Fast food on a diet

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As I have mentioned here before, I love fast food. As I've also mentioned, I am on Weight Watchers. And I'm doing fairly well. The issue, however, is that my lunch options while at work are mostly of the fast food variety. I know, I should just bring my lunch, and I am trying, but even when I'm doing well I am never more than 50% or so reliable with that. Which leaves me with the other half of the days, making the best choices I can in fast food land.

So, what are the best choices? Sometimes, they aren't what you'd think, and as this is one more area where I am learning by doing, I thought I'd share what I've found so far.

McDonald's
Obviously burgers and fries and shakes are out. Any of the salads are OK, though. The Premium Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken has 430 calories (9 pts), but the same salad with grilled chicken has 320 calories (6 pts) and without chicken it has only 140 calories (2 pts). The lowest point option in the chickenless Caesar Salad, which as only 90 calories (1 pt). All of those values are without dressing, however. Dressing will add from 190 calories (5 pts) for a packet of Newman's Own Caesar to 40 calories (1 pt) for the Lowfat Balsalmic Vinagrette.

If you can't stand one more damn salad, the next best McDonald's option is the Grilled Chicken and Honey Mustard Snack Wrap, with 260 calories (6 pts).

So if I have a snack wrap and a chickenless Ceasar with vinagrette, and trade my usual soda for unsweetened tea, I can get out of a Mickey D's lunch having only spent 9 points (and probably full, too). Not terrible.

Burger King
I don't ever really eat at BK, but again, lowering the points value there would have to start with ditching the burgers and fries. And again, the best bets are the salads. The Tendergrill Chicken Garden Salad is only 220 calories (4 pts). BK doesn't have the low-point salad dressing options McDonald's does, though--the best you can do is 120 calorie (3 pt) Light Italian Dressing. For a non-salad option, the best choice seems to be the Spicy Chick'n Crisp sandwich, which is 290 calories (6 pts) without mayo.

Taco Bell
When it comes to calorie-conscious fast food, Taco Bell is my favorite. Why? Because of the Fresco option. Fresco items have the cheese and sour cream replaced with fresh salsa (and I don't miss them!). Crunchy Beef Fresco Tacos are just 150 calories (4 pts) each. A Fresco Burrito Supreme is 330 calories (7 pts). I've often had an 8 pt lunch of two tacos and been very happy.

Jack in the Box
Jack in the Box is my closest option at work. My first thought there was that the Teriyaki Bowls would be good, but they have 580 calories (11 pts; chicken) and 650 calories (13 pts, steak)! Plus they aren't very good and it isn't very much food. A better option is the Asian Chicken Salad with Grilled Chicken, which has only 160 calories (3 pts). The Asian Sesame Dressing that goes with it has 190 calories (5 pts), but you can replace it with a lowfat Balsalmic alternative for only 35 calories (1 pt). Jack in the Box also has Grilled Chicken Strips--four of them total 180 calories (3 pts), and the Barbeque or Sweet and Sour dipping sauce only adds 45 calories (1 pt).

Arby's
I love the original Arby's roast beef sandwich. So gross, yet so good. The regular size is 320 calories (7 pts). Nothing at Arby's, however, is all that low calorie--and some of the healthier seeming options are even worse than the roast beef! The Market Fresh sandwiches might look healthy, but they range from the 293 calorie (9 pt) BLT to the 365 calorie (10 pt) Roast Turkey, Ranch, and Bacon. Even Arby's salads pack a wallop, with the best option being the Chopped Turkey or the Grilled Chopped Southern Chicken salads, each of which have 292 calories (6 pts) before you add another 230 calories (7 pts) in Buttermilk Ranch dressing. The lowest calorie dressing option is the Balsalmic Vinagrette, and even it adds 130 calories (4 pts).

So...avoid Arby's.

Kentucky Fried Chicken
I should probably be ashamed to admit this, but I love the Mashed Potato Famous Bowl at KFC. It has 700 calories (16 pts). So...not gonna be eating that again anytime soon. Featuring, as they do, fried chicken, the KFC salads aren't a great option either. The best you are going to do is the Roasted Chicken Ceasar, which has 190 calories (4 pts) before you dress it and without crutons (they do have a 1 pt/45 calorie light Italian dressing option, though). You could, at least in theory, make a meal out of KFC sides. The green beans have only 25 calories (1 pt) per serving; the "Mean Greens" are also 1 pt with 30 calories; and the high fiber 70 calorie 3 Bean Salad has only 1 pt as well.

Gotta skip the biscuit, though. 180 calories and 4 pts.

Wendy's
I generally don't like Wendy's, but as far as diet friendly fast food goes, they are a step ahead. They suggest several full meals under 550 calories (about 11 pts) on their website. If you need to go lower than that, though, the Mandarin Chicken Salad is only 180 calories (3 pts) without the almonds and wonton strips. The sesame dressing adds 170 calories (4 pts), but can be replaced with the 70 calorie/1 pt nonfat French or the 100 calorie/1 pt Honey Dijon. The baked potato seems like a good idea, but at 270 calories (5 pts) before you put anything on it, I'll pass. The Ultimate Grilled Chicken Fillet sandwich is another possibility, though--it's 235 calories (5 pts) if you leave off the mayo.

Panda Express
This is another option that's close by for me. Orange Chicken is my favorite, but it has 545 calories (13 pts) before you even count the rice! So instead, I'll be having Mushroom Chicken(150 calories, 3 pts), Broccoli Beef (170 calories, 3 pts), Tangy Shrimp (160 calories, 3 pts), or the Mixed Veggie Entree (140 calories, 3 pts). Just as importannt, though, I've got start asking for half portions of rice! The steamed rice packs on 430 calories (8 pts) for a full serving!

And so there you have it--the halfassed dieter's guide to fast food. Please do not mistake any of this information for dietary advice--I'm hardly the right person to be giving that. These are just my impressions, and the nutritional info is all gleaned straight from the restuarants' website and the WW site.

2 Comments

This is some down-to-earth, honest and good info (i love the "halfassed" comment). Thanks for the info, trying to eat lunch sometimes can prove to be a real challenge!

I enjoyed browsing your archives looking for a post that I wanted to comment on. I am doing Weight Watchers so this one jumped out at me. A lot of the lessons constantly need reinforced are about how to realistic with myself about the choices I can make everyday, so I really appreciated this post. Thanks!

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