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15 tips to stay on a diet at fast-food restaurants

Even if you’re on a diet, you don’t have to avoid your favorite fast-food restaurants. In the fourth part of our “Take It Off Today” series this month, Madelyn Fernstrom, a show contributor and the director of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, tells you what to choose so your favorite fast food doesn’t turn into “fat food.” Fast-food is chea
/ Source: TODAY

Even if you’re on a diet, you don’t have to avoid your favorite fast-food restaurants. In the fourth part of our “Take It Off Today” series this month, Madelyn Fernstrom, a show contributor and the director of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, tells you what to choose so your favorite fast food doesn’t turn into “fat food.”

Fast-food is cheap, convenient, and tasty. So it’s not surprising that it is growing in popularity. But many choices at fast-food restaurants won’t help you lose weight. Sure, many chains have made an effort to provide healthier food: cutting out trans fats, adding more green salads, and offering low-calorie dressings, grilled chicken sandwiches and low-fat ice milk. But many of us who go to fast-food restaurants want burgers and fries. If you love fast food, here are some tips to stay on your diet.

Tips for eating fast food — not fat food

  1. Avoid super-sized meals. Downsize your order to a “kids meal.”
  2. Avoid soda or juice drinks (like Hawaiian Punch). Choose diet soda or water.
  3. Avoid mayonnaise or “special sauce.” Stick with mustard, pickles, onions, and ketchup.
  4. Skip the cheese and bacon. Ask for some bacon bits on the side, if you must have the taste. Same for cheese. If you must have some cheese, get a tiny side cup of shredded cheese and use a pinch or two.
  5. Keep the salad dressing on the side. Dip your fork in before each bite, and scoop up some greens. That way you get great flavor with minimal amount of calories. You can double the calories in a main dish salad by smothering it with dressing.
  6. Share an order of regular fries, if you are not ordering the “kids meal.”
  7. Choose low-fat ice cream or ice milk for a tasty dessert. Or share a regular dessert. Avoid the pies and turnovers, and the cinnamon fried dough sticks at Taco Bell. (They’re delicious, but they’re also filled with fat and calories.)
  8. Choose a fruit salad as a side dish or dessert.
  9. Think small. You can always go back and order something else if you’re still hungry.
  10. Avoid ordering “combo meals.” They’re convenient, but they’re packed with extra calories because everything is large-sized. Order single items instead. The cost is not much different.
  11. Lose half the bun and save half the calories. Take the bottom half off, and cut the top part in half — this makes the beef or chicken patty seem twice as big as well.
  12. Go to a fast-food restaurant with a friend — that way it’s easier to share. On your own, you’ll always eat the whole portion.
  13. Limit your visits to fast-food restaurants to no more than twice a week. Or if you have to go more frequently, limit your fried choices to twice a week.
  14. Choose grilled chicken over fried.
  15. Avoid the fish sandwich. It’s always fried, and it has more calories than a burger. In this case, fish is not a healthy choice.