ThreeJars Daily: Healthy Fast Food Dinners

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Healthy Fast Food Dinners

Let’s face it: Fast food is convenient when you’re running late and have to get the kids fed and in bed pronto. A nice surprise: They can be healthy, too, if you know what to choose. With guidance from Keri Gans, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, we rounded up four nutritious options from national chains, including McDonald’s (no joke) that the whole family can feel good about.

By Susannah Felts

Sample healthy taco:
Flour tortilla: 90 cals, 2.5g fat
Chicken: 190 cals, 6.5g fat
Black beans: 120 cals, 1g fat
Cheese: 100 cals, 8.5 g fat
Any Mexican-style food “can be a great choice for the whole family, but it’s very easy for it to get very high in fat and calories,” says Gans. To avoid this, don’t double up on fats and proteins when you’re building tacos or burritos. Choose one lean protein—chicken or shrimp—and either cheese or guacamole. Counting carbs? Pick either beans or rice, not both. Order a salad to divvy up among your family members as a side dish.

Boston Market
Rotisserie chicken: 310 cals, 15g fat per serving
Fresh steamed veggies: 60 cals, 2g fat
Sweet corn: 170 cals, 4 g fat
Garlic dill new potatoes: 140 cals, 3g fat
Pick up a rotisserie chicken—think a quarter bird per serving—and take the skin off and voila, you have lean protein. (Or you can choose turkey breast, which is even healthier at only 180 calories per serving.) For sides, skip the buttery/creamy stuff like mashed potatoes and opt for fresh steamed veggies or corn and roasted potatoes, which has fiber in the skins. If your family prefers red meat, Boston Market’s beef brisket, which has 400 calories and 23 grams of fat per serving is a good lean choice, Gans points out.

Hamburger: 250 cals, 9g fat
Small Fries: 230 cals, 11g fat
Side Salad: 20 cals, 0g fat
Newman’s Own Low Fat Family Recipe Italian Dressing: 60 cals, 2.5g fat
The trick to going to the Golden Arches is to stick with the simple, single-patty hamburger or grilled chicken sandwich sans sauce, says Gans. You want fries with that? Go ahead, says Gans: “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting a small fries. It’s all about making better choices, and a small fries is better than a large. You’re showing portion control.” Just be sure to throw in side salads with low-fat dressing for everyone—even if the kids don’t eat all of it, it’s important to put it on their plate so they see vegetables are always a part of the meal, says Gans.

Panda Express
Kobari Beef: 210 cals, 7g fat
Tangy Shrimp: 190 cals, 7g fat
Mixed Veggies: 35 cals, 0g fat
Steamed Rice: 420 cals, 0g fat
Chinese food is notoriously fatty, but simply skipping the fried options—fried rice, egg rolls, spareribs—and ordering family-style to control portions (say, three dishes for four people) will make it a no-guilt meal, says Gans. Select two meat-based entrees, like the Kobari Beef and Tangy Shrimp at Panda Express, and one veggie or tofu-based dish. For adults, leaving the steamed rice untouched makes it a great low-carb dinner. And don’t forget: With any takeout meal, avoid empty calories by having a glass of water instead of soda.

Susannah Felts also writes for Health, Spry,, and other magazines and web sites.


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