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When you're in a rush on the way to work or starving on the way home, sometimes fast food is the easiest option. And that's OK — it's not all greasy fries and fattening sandwiches. There are ways to actually make healthy choices at these restaurants!
Here are a few healthy options, ranked good to best, at popular national chains. Keep these tips in your back pocket for one of those mornings or nights when you just can't think of any other option.
Breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts
Good option: Whole wheat bagel with strawberry cream cheese spread
Nutritional info: 450 calories, 25 g fat (6 g saturated), 690 mg sodium, 18 g sugar, 15 g protein
Better option: Oatmeal
Nutritional info: 310 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated), 260 mg sodium, 40 g sugar, 5 G protein
Best option: Bacon, egg and cheese on wrap
Nutritional info: 210 calories, 13 g fat (5 g saturated), 480 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 10 g protein
Why bacon, egg and cheese is the winner...
This option is protein-packed, for only 210 calories. An egg sandwich is usually the healthiest thing on any breakfast menu. Having it on a wrap saves you 140 calories versus an English muffin.
For the oatmeal, the first ingredient is great — multigrain oats. The next two, not so much: brown sugar and sugar. This oatmeal packs as much sugar as three glazed donuts. Save 10 grams of sugar and 50 calories, if you don’t put the dried fruit on top.
“Whole wheat bagel” doesn’t meant there’s not regular flour in the bagel. The spread adds an extra 130 calories and 10 grams of saturated fat.
Lunch at Burger King
Good option: Chicken garden salad
Nutritional info: 520 calories, 33 g fat (9 g saturated), 1,210 mg sodium, 5 g sugar, 40 g protein
Better option: Whopper (without mayo)
Nutritional info: 500 calories, 22 g fat (9 g saturated), 840 mg sodium, 11 g sugar, 28 g protein
Best option: Grilled chicken sandwich
Nutritional info: 470 calories, 19 g fat (3.5 g saturated), 850 mg sodium, 6 g sugar, 37 g protein
Why the grilled chicken sandwich is the winner...
Watch out for the salad as the chicken and the dressing are loaded with salt. This salad is actually 20 more calories than the Whopper and has a third more sodium.
With the Whopper, hold the mayo and you save 160 calories, making this one an OK choice on the menu.
The grilled chicken sandwich has the fewest calories of the three (470), less fat (19 grams and just 3.5 grams saturated), and packs in 37 grams of protein which will help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Dinner at Applebee's
Good option: Cedar grilled lemon chicken
Nutritional info: 580 calories, 26 g fat (4 g saturated), 2,440 mg sodium, 15 g sugar, 42 g protein
Better option: Thai shrimp salad
Nutritional info: 390 calories, 21 g fat (3 g saturated), 1,670 mg sodium, 22 g sugar, 25 g protein
Best option: Applebee's 6-ounce sirloin with one side of steamed broccoli (part of Create Your Own Grill Masterpiece)
Nutritional info: 320 calories, 17 g fat, 8,5 g saturated fat, 1,710 mg sodium, 8 g carbs, 2 g sugar, 37 g protein
Why the steak is the winner...
Calorie-wise, the chicken is terrific, but be careful of the “healthier option” at many sit down restaurants. Sometimes they have just as much sodium as the “unhealthy” fare. This one packs an entire day’s worth!
Good news: The sodium count for the salad is the lowest of Applebee’s “lighter fare.” Bad news: It comes along with 22 grams of fat.
The sirloin has fewer calories AND fat than the other dishes — and it has more protein than the shrimp —making it my smarter dinner choice.
For more food news and tips, check out Eat This!