Monday, June 6, 2011

An apple a day: The healthy side of fast food

When I was in elementary school, I ate school lunch every day. Mondays were pizza days, and the rest of the week cycled through chalupas, breadsticks, egg rolls, mac & cheese, and even “Thanksgiving dinner.” School lunch was definitely not my favorite, but nevertheless I ate it every day for five years.
Back in elementary school, we didn’t have the luxury of being able to leave campus and go to the surrounding restaurants for lunch. We were lucky if we got to eat lunch in the classroom instead of the cafeteria. Now in high school, many may leave campus and go to places such as Chipotle, Subway, and even Noodles and Company.
But with the luxury of fast food, it’s easy to get carried away with the options – if you eat Burger King every day for one week you could gain at least five pounds. We don’t want to live in our own version of “Super Size Me.” It’s okay to treat yourself to something that’s not quite that healthy, but you should go for healthier options throughout the week if you are planning to eat out more than once.
Here are some of the healthier options at favorite fast food restaurants, according to the authors of the “Eat this, not That” (ETNT) books.
Fight it: Generally, the barbacoa and crispy steak meat are the unhealthiest, especially when paired with a tortilla that is 290 calories alone. If you cannot resist these savory meats, it is best to get them as a bowl with all of your favorite fixings, such as rice and salsa.
Bite it: The chicken is the healthiest of the Chipotle meat. The chicken burrito bowl received an A+ from the ETNT authors. All of the fixings such as cheese, lettuce, salsa, etc, with the exception of the tortillas, are all generally healthy as well, and make burrito bowls even tastier.
Burger King:
Fight it: Burger King’s signature Whoppers and their Steakhouse XT collection are all soaked in unhealthy oils and grease, and the mounds of mayo that they put on each sandwich do not help matters. The Double Whopper sandwich with cheese and mayo packs 1010 calories alone; with large French fries at 580 calories, and a large Coke at 390 calories, it is definitely a heart attack waiting to happen, no matter how old you are.
Bite it: The regular hamburger and the Whopper Jr. without mayo are your best bets when it comes to hamburgers at Burger King. If you’re looking for chicken, Burger King’s chicken tenders and chicken fries are good choices, and if you’re really feeling healthy, the fresh apple fries and low-cal caramel sauce are a good choice for a side. Any of these paired with water or a zero-calorie drink will make for a healthy and satisfying lunch out.
Noodles & Company:
Fight it: Noodles and Company is generally a healthy choice for lunch. Most of the pasta dishes have a calorie count less than 1000 calories. However, calorie-packed dishes such as the Wisconsin Mac & Cheese with 900 calories, and spicy tomato dishes such as the Penne Rosa with 810 calories still add up in the end.
Bite it: The best choices that the Noodles & Company website ( offers are the Bangkok Curry noodles and the Pad Thai. As far as trios go, pairing any of these healthy choices with a tossed green salad are both tasty and satisfying.
Anthony’s Pizza:
Fight it: The popular NY pizza place mimic offers huge slices of pizza larger than your plate and dripping with grease – yet we can’t stop eating it. According to, their doughy crust, with 220 calories alone, is just the first on a list of calorie-induced dishes, including one serving of Chicken Parmesan (1100 cal.) and, as far as appetizers, the Meatball Sliders (1400 cal.).
Bite it: One slice of cheese pizza at Anthony’s is a whopping 425 calories. So if you are craving the NY-style pizza order one with lots of veggies, these will not add any unwanted calories or grease. The salads are also among the healthiest, but go light on the dressing – a salad isn’t healthy if you add globs of creamy dressing.
For evaluations of more restaurants and fast food joints, or nutritional information, visit or any of the restaurants’ websites for details.

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