Take the Fast Food Challenge

When I become a dietician the first challenge I am going to give to my clients is the fast food challenge.  Yes, your authority figure telling  you to go to a fast food place, I know, it just seems like a violation of the dietician/patient relationship, huh?  But seriously, my reasoning is this: If you can go through a fast food joint and not order your meal by number then I know you are capable of breaking the cycle that which has become your bad eating habit.  It’s bad enough that your lack of planning or preparation has led you to the drive-through window to begin with; you’re busy beyond belief, you slaved in the kitchen the 5 nights before, or you plainly just want the stuff: I get it; I do the same thing.  Now your #3 may always be your meal and any deviance from that would be an injustice to your fast food dining, or cheating if you will.

One fast food restaurant your favorite?  Mine is Mickey D’s – I would fight anyone on the palatability of their french fries, anywhere else would be a disappointment, right?  Well, it’s been at least 6 weeks of me opening your horizons so trust me here when I say open your hearts to the idea of changing the way you’ve been eating fast food.

Step 1 of the Fast Food Challenge is to DECREASE the amount of food you eat.  Lessen the size of the hamburger and the amount of french fries that you normally eat. Big, Whopper, and Biggie should be replaced with Children’s and Junior sizes, believe me they will serve this to Big Kids and you even get a toy prize for doing so, isn’t that incentive enough?  A 10 piece chicken nuggets at McDonald’s can certainly be replaced with a 4 piece saving you 169 calories, 4.9 grams of fat, and 671 mg of sodium.

Step 2 of the Fast Food Challenge is to DO WITHOUT.  This might be the hardest step because if anyone told me I had to give up something I’ve enjoyed forever I would be pissed off too.  What are we “doing without” crazy health nut, you ask?  Cheese, for one.  With all the sauces and grease and such cheese is just a small sacrifice.  Do without bacon and mayonnaise on hamburgers and chicken sandwiches.  Do without all the fixins’ on baked potatoes and Lordy please do without appetizers that have sticks, poppers, or fried in their name and remember just because they are cheap or on the dollar menu does not mean they are good for you.

Step 3 SUBSTITUTE:  Did you know In-And-Out has protein style in which you can substitute a bun with a lettuce wrap?  My favorite Mickey D’s substitutions include apple dippers for french fries and lowfat milk for soda.  Substitute low-fat dressings, low-fat creamers and diet drinks.  Substitute fried chicken with grilled chicken in sandwiches and salads.  If applicable, substitute wheat for flour tortillas and black beans for refried beans at Mexican fast food places.  These are just small ways you can make smart decisions while eating out.

Final Step 4 JUST.. That’s right go through the drive-thru and order JUST a bowl of chilli at Wendy’s, it’s 100 calories and has 8 g of protein which means it will last in your belly longer.  Have JUST a burrito or gordita at Taco Bell.  The amount of calories are enough to count as a meal but it’s just healthier for you to have a taste and not go overboard.  If you are a “side” person consider a fruit cup or a side salad, most fast food places have these alternatives now.  Here’s a challenge within your challenge:  Try saving half your personal pizza at Pizza Hut or salad at any place for later.  This will save you a trip to another fast food joint later in the day and train your stomach that enough doesn’t mean to stuff yourself.

Now mind you everything on the menus of fast food aren’t off limits.  You can definitely find healthy alternatives if you look for them.  McDonald’s has a granola and fruit parfait which is great for a healthy snack or as an alternative to their breakfast menu by numbers, a fruit & walnut salad to die for, and a chicken snack wrap that is only 270 calories; Burger King has a BK Veggie Burger and fresh Apple Fries.  Anything nutritional questions you have at Subway can be easily  found on the backs of their napkins and they have Jerry as proof that eating at their fast-food place can work miracles (with the right choices and exercise, of course).  Jack in the Box has a Chicken Fajita Pita that is 330 calories with 11 g of fat.  If you find yourself at Carl’s Jr. try their charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich or their Charbroiled Chicken Salad-to-go, both under 300 calories.

According to my “Lose It” Application on my Iphone (Which I would recommend to anyone who wants to lose weight) the worst place you could possibly expose yourself to is Denny’s.  Yes the fascade of eating a nutritious breakfast for any meal of the day is misleading because the amount of salt and calories are off the charts.  (For instance a scrambled pepper jack & smoked sausage is 1430 calories, that’s almost all your calories for the day)

So I dare you to take the fast food challenge.  Like I told you before I am not telling you to give up your favorite fast food joint forever, cause that’s just not going to happen for most of us in our busy lives.  My disclaimer: I am offering you healthy alternatives for when you do find yourself in a fast food situation, not a go-ahead to splurge.  Having and maintaining control will allow you to  have your cake and eat it to.

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