Fast Food: Myths, Facts, and Making Healthy Choices

Fast food restaurants aren’t the most popular eateries in the country just because their fast. They’re also convenient (because they’re everywhere) and in many cases, tasty. But when we’re trying to make healthy choices while also eating on-the-go, what factors do we have to take into consideration before making a decision? Today we’re taking a closer look at four of our country’s most popular Fast Food Chains and helping you weigh some options to make the healthiest choice for you.

McDonalds

Should I get the Big Mac or the Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich?

While you might have heard that “lean meat” is a healthier option (as opposed to beef), the “low fat as a healthier option” fact has been debunked. Fat is healthy (and delicious). Yes, even saturated fat!

With that being said, the big difference between these two options is the fat content, with the Big Mac ringing in at 28 grams, and the Chicken Sandwich ringing in at just 6. Both options have similar amounts of protein and carbohydrates, but the additional fat provides the Big Mac with 150 additional calories. The best option? It depends on you.

Since the only big difference between these two options is the calories, the Big Mac might be a better option if you know it’ll be a while before your next meal. However, if you’re looking for a lighter option to hold you over for just a couple of hours, the Chicken Sandwich might be the better call.  

While having a calorie count in many restaurants is a great tool, less isn’t always better. Make sure you take into account your life, and what you have going on that day, so you can be properly fueled, and prevent overeating due to excessive hunger later in the day. If you’re looking to squeeze in a few extra servings of veggies for the day, you can add-in or swap-in one of McDonald’s salad options to your meal.

Starbucks

Should I get the Reduced Fat Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake or a Chocolate Croissant?

When you’re looking to make a more health conscious choice, it might be tempting to reach for the “obvious” low or reduced fat menu item. However, most all low or reduced fat items contain higher amounts of sugar, usually to make up for the fact that the low or reduced fat option no longer tastes good.

In this scenario, your Reduced Fat Coffee Cake, while it has about half the amount of fat as the croissant, it also has 70 additional calories (370 compared to 300), almost twice the amount of carbohydrates (67 grams compared to 34 grams), and four times the amount of sugar (41 grams compared to 11 grams)… four times! You’re certainly asking for a mid-morning sugar crash with this reduced fat, seemingly healthier option. Between these choices, I would choose the croissant every time.

While the croissant is a smarter choice for a treat, Starbucks also has some more nutrient dense options, such as their Whole Grain Egg White, Spinach, and Feta Wrap and the Zesty Chicken and Black Bean Salad Bowl.

Dunkin Donuts

Should I get the Low Fat Blueberry Muffin or the Chocolate Frosted Donut?

This is a test. If you learned anything from the Starbucks experience, you know by now that the low fat option is not the healthiest! Unfortunately though, not only is the blueberry muffin labeled as “low fat,” it also graces the Dunkin’ Donuts “DD Smart” menu, which specifies the muffin as a healthy, “smart” choice.

Next time you decide to head into a Dunkin Donuts, outsmart them and walk out with a classic donut instead. The chocolate frosted donut has 60 fewer calories (350 calories compared to 410), almost half the amount of carbohydrates (40 grams compared to 75 grams), and three times less sugar (13 grams compared to 39 grams) than the Low Fat Blueberry Muffin.

Do either of these options offer any true nutritional value? No. However, when you choose something like the Chocolate Croissant from Starbucks, or this Chocolate Frosted Donut, it feels more like a treat, instead of tricking yourself into thinking you’re making a healthy choice. I recommend you savor and enjoy these chocolatey treats, or instead, try one of DD’s truly healthier options, such as their Egg & Cheese English Muffin, which has enough protein and fiber to hold you over until you can sit down to a healthier meal.

Taco Bell

Should I get the 7-Layer Burrito or the Double Decker Taco Supreme?

These options at first glance might appear to be two similar options. And that’s because they are! Both contain 7 grams of fiber and 14 grams of protein, a winning combination to promote fullness and satisfaction and prevent a “crash” later in the day. However, the Double Decker Taco Supreme actually contains about 100 fewer calories, and almost 20 fewer grams of carbohydrates. And, like we mentioned above, less isn’t always necessarily better. However, in this scenario, since both options provide equal amounts of the “good stuff” (fiber and protein), the empty nutrition that you’re getting from the extra calories and carbohydrates aren’t really necessary, especially since both options likely taste similar.

If you feel like the smaller (340 calorie) Taco Supreme won’t hold you over until your next meal, consider adding some healthy fat in the form of a side of guacamole. Since fat digests the slowest out of the three macronutrients (proteins and carbohydrates being the other two), it can always be helpful in aiding in fullness. Of course Taco Bell also carries some more obvious healthy choices, such as salads, and “Power Bowls” as well.

What are your favorite Fast Food Restaurants? Do you often try to make a healthier choice? Let us know in the comments below, and let us help you make the best choice for you!