More than One-Third Eat Fast Food Each Day!
Do you eat fast food? You’re not alone. According to a CDC study, 36% of adult Americans dine each day at a fast food restaurant.
Confession: I eat fast food, too. Yes, even though I have two degrees in nutrition. As a professional speaker (who works with organizations to increase productivity and performance, while avoiding burnout and stress), I’m often on the road and in airports where time only permits a quick meal. But, admittedly, I even eat fast food when I’m back at home.
This article is to help those of you who want (or need) to eat out fast…and want to be able to make the best, healthiest choices.
Stop the Guilt Trip
While fast food gets a bad rap, there are some healthier choices. Fast food is more than just burgers, fries, shakes, and sodas.
Granted, while it would be healthier to prepare all our food at home from scratch…maybe even grow it ourselves or buy local, there’s only so much time in the day and we have a lot to do – or a lot we WANT to do. And, the choice is yours.
Also, realize that food sold in a fast food restaurant is often no different than what you might buy in another non-fast food restaurant or even at the grocery store. Most of us fill our grocery cart with foods that can be quickly prepared – just like the fast food restaurants.
Here’s another way to look at the whole idea of “eating out.” Most of us no longer sew our own clothes, fix our own car, or build our own house (I mean actually build it), so why feel guilty about eating food that someone else has prepared?
Redefine Fast Food
Merriam Webster defines Fast Food as “food that can be prepared and served quickly.” Which means, it can be from a typical fast food restaurant. But, don’t limit yourself. There’s fast food to be found at many other restaurants, shops, and grocery stores. Heck, fresh fruit is Mother Nature’s quickest fast food.
For example, the picture above is a salmon rice bowl from Timoti’s, one of my favorite restaurants on Amelia Island, Florida. At Timoti’s you order and pick up your food from the counter. Even if you eat there (mostly picnic tables outside), the food is served on a paper serving plate with a plastic fork. And, you clear your own table, too. So, that’s fast food.
The rice bowl includes rice, fresh greens and other veggies, choice of protein (salmon is my fav) with an Asian dressing. Fast. Delicious. Satisfying. And, it’s under $10. What “fast food” restaurants do you have near you that’s not the typical chain restaurant fare?
You can likely find “fast food” at the local grocery store – including fresh salads. And, don’t rule out the larger gas stations including 7-Eleven and Wawa. There you can find not just quick sandwiches, but yogurt, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit, veggies and hummus, and so much more.
Fast Doesn’t Have to Be UNhealthy
Here’s some general advice that I adhere to:
- Don’t wait until you’re overly hungry to eat. Chances are, you’ll overeat. Heck, that’s why fast food makes sense to me. By the time, I wait for a table at a non-fast food restaurant, make a decision, order it, wait for the food to come…I’ll probably demolish all the chips or rolls. And, be far worse off than ordering fast food.
- Get rid of “good/bad” and “healthy/unhealthy” mentality. Yes, I used the word “unhealthy” in my title but that’s only because most people search using that word. BUT I want you to stop using these words to describe food. Sure, some foods are healthier than others, but when you bucket foods into firm categories you develop a mentality of “I blew it, I might as well eat the whole thing” or “I blew it so I’ll start back on track next Monday.” Hey, I clearly understand this mentality…I got into the wellness field because of my own eating disorders. And, that’s why we have to stop. It makes things worse, not better.
- Listen to your hunger/fullness cues. Just because they serve you a huge portion doesn’t mean you have to eat it all. Get that “clean the plate” mentality out of your head. In fact, if I’m craving fries, even if I order the “small”, I dump half of them in the trash before taking them to the car or table.
- Pick and choose. Of course, fried food isn’t the best choice, but if you must…pick one. Fries or fired chicken, but not both.
My Fast Food Favorites
Here are some of the foods I tend to select when eating out:
- McDonald’s Egg McMuffin sans cheese (I’m a snob when it comes to cheese…I want the real thing so no American cheese). I might even ask for an extra egg, for more protein. They also have a Grilled Chicken Sandwich…which is ok if that’s my only option.
- Chick-Fil-A Grilled Chicken Sandwich. It’s the best chicken sandwich on the market, in my opinion. I might also order Grilled Chicken Nuggets, Chicken Noodle Soup and their kale side salad for a meal. In my hometown it’s called the “Superfood Side” but I’ve seen other names, too, when I’m on the road. Another option is the Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap – minus the dressing. For breakfast Chick-fil-A offers (steel cut) Oatmeal – but get it early, they often run out by end of breakfast time.
- Burger King. I probably have gone here more than any fast food restaurant over the past 20 years because of their Veggie (soy) Burger. But, they just got rid of it. They now have the Impossible (non-meat) burger in its place but it’s not for me. Since, IMHO, BK has the best fries, I’ve been known to order the Kid’s Burger Meal. It’s just the right portion of fries for me.
- Wendy’s. In a pinch I’ll get the Grilled Chicken Sandwich or perhaps just a cup of Chili.
- Starbucks – Most people don’t think of Startbucks as anything other than a place to get coffee. I don’t drink coffee and yet I go there often. Oatmeal is available at all hours – and a couple of different varieties with dried fruit and nuts. I ask them to not prepare it (they usually add hot water). Instead, I’ll order a cup of steamed soy milk and make my own (richer) version. Oatmeal is great for breakfast or when a flight gets in late and I need a quick snack. Starbucks also offers a lot of good menu options such as Turkey Bacon & Egg White Muffin, Sous Vide Egg Bites, Protein Boxes, Protein Bowls, and Salad. Most are offered at a perfect portion.
- Chipotle, Tijuana Flats, or Moe’s Southwest Grill. At any of these places, I typically order a Burrito bowl (no tortillas) with rice and beans, lettuce, and my choice of steak, pork, or chicken (skip the ground beef). And I personally leave off the cheese, sour cream. Filling without being too much.
- Subway. Not a big fan, but I’ve been known to order a 6″ Club (double meat) on wheat bread when there aren’t a whole lot of other options. Double meat is a must for me to get enough protein to prevent that sleepy, after-lunch feeling. I don’t order double-meat if I’m at other places like Firehouse Subs because they offer more meat.
- Panera Bread. I love their bowls but the options seem to change often so just check them out.
- Taco Bell. The only thing I order here is the Bean Burrito, fresco-style. That’s the lingo to get to “no cheese, sour cream” with added “pico” on any option.
- Panda Express. Beef and broccoli with veggies instead of rice. Or Grilled Teriyaki Chicken with side of veggies, instead of rice.
I’d love to hear what you order at fast food restaurants. Drop me a line at [email protected]