Convenience foods may be to blame for the obesity epidemic, but diners show no signs of giving them up any time soon.
Luckily, an occasional drive-through trip doesn’t have to compromise your diet. According to registered dietician and personal trainer Julie DuBois, there are more healthy on-the-go options than ever before. Places like Chick-fil-A, McDonald's and Wendy’s all have grilled items, and many offer fruit or a side salad as a substitute for calorie-laden fries.
The former ballerina, who now splits her time between Cooks Children’s and Camp Gladiator, warns that not all menu items are as good as they seem. “Salads aren’t always the healthiest choice,” she explains. “Between the toppings and the dressing, they rack in more calories than a small junior burger would.”
If you do choose a salad, avoid high-fat toppings like cheese and nuts and look for low-fat vinaigrettes. A half sandwich is another option for monitoring portion size. At places like Chipotle, opt for a bowl not burrito, and avoid toppings like guacamole, sour cream and cheese.
“Eating the whole bowl is probably over calories for most people,” DuBois says. “But if do rice or lettuce and choose chicken, you are probably OK.”
Diners should look for lean protein items and those high in fiber and low in calories, saturated fats and sodium. DuBois recommends that women aim for 400 to 500 calories per meal, and men, 500 to 600 calories.
“Pay attention to what you are drinking as well,” DuBois suggests. “Sodas add up. Water is always going to be the best choice or unsweet tea.”
DuBois suggests her clients use a calorie-counting app, such as CalorieKing or MyFitnessPal, when ordering. Many restaurants also provide nutritional information on their websites.
“Our portions have gotten out of control,” explains DuBois. “If you choose a healthier option and then halve it, you are probably right on target.”