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Navigating The Menu: Fast Food Restaurants

Written By: Emma Squillace

A few months ago we walked you through some good food choices at 5 chain restaurants in our area. Today we’re going to look at 5 fast food places. Of course, eating at home and preparing our own food is always best. However, we all know the reality of a hectic day, grocery shopping that didn’t happen, and family waiting for dinner that’s already late. So on the rare occasions you do end up using a fast food place for a meal, here are some healthier choices you can make.

In-n-Out Burger

A typical In-n-Out Burger isn’t at the top of anyone’s diet list, but one benefit of this chain is they use 100% pure beef with no additives or preservatives. They also give you a few easy ways to cut calories and carbs. Your first option is to order “mustard and ketchup instead of spread.” By taking away the higher calorie spread they typically put on burgers, you can save approximately 80 calories, according to their nutritional information. Another good option is to order your burger “Protein Style.” This means they replace the bun with lettuce, so it’s more like a lettuce wrap.

In-n-Out nutrition information:

Taco Bell

Taco Bell may have a reputation for late night, greasy food, and even their commercials seemed to make light of over-eating. You may remember Taco Bell did a string of commercials almost 10 years ago that promoted the idea of “4th Meal”. Of course, adding an entire extra meal isn’t going to help anyone lose weight, but if you’re going to stop for lunch or dinner at Taco Bell, they’ve made it easier to find better choices. At Taco Bell there’s a “Fresco menu” where each item has under 350 calories and 10 grams of fat. Included are a beef soft taco for 160 calories and a chicken supreme burrito for 340 calories. Other menu options can be made healthier also. Skip any creamy or cheesy sauces, and get one of their salsas instead.

Taco Bell Nutritional Information:

Carl’s Jr.

Carl’s Jr is another fast food restaurant that has recognized its customers are sometimes looking for healthier, or more diet-friendly, options. The company has added a section to its website menu called Better For You Options. Here you’ll find choices like a low-carb char broiled chicken club, where they serve their typical chicken sandwich, but as a lettuce wrap instead of on a bun. You can get the same lettuce wrap option with their burger. They also have a “Trim It” choice for their burger which takes out the mayo and is served on a honey wheat bun. Also look for several alternatives like vegetarian choices, turkey burgers, and gluten free options.

Carl’s Jr. Nutritional Info:


While Chick-fil-A has plenty of high calorie options like breaded chicken sandwiches with cheese and extra sauces, they have some diet friendly choices as well. Order their Spicy Southwest Salad, and choose light balsamic or chili lime vinaigrette. Each dressing adds 80 or fewer calories to the 260 calorie salad. Make sure to skip the creamy salsa dressing though. It more than doubles the calories of the entire salad, adding 290 calories for that dressing alone! Chick-fil-A has also redone their parfait to make it a better choice for those watching their weight. The new greek yogurt parfait has only 110 calories, and also gives you 7 grams of protein. The chain also suggests you ask for no butter when ordering, and think about replacing any sauce or cheese with their light Italian dressing. Fewer calories, but you’ll still get flavor.

Chick-fil-A menu with nutritional data:

Jack in the Box

Like most of the other fast food places on our list, Jack in the Box has made an effort to highlight healthier options on their menu. At this fast food place, look for the section called Healthy Dining. You’ll find choices like a chicken fajita pita for 320 calories, grilled chicken strips with teriyaki dipping sauce for 310 calories, and even a lighter dessert option: apple bites with caramel for 70 calories. This is another place where you’ll want to be careful with the dressing choices if you order a salad. While their grilled chicken salad is a good option with 250 calories and over 20 grams of protein, their bacon ranch dressing has over 200 calories, and their creamy southwest dressing has 740 milligrams of sodium – that’s more sodium than a small order of French fries has.

Jack in the Box Nutritional Information:

You’re never going to eat your healthiest meals at fast food restaurants, but on those occasions where you find yourself at one of these potential diet-busters, remember that you can still find good options. A quick google search will generally let you find detailed nutritional information from any chain you’re going to eat at. A little research ahead of time is the best way to keep from eating more calories, fat, or sodium than you realize.

If you have struggled to lose weight and keep it off, West Medical’s surgical and non-surgical weight loss options may help you find the success you’ve been looking for. If you would like to learn more about how we can help, please call our offices at (855) 690-0565.

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