Is There Such A Thing As Healthy Fast Food?

Is There Such A Thing As Healthy Fast Food?

Healthy Food, Fast

Typically, we opt for the slow food, whole food way of eating here at One Drop. That means, eating fresh, natural ingredients that are home-cooked (or close to it) rather than picking up pre-made burgers in a drive-thru.

But while many are self-isolating at home during the coronavirus outbreak, there are just as many who aren’t. For those of us that are on the run during this hectic time, we don’t always have that slow food option.

When you’re strapped for time or can’t find any produce in your nearby grocery, here are ways to get healthy -- yes, healthy -- meals at fast food restaurants.

Quality Before Quantity

Many chains are now required to put the calorie count beside each item on their menu. While this a seemingly good and responsible move, the calorie count does not always translate to what you should be ordering.

Where those calories come from is the most important factor, not the actual number itself.

What types of foods are you getting for those calories? Do the calories provide what we actually need more of (vegetables, healthy fats, nuts) and less sodium, sugars, saturated fats, and carbs?

The satiety factor is also important.

Is the meal made of ingredients that will keep you fuller, longer? Or are you getting little return on your major caloric investment? In some instances, the higher calorie meal might just be the better option.

Check out our examples below.

BBQ Chicken Mac & Cheese (Small)

Nutrition Facts
Calories: 600
Fat: 37g
Saturated Fat: 19g
Carbohydrates: 43g
Protein: 23g

The calorie count is relatively low. But the portion size is key here: it is tiny -- about 1 cup.

In order to feel full and stay full, I would need about 5 of these. Plus, the calories come mostly from refined-flour pasta and processed cheese sauce packed with saturated fat (aka fake cheese).

Not to mention, the cheese and barbecue sauce are hiding an absurd amount of sodium (1,460mg) and the onions are the only vegetable included. You’re not getting any bang for your nutritional buck with this dish.

Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich (Whole)

Nutrition Facts
Calories: 630
Fat: 31g
Saturated Fat: 4g
Carbohydrates: 62g
Protein: 29g

I am a sucker for Panera chicken salad. But in sandwich form, it always wreaks havoc on my blood sugars. The “rustic” bread is made with white flour -- #itscarbs.

And as you can see in the nutrition facts, this thing is loaded with them. On the plus side, the main ingredient here is chicken breast (not processed cold cuts), which contains grapes, celery, lettuce, nuts, and tomato.

Simply order this dish without the bread and you’ll have a perfectly nutritious low carb meal.

Green Goddess Cobb Salad with Chicken (Whole)

Nutrition Facts
Calories: 560
Fat: 33g
Saturated Fat: 7g
Carbohydrates: 26g
Protein: 43g

Every calorie that's packed in here is totally worth your while. You’re getting loads of nutrients and the combo of ingredients is likely to keep you full.

The chicken, egg, and bacon supply the protein, while the avocado provides a healthy fat intake. The major protein and fat contributions will keep you feeling full, while the onions, arugula, romaine, kale, radicchio, and tomatoes provide you with key nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

This is where you’re getting both quality and quantity in terms of nutritious, healthy, whole foods (quality) that contain major caloric density (quantity) so that you’re not scrambling for more food two hours later.

Healthy, But Not Quite Healthiest

It’s important to remember that home-cooked meals are always -- no exceptions -- better. You know exactly what's going into the food you prepare. While there seem to be many more “healthy” options on fast food and chain restaurant menus these days, none of those items are as healthy as the foods that come fresh from your kitchen.

But when you’re running short on time or the grocery store hasn’t restocked their produce section because of coronavirus, choosing quality over quantity in your fast food will benefit you every time.

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Mary Elizabeth Adams
Apr 15, 2020

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