Making healthy fast food choices at the drive-thru window


March 11, 2016

Lean, grilled meats make all the difference when trying to make healthy fast food choices


Our lives are moving so fast these days and it’s so convenient to grab fast food. That can make it hard to eat healthy. But there are some heart-smart choices you can make when food fast is your only option.

Ryan Rafacz, RD, LDN, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt Pediatric Cardiology dietitian, explains that finding quick meals to feed your family “can be healthy if you are informed and mindful when it comes to selecting foods at your favorite drive-thru.”

Use these tips to help you make healthier choices when eating fast food:

Choose grilled instead of fried.

Avoid fried and breaded items, such as crispy chicken sandwiches, breaded fish fillets and processed meats.

Choose lean meats over more fatty options.

Turkey, chicken breast and lean roast beef typically make for healthy fast food choices.

Skip the fries.

Better side choices are salad with light dressing, baked potato (easy on the toppings), fresh fruit cup, corn on the cob or apple slices.

Be careful with condiments.

Hold the mayo and ask for mustard, instead. Add tomato, lettuce and pickles for extra flavor and crunch. Ask for dressing on the side so you can control how much you use.

Avoid supersized and value-sized items.

Go for the smallest size when it comes to sandwiches, burgers and sides. You also can find more reasonable portions on the children’s menu.

• Plan ahead.

Rafacz adds, “Knowing the healthier options to allow your children to choose from ahead of time is crucial. This way kids can be excited about their meal since they got to choose it, while you can be assured they will get a healthier option. Creating this kind of joint decision-making can help avoid the food battles that tend to surface when forcing children to eat a healthy food item without any alternative healthy choices.”

Stacey Kendrick, MS, is a health educator with more than 20 years of experience in wellness and population health. She spent much of her career at Vanderbilt’s Faculty/Staff Wellness Program and currently works in Strategic Marketing at Vanderbilt. She is mother to two adult daughters. In her free time, she teaches healthy cooking classes, runs, gardens and enjoys backyard bonfires.