You’ve heard about it, you’ve read about it, and, if you’re a normal college kid, you’ve probably experienced it: the infamous freshman 15.
It happens to the best of us. With limited healthy options on campus and fast food readily available, it’s just unavoidable. And who wouldn’t rather have Chick-fil-A than a sketchy lump of dining hall “meat?”
The thing is, there is a way to eat fast food on the reg and avoid fulfilling your weight gain potential.
What could possibly be healthy about this, you ask? A lot, actually, if you’re doing it right. At many fast food restaurants, you can pick and choose exactly what you’ll be eating. This is a pretty solid alternative to the late night stress snacking that creates the dreaded, seemingly inevitable first-year weight gain.
Here’s the sitch: every meal you eat should be high in two things — fiber and protein. So you gotta know what foods you can find them in, and how you can incorporate them into your daily life. Fiber and protein make you full and keep you full, and also aid in digestion and muscle-building. Score.
You’re also going to want a little bit of fat. Counter-intuitive, right? But everyone needs healthy fats in their diet in order to be, well, healthy. The key is unsaturated fats — those are the good guys. So get over your fear of fats and read between the lines on nutrition labels.
Remember to minimize your sodium, cholesterol, and saturated/trans fat intake, while maximizing your intake of vitamins and minerals. This may be difficult considering you are still eating fast food, so cut yourself some slack.
Now that you know what to look for, here’s where you’re gonna find it:
What you’re ordering: A bowl with brown rice, black beans, tomato salsa, cheese, guacamole, and lettuce.
What you’re really getting: A whopping 22.5 grams of fiber, 21 grams of protein and only 6 grams of sugar. SIX grams of sugar. Don’t believe me? Try Chipotle’s interactive nutrition calculator for yourself.
The calorie count is still pretty high, but that’s mostly from the guacamole. By the way, that guac is free, if you order exactly what’s listed up there. Trust. #chipotlehacks
The reason guac is so high in calories is because it contains a substantial amount of unsaturated fat. However, in moderation, unsaturated fat is GOOD for you. But, you could always scratch the rice, if you really want to watch your carbs.
What you’re ordering: a 6-inch (or a footlong, if you’re feeling crazy) turkey breast on honey oat bread, with cheese, lettuce, tomato, spinach, and guacamole (obvi).
What you’re really getting: 18 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of sugar. Not too shabby.
Disclaimer: This is the info for a 6-inch turkey breast on wheat bread with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and cucumbers. Subway’s nutritional info isn’t build-your-own like Chipotle’s.
The guac will add protein, healthy fats, and deliciousness. Definitely go for the spinach — it’s a great source of iron. And scratch the mayo at the end − this sandwich is already flavorful enough, and who really wants the extra fat and carbs?
What you’re ordering: anything, because Panera is life. And is probably one of the healthiest fast food joints out there. But one of your best options is the Mediterranean chicken and quinoa salad.
What you’re really getting: 8 grams of fiber, 25 grams of protein and a whole lotta vitamins. You can thank the kale and quinoa in this powerhouse salad, and the chicken serves as another lean source of protein.
Go for the whole, not half, salad. Your belly will thank you later by not growling during 2 pm lecture. Salads like this one are just simply satisfying. This also means less snacking later. Sayonaras, love handles.
What you’re ordering: Coffee, duh, so you can make it through the next few hours of studying. But in terms of food, try out the spinach and feta breakfast wrap.
What you’re really getting: This hearty little guy clocks in at under 300 calories and gives you 6 grams of fiber and 21 grams of protein. And again, note the spinach − we should ALL be eating more of it. Not bad, Starbs, not bad.
You can also check out the nutritional info for all of Starbucks’s drinks. But hey, what you put in your coffee is up to you. We won’t judge.