I’ve talked to you before about How to Eat Heart Healthy Even When Eating Out and Smart Heart Healthy Substitutions When Eating Out. However, those posts were about eating in sit-down restaurants. This post is about the best 10 heart healthy fast food substitutions. It’s nice to know that you can still eat at fast food restaurants once you know what to look for and what to order. You just have to use your will power and you can choose heart healthy fast food items.
Where to Find Healthy Fast Food Items
All you have to do to find out the nutritional content of fast food items, is to either go to the restaurant’s web site or look inside the restaurant.
On the websites, the restaurants usually have the nutritional information included in the “menu” section. You just have to click on an item and it gives you the information. Some websites will even let you plan out your whole meal. You just choose all of the items you want to eat, and it will add up all of the calories, fat, sodium, sugars, etc. for you.
At the restaurant, they either have the nutritional information available on a poster on the wall, on the menu under the items, or in a pamphlet. Sometimes you have to search for it, but if you don’t see it, you can always ask the cashier. Some of the menu items even qualify for The Heart Check Food Program and will show the heart check on their menu.
Heart Healthy Fast Food Substitutions
- Don’t choose “value-size” or “super-size” items. Even though you get more food for a better value, you also get more fat, added sugars, sodium and calories.
- Either skip the sides, since they’re usually deep-fried, or instead, choose a side salad or fruit cup.
- A baked potato is a better choice than french fries, but don’t load it with butter, full-fat sour cream and cheese. Instead, put vegetables on it, fat-free or low-fat sour cream, and margarine.
- Grilled chicken sandwiches are a good option. They’re healthier than the breaded, fried, chicken sandwiches and the meat is usually leaner that the meat in a hamburger.
- Don’t order double meat. An appropriate serving of meat is 2-3 ounces, which is about the size of a deck of cards. A single meat patty in a fast food restaurant is usually more than this already, so it would be way too much if you ordered double.
- It’s best not to add bacon to your sandwich. Bacon is high in fat and calories and doesn’t contain many nutrients. Instead, order pickles, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, mustard and ketchup. You’ll still get added flavor, but won’t get added fat.
- You shouldn’t order fried fish sandwiches. Instead, order baked, broiled or grilled fish sandwiches.
- Some restaurants offer wheat or whole-grain buns, you just have to ask.
- Ask to have your sandwich without the mayonnaise or special sauce because they usually have lots of calories.
- Instead of ordering regular sodas, which have lots of sugar and calories, order water, diet soda, skim or low-fat milk.
I learned all of this from my research on the American Heart Association website. They also have information for lots of other types of restaurants too.
What We Usually Order at Fast Food Restaurants
When we first learned we needed to go on a heart healthy diet, my oldest son and I spent a lot of time looking at the nutritional information available at fast food restaurants, and sometimes online. We were grateful to find there were still items we could eat at most restaurants. We only eat out on Sundays, for lunch, after church.
At McDonalds, I order the Egg White Delight McMuffin.
At Carl’s Jr., my son and I order the Charlbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich
At Wendys, I get a baked potato with low fat sour cream and margarine on the side, or a grilled chicken wrap.
At Togos, I get a mini chicken salad sandwich on wheat, with only lettuce and pickles. You don’t need any extra mayo since there’s already some in the chicken salad.
At Panda Express, I’m not exactly sure what chicken my son gets (I don’t like Chinese food so I don’t get anything), but the String Bean Chicken Breast would be a good choice with brown rice.
Fast Food That’s Heart Check Certified
I mentioned above that some menu items qualify for the American Heart Association’s Heart Check Program. The only one listed on their website right now is for 4 meals at Jamba Juice. They are:
- Island Pitaya Bowl
- Acai Primo Bowl
- Chunky Strawberry Bowl
- Fruit and Greek Yogurt Bowl
When I did my research previously, the website also listed meals for Subway. On Subway’s website, they list several meals that qualify for the heart check program.
For kids, Fresh Fit Meals:
- Black Forest Ham Mini
- Roast Beef Mini
- Turkey Breast Mini
- Veggie Delite Mini
For adults, Fresh Fit Meals:
- Black Forest Ham
- Oven Roasted Chicken
- Roast Beef
- Rotisserie-Style Chicken
- Subway Club
- Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki
- Turkey Breast
- Veggie Delite
They also list 17 different varieties of salads.
So, good news! There are lots of different heart healthy choices at lots of different fast food restaurants. I’m sure there are plenty more than the ones I mentioned, but my choices are limited to the restaurants close by us. I’m sure you have other restaurants near you too. So, all you have to do is look for the nutritional information and I’m sure you’ll find many healthy meals to choose from also. If you need help finding some, let me know and I’ll try to help you.
What’s your favorite healthy fast food item?
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