Sometimes life gets a little out of control, and cooking meals at home just isn’t possible. Or, hunger might hit when you don’t have any food available. While fast food is a convenient choice, and a totally acceptable one at that, it’s usually not the most nutritious. And that’s okay – not every meal has to have a multivitamins worth of nutrients. But for those times you’re in a bind and want to make a more nutritious choice, here’s seven easy adjustments to make fast food meals healthier.
If fries aren’t your favorite, why not swap them out for a side salad, fruit, or a cup of soup, which is available at many fast food restaurants. Or, to sneak in some veggies, load up your burger with sliced tomatoes, lettuce, and onions, which add nutrients and a fresh crunch. At some restaurants, you may be able to substitute a whole grain bun or a lettuce bun! Craving the burger and fries? Go for it! Just pay attention to your fullness level. Burger and fries is a richer meal, so you may find your satisfied with a smaller amount.
Many sandwich restaurants also offer whole grain bread, which has more filling fiber. If it’s a build your own sandwich restaurant, fill your sandwich with a variety of different vegetables. If available, avocado or guacamole is a great choice for spread, as it packs tons of heart healthy monounsaturated fats.
Let’s face it. Often the tortilla is just a vehicle for the fillings, so why not just order a burrito bowl. Bowls are usually bigger, so you may find you have enough for leftovers or to repurpose into another meal or snack. Many fast casual Mexican restaurants also offer brown rice as a swap for rice, and even tofu for a meatless meal. Pile on the salsa for spice and nutrients!
Pizza is a delicious vehicle for veggies! Top with mushrooms, peppers, onions, broccoli – anything you like! To make it more filling, try topping with chicken for more protein. A slice or two paired with a side salad makes a balanced meal. If you're making your own try this recipe for a more nutritious crust.
Many coffee shops have a ton of breakfast sandwich options, but they can be on the small side for lunch. Grab a banana or apple out of the fruit bowl to pair with it. If you’re looking for an energy boost, the caffeine in coffee is helpful, but the sugar in a sweetened drink might lead to a crash an hour later, so try an unsweetened or lightly sweetened coffee drink. Need more inspo? Read this post that includes the coffee orders of a few of my favorite dietitians.
Soup and Salad Restaurants
Take advantage of restaurants that offer a half and half combo, where you can enjoy a half sandwich with a cup of soup or small salad. It adds variety and veggies to your meal!
Most restaurants will give you the option of white or brown rice, so choose the latter if you enjoy it. Look for stir fries with lean protein and vegetables, versus noodle based dishes or fried rice, which may not be as satisfying.
What are your favorite fast food meals? Share in the comments!