Fast food is a fact of life these days. On a typical day, one-third of Americans eat at a fast-food restaurant;  it is easy and does not cost too much. But do you know what you are putting inside your body when you eat at this type of restaurant?

According to polls, people who eat fast food usually ingest more fat, more calories, and more sodium. They also eat less fruit and vegetables. This way of eating is in part responsible for the high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes type 2 epidemic that we see around.

So, with these facts in mind, here are a few things you can do to cut down the fat, salt, and calories if you have no choice at any given time but to eat at a fast-food restaurant:

1. Portions
Do not go for the larger size just because it costs only a few more pennies. Have a smaller portion; don’t go for the double sandwich or large fries. If words like “super”, “big”, “supreme”, or “deluxe” are part of the name, order something else. These words translate into “super” amounts of fat, sodium, and a lot of calories. You may think you are getting “a good deal” by ordering the larger size but think about the prize you and your family will pay for those extra calories and extra sodium.

2. Secret sauces
Hold the mayonnaise, “secret sauce”, cheese, or guacamole made by the restaurant. These sauces are very rich in fats, calories, and sodium.

Calories of Burger King dressings:
Mustard and honey sauce: 90 calories
Ranch dressing: 120 calories

3. Fried items
Do not order breaded, butter-coated, and fried items. These items include fish, chicken nuggets, French fries, and zucchini. Order grilled or broiled items.

Examples of calories of some fried foods at some fast-food restaurants
Carl’s Jr.: fried zucchini: 340
Chicken nuggets, 4 pieces:  190
McDonald’s crispy chicken:  550

4. Salads
Do not order a macaroni, potato salad, or coleslaw. Order a green salad instead. Use lemon juice, vinegar, salsa, or a “light” dressing on it. Ask for the dressing on the side so you can just add a little to your salad. Dressings made with oil usually have fewer calories than creamy ones. Do not put high-fat topping such as bacon bits, cheese, croutons on the salad.

5. Biscuits, croissants
Do not order fatty foods like croissants, biscuits, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and most desserts and shakes. Say no to salt

6. Say no to salt
Ask to have an item prepared without extra salt, cheese, pickles, or soy sauce. These items have a lot of salt.

Examples of the amount of Sodium in fast-food restaurants:

  • Burger King croissant with sausage, egg, and cheese: 1020 mg  (milligrams)
  • Burger King chicken club sandwich: 1460 mg
  • Panda Express spicy chicken with peanuts: 1250 mg

7. Coffee
Add low-fat or non-fat milk to your coffee instead of regular milk, cream, half-and-half, or non-dairy creamer.

8. Hamburgers
If you feel like having a hamburger skip the fries. Have a salad as a side dish. Order your hamburger without mayonnaise, sauce, or cheese. Ask for barbecue sauce or ketchup instead but do not be generous with the amount of sauce you spread on your bread.

9. Drinks
Order water or iced tea instead of soda or fruit juice. Diet sodas are no better than regular sodas.

Final Thoughts

Try not to eat at a fast-food restaurant more than once a week. If you eat fast food one day, try to compensate it with more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and foods that are lower in salt and fat for the next 2 or 3 days. Keep in mind that an option is to choose better restaurants for you and your family when eating out.

Last thought: print this article and take it with you when you go out so you can refresh your memory just in case you need to eat at a fast-food restaurant. Also, email it to your loved ones so they can benefit from this advice. This is one of the best things you can do for them.


I am Andy Carpenter and I would start by saying that I have a Bachelor Degree in Nutrition Science conferred by California State University, Los Angeles and that I am certified as a Registered Dietitian.

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