Healthy Fast Food That Satisfies Cravings

Wednesday, 2/20/2013 at 9:38:13 PM

Much to my children’s dismay, my family rarely pulls up to fast-food drive-through windows. But when we do—on road trips or those crazy Saturdays when we have the kids’ back-to-back track meets—the “bad mom” feeling washes over me. I wish I could feed my kids healthy, whole foods 100 percent of the time but it’s not realistic. Life is busy and, honestly, sometimes I just need a break from the kitchen (pizza anyone?).

But I had a change of heart when my family ate out at a fast food restaurant this past weekend. Nervously I walked into Smashburger thinking I was going to blow my good day of eating. I envisioned my favorite juicy Baja burger loaded with toppings and dripping with sauce and French fries covered in sugar-filled ketchup—and instantly felt a twinge of guilt at the idea of ordering it. However, as I glanced over the menu posted on the wall, I was pleasantly surprised to see a wide selection of healthy choices. I had options—lots of them!

There was a vegetarian sandwich, a variety of chicken sandwiches, a nice selection of salads, and the choice to build your own burger. It was then that I realized that fast food restaurants are truly making an effort to offer a better selection of healthy foods.

Being that we were going out for burgers, I wasn’t about to order a salad even though the delicious choices were a fraction in calories compared to the burgers (I looked up the nutritional information up on my phone as I stood in line). Besides, I’d had a salad for lunch. So I decided not to deny myself and stick with my favorite burger: The Baja has pepper jack cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, onion, spicy chipotle mayo, and fresh jalapeños on a spicy chipotle bun.

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The focus of my weight loss this year is about making better choices rather than counting calories or carbs, but that didn’t stop me from checking out nutritional difference between my before and after. The key was to make some tweaks in how I ordered it. Check it out:

Baja Burger (761 calories, 44g carbs) with regular Smashfries (520 calories, 66g carbs) and water
Total: 1,281 calories, 110g carbs

Baja Burger minus the bun (541 calories, 6g carbs) with the sauce came on the side so I could dip my burger as wanted—and save calories—with Veggie Frites (flash-fried carrot sticks and green beans: 110 calories, 12g carbs) and water
Total: 651 calories, 18g carbs

Savings: 630 calories; 92g carbs

Wow! Making better choices and checking out nutritional info is worth the time! I ate a fraction of the carbs I would have and almost half the calories compared to my “old way of eating,” and dinner was still satisfying. I think I’ll let my fast food guilt diminish from now on and show my children how to make better choices. And, regardless of the type of restaurant, I will always check out nutritional info before dining out.