Sometimes fast food is our only option. It’s cheap, it’s fast, and it’s usually open late to compliment our busy schedules. A lot of our local faves don’t exactly scream healthy–most of them generally lean more toward, “would you like some fries with that?” So, if you love your fast food, but you don’t love all the calories that come with it, check out this guide for the healthiest twists on your fattening favorites.
Far too often, we find ourselves eagerly waiting in line to grab that giant Chipotle burrito complete with all the necessary fix-ins. Sure, I could say skip the burrito and get a salad instead, but I mean…obviously. If you want the healthiest option, yes, go for the salad and skip the rice, but if it’s the traditional Chipotle burrito or taco you crave, there are some definite do’s and don’t’s if you want to keep it on the healthier side.
1) Do without the tortilla. There is just as much flavor in the burrito bowl than there is in the burrito itself.
2) If you decide to get the burrito bowl, opt for brown rice for an easy switch that barely affects taste.
3) If you can’t part with the tortilla, skip the rice.
4) Salsa is your friend. Whether it be on the burrito, burrito bowl, taco, or salad, salsa is a great way to add lots of flavor for minimal calories and no fat.
For the health-nut: Chipotle salad with fajita veggies, black beans, and salsa is the healthiest option.
Your late night 24/7 Diner:
It doesn’t take long before Thirsty Thursday turns into Famished Friday and just about anything on Seamless Web sounds appealing. If it’s late enough, there’s generally not much open except those 24-hour diners that always seem to come to our rescue. Instead of ordering that tall stack of pancakes smothered in syrup with a side of bacon, or that greasy burger with a large side of fries, here are healthy ways to order off the diner menu.
1) For the breakfast-food craver: get an omelet. Opt for egg whites instead of whole eggs. If you really want to take it to the next level, ask them to cook your eggs in as little oil or butter as possible.
2) For the burger eater: ditch the beef, and opt for grilled chicken. Choose ketchup or mustard over mayo or Russian dressing. Again, to take it further, ask them to cook it in as little oil/butter as possible.
For the health-nut: Salad of your choosing. Balsamic vinegar on the side.
When it comes to a quality burger, the folks at BareBurger know what they’re doing. Aside from their incredible selection of different meats (and the vegetarian options for the vegetarians and vegans out there), they also use organic, humanely raised meats. While that doesn’t necessarily mean everything on their menu is good for you, it makes it easier to scope out the healthier options. Since they let you craft your own burger, you can get very creative and still manage to be good to your body with these tips.
1) Patty: get the grilled chicken or a veggie burger. If you like to live on the edge, the elk is actually a fairly lean meat that could satisfy your craving.
2) Fix-ins: go with the lettuce, tomato, raw onion, and/or pickles.
3) Condiments: your safest bet is probably traditional ketchup or mustard. If you want to spice things up a bit, the curry ketchup or salsa verde could be a zesty substitute.
4) Bun: I’m a giant proponent of the literal bare burger (AKA a burger sans bun). What is great about Bare Burger is that they offer the option of a lettuce wrap, so you won’t make a giant mess. But if you can’t part with the bun, eat your burger open face on a multi-grain roll (open face = on half of the bun).
For the health-nut: The Farmer’s Salad or the Cranberry Blue Salad.
Pret A Manger:
When it comes to grabbing a quick and easy pre-made lunch-on-the-go, Pret is one of the first options that comes to mind. While it may seem like a foolproof lunch stop for healthy eats, some of their “low-cal” sandwiches actually have more salt than a few bags of potato chips! So what is your best bet, and what should you avoid?
1) Danger Zone: baguettes, wraps, and bagels. Basically all baked goods.
2) Safe Zone: all soups except anything labeled “cream of,” “curry” (generally made with full-fat coconut milk), or “chowder.” The miso, tomato, or smokey root vegetable and bean soup are good choices.
3) Salad Fix: Instead of using caesar dressing on your chargrilled chicken caesar, just grab some balsamic vinegar and you’re good to go.
4) Sandwich Fix: ditch half the roll and make sure it is light on mayo (no mayo would be even better).
For the health-nut: Small miso soup with a simple tuna salad.
While Mamouns’ famous falafel is made from heart-healthy chick peas, it is also fried (which is obviously not the best for your health). Here’s what to do to steer clear of the fryer.
1) If you still want to get your chickpea fix without the fried guilt, opt for some hummus instead. Skip the pita in place of a large salad.
2) If chickpeas aren’t your speed, opt for the Baba Ganouj, made from eggplant, garlic, parsley, and tahini.
For the health-nut: Baba Ganouj plate sans pita.
Vive La Crepe:
While crepes don’t exactly scream “diet-food,” Vive La Crepe’s menu incorporates lots of greens and fruit. They also are happy to accommodate any and all health concerns that you may have – ie. add extra veggies, hold the cheese, and skip the meat. Here are their healthiest options to date.
1) For all “savory crepes”: add extra veggies and eliminate the meat.
2) For all “sweet crepes”: order the dark chocolate crepe and add some fresh berries.
For the health-nut: The #4 Savory crepe – light goat cheese, lots of spinach, mushrooms, and basil. Hands down the healthiest of their selection; it’s light and still has lots of flavor.
There are few places you can go these days where basically everything on the menu is under five bucks, which makes Papaya Dog pretty hard to turn down. From a health standpoint, however, it is hard to find something that won’t leave you wanting to loosen your pants afterwards. To be honest, there are pretty much no calorie bargains on their menu, but there are a few easy rules that you can follow to slash at least a few of those unnecessary calories.
1) Ditch the bun. I promise your dog or burger won’t go naked without it. Dress it up with some relish, mustard, ketchup or sauerkraut, and you’re good to go.
2) Hold the fries. You can easily satisfy your greasy fix with the hot dog or burger.
3) Nix any fruit drinks. They are basically a cup full of sugar.
For the health-nut: Probably best to avoid Papaya Dog. But if you must, order a turkey dog instead of a traditional hot dog. Hold the bun.