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How to choose healthier but tasty options when ordering fast food

Ditch the mayo, swap chips for mash and other handy tips for healthier fast food eating.

by: Marinda Louw Coetzee | 15 Aug 2016

On a road trip? Need an early morning, post-party snack? Didn't bring lunch? You are furious with hunger and need something fast? Chances are you will storm into the nearest fast food joint and choose something greasy and quick. If fast food is the only option, you can try and choose something healthy within the offering available.

But what is healthy? The Banting diet? A bowl of green leaves? Healthy starts with reducing sugar, refined carbohydrates and 'bad' fats in your diet. This mean that should try to stay away from white breads, pastries, pizzas and deep-fried foods.

“The adult’s recommended energy intake, dependent on activity level, should be approximately between 10 000-12 000 kilojoules/day”, says Megan Pentz-Kluyts, nutrition and dietetics consultant, based in Cape Town.  

Here are some pointers to help choose healthier options at fast food restaurants:

Choose 100% beef patties, but better still, how about a flame-grilled chicken burger? Leave out the cheese, or bacon toppings and choose a salad instead of the chips. Leave out the bun even and opt for a 'naked' burger. Substitute the chips for a salad, if you can.

Another option is a Prego roll where steak meat has been used instead of a. recommends Michelle Sparke, Technical Manger of Taste Holdings (Starbucks, St Elmo's, Maxi's, The Fish & Chip Co).

Linda Thomas of Famous Brands (Steers, WIMPY, Fishaways, Wakaberry) recommends flame-grilled A-grade 100% chicken fillets rather than a crumbed chicken portion.

Grilled is better than fried chicken as less saturated fats are used during the cooking process. Choose wings (based on the nutritional information available) rather than a burger or wrap and go for a salad if possible, suggests Megan. Mash has less kilojoules than chips. Interesting to note that a wrap can be higher in fat than a burger - check the sauces and try to reduce mayonnaise-based dressings.

Italian food
Those mega-stacked, crust-filled pizzas are packed with kilojoules. “Opt for a thin-base pizza and share it with a friend”, says Megan. Ham and chicken are healthier toppings than bacon and salami, but also try a 'Mexican' with peppers and onions. Mushrooms are a low-kilojoule topping as well. Alternatively pasta with a  tomato-based pasta sauce and chicken or beef strips is a healthier choice than pizza.

Oriental dishes
Stir-fries and sushi could be healthy options if you avoid noodles (high GI) and deep fried items such as tempura and sweet-and-sour dishes. Ask the chef to use less oil for your stir-fry and choose long grain rice (not sticky rice) or soba noodles, suggests Megan.

Grilled fish is a better option than battered and fried options. Both hake and snoek are healthier options than calamari, while rice would be a lower kilojoule alternative to chips.

Drink water rather than sweet stuff - water is kilojoule-free! If you need something sweet, dilute a juice with water, recommends Megan. "Also the 'box' juices are just 200ml compared to a 330ml of a soda". Linda says, “Choose a fruit and yogurt smoothie rather than a milkshake or swop a soft drink for a bottled water at no extra cost.”

Lastly, some fast food retailers have excellent websites where the nutritional content of each item is indicated. Check to see which combinations work best for you and remember to combine a kilojoules-clever diet with moderate exercise.

What are your tips for eating healthily when you’re not at home?


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