked or prepared.

Fast foods can and do have their place as part of a healthy diet plan, provided they are eaten in moderation. Most outlets now provide nutritional information about their products, so its worth doing a little investigation. Look online or ask over the counter for a nutritional leaflet. To further assist you, here are some top tips to keep you kilojoule content under control without sacrificing your occasional fast food experience.

Tip number 1TOP FAST FOOD HEALTH TIPS:

  • Skinless chicken or poultry will have less fat. Remove skin to reduce kilojoule and saturated fat content.
  • Limit high-energy drinks such as soft drinks, sundaes and milshakes - drink water and green tea - the occasional diet soft drink or iced tea won't hurt.
  • Sandwiches, wraps or rolls without butter or margarine, or creamy condiments such as mayonnaise - try a little mustard or pickle instead.
  • Watch out for battered, crumbed, or fried crunchy or crispy menu items as these will usually be loaded with calories and saturated fat.
  • Grilled items are generally healthier than fried items provided the outlet hasn't added any fat to the food before cooking.
  • Be vary of extras such as bacon, cheese, mayonnaise, dressings and sauces as they are likely to be high in fat and energy.
  • Ladies, if you're ordering with your man, don't eat the same size portions!
  • Avoid upsized meals or anything named 'super', 'triple' or 'whopper'.
  • Instead of ordering your favourite meal with a side of chips and a soft drink, go for a side salad, corn cob, yoghurt or bottled water.
  • When ordering take-away, choose smaller portions, if available, or share large portions with a group of friends or family members.
  • Choose lean or reduced fat options, if available, as these are generally healthier meal choices
  • Order salads without dressing or with dressing on the side. Better yet, use low-kilojoule on non-fat dressings.
  • Say no to butter or margarine when ordering sandwiches, wraps or rolls - this can save you at least 400kj.
  • Skip the high energy side dishes such as garlic bread and fries.
  • As a general rule, avoid processed foods such as pastries, croissant's, pies and desserts available at most fast food outlets.

With these tips in mind lets now take a look at three major fast-food chains and examine how they stack up, their healthiest menu options and what to be wary of. 

Tip number 2HEALTHIEST SUBWAY OPTIONS:

Subway sandwichYou've seen the ads and heard the amazing weight loss stories, but does subway really deliver a healthier alternative to other fast food chains. The answer is sort-of. They do offer rolls with 6g fat or less provided you don't add cheese, mayonnaise or some of their other condiments and sauces.

However, not all their products receive the green tick of approval as their nutritional information is only available for six inch rolls. In other words, if you order the foot long, you have to double the fat and kilojoule content. As a general rule, go for any of the 'under 6g of fat' filled rolls and stick to the 6 inch size.

After ordering you roll, you may be tempted with one of the cookies on offer at the checkout. Do yourself and your wallet a favour and pass them up. They're nutritionally-bankrupt and are loaded with fat and sugar and empty calories. If you must have a cookie, go for the oatmeal raisin variety. It's the healthiest choice with the fewest calories and the most protein.

Tip number 3HEALTHIEST McDONDALDS OPTIONS:

McDonald's burger with friesWith McDonald's recent move to provide a healthier menu, it makes it a little easier to be health conscious without letting your guard down. The best choices here are from their lighter choices range as they have 10g of fat or less. Watch out for the deli choices range as some items can be as high in kilojoules and fat as a Big Mac!

When it comes to burgers, stick to the plain type with salad. Try and avoid the meal deals - a Big Mac plus fries and a coke will provide approximately 3,500 kilojoules (835 calories) and 40g of fat. That's about half the daily required energy intake for an adult female!

Tip number 4HEALTHIEST PIZZA HUT OPTIONS:

Pepperoni pizzaThe main problem with pizza is the portion size and the temptation to choose value for money meal deals. One slice of pizza can easily saddle you with between 540 and 1254 kilojoules and 4 - 12g of fat, with the healthiest option being the Thin N Crispy vegetarian pizza - the thinner the crust, the lower the caloric-density (energy). This alone can save you around 50 calories.

Cheese and fatty processed meats such as salami and pepperoni which you find on a lot of meat-heavy pizzas add a lot of unnecessary fat and salt, so avoid these where you can. Instead, get the Thin N Crispy crust with light cheese and lots of vegetables for a healthier alternative. Another great idea is to order a small salad before your main meal to help you fill up faster.  

Tip number 5HEALTHIEST FAST FOOD OPTIONS:

If you're heading out, here's a selection of the healthiest choices you can make. Providing your portions are in-check, you really cant go wrong with these options. Enjoy!

  • Grilled chicken burger - hold the sauce or mayonnaise!
  • Sandwiches, wraps or rolls without butter or margarine, or creamy condiments such as mayonnaise - try a little mustard or pickle instead.
  • Thin crust vegetarian pizza - stick to 2 or 3 slices!
  • Subway rolls with less than 6g of fat (6 inch)
  • Salads with low-fat dressing
  • Chinese stir-fry with small portion of steamed rice
  • Donor kebabs with tabouli salad
  • Barbecued chicken without the skin plus salad with low-fat dressing
  • Plain burgers with salad
  • Sushi or California rolls
  • Clear Asian noodle soups with lean meat, chicken or seafood and vegetables.