NEW YORK (MainStreet) In this day and age, the idea of having enough time to cook and prepare all of our own meals is just that an idea. Most people barely have enough time to make one meal a day, let alone three squares and maybe a few snacks. This makes up the majority of the reason as to why our modern population is so reliant on convenience foods. Whether it's a pre-packaged frozen meal or a quick stop through a fast food joint, we are constantly sacrificing our health for things like time constraints, jobs, and busy schedules.
Fortunately, it appears that many fast food places have also received the memo. The following is a list of five healthier options at a few of the mainstream fast food places, straight from the mouths of health and nutrition experts.
1. Del Taco. Del Taco, the second largest Mexican fast food chain with 546 restaurants nationwide, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and the company is certainly doing so with a bang. On January 6, the company introduced turkey tacos as a menu option, and certified nutritionist Heidi Diller weighs in on the new addition: "I love the fact that turkey tacos are an option at Del Taco. Without compromising flavor at all, turkey tacos have 25% [fewer] calories, 33% less total fat and 40% less saturated fat than then their ground beef taco. It's really a no brainer in my book. I would recommend their ground turkey offerings anytime." Click here for more information on nutrition, allergens, and ingredients.
2. Chick-Fil-A. With all of the options that Chick-Fil-A has to offer, it's clear why so many people choose it for a quick bite. Denise Hernandez, a registered and licensed dietitian at The Houstonian Club in Houston, Texas, recommends it as well. "When I have to eat fast food, I'll usually go to Chick-Fil-A, because everyone I'm with can usually find something they like there," Hernandez says. One of her top choices at Chick-Fil-A is the Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap. She points out that the wrap itself is made of flaxseed flour, and between that and the rest of the ingredients rolled inside, the wrap packs a whopping 15 grams of fiber and 36 grams of protein with as little as 340 calories.
"I don't feel at all like I'm making a sacrifice by choosing this meal," Hernandez explains. To up its health factor even more, Chick-Fil-A announced earlier this year that the company plans to serve only antibiotic-free chicken in all of their restaurants over the course of the next five years. Click here for the nutrition facts and ingredients for the Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap!
3. Chipotle. Nutrition expert Sarah Wayne explains that being healthy is not always just about the calorie count. Avoiding inflammatory foods and paying attention to appropriate nutrient intake are just as important. For this reason, Wayne recommends ordering the burrito bowl from Chipotle, concentrating on brown rice, beans, vegetables, salsa and guacamole; Wayne also recommends skipping the other less healthy, nutrient-deficient items like sour cream, cheese and corn salsa.
Wayne explains that the main reasons that make this meal a healthier option has to do with eliminating a few of the possible inflammation-causing foods such as gluten, dairy and potential GMO corn.
"The brown rice and beans provide a complete protein source; vegetables and salsa for added antioxidants vitamins, minerals and plant fiber; and the guacamole for healthy fats to promote brain function, improve metabolism and to keep your energy sustained," Wayne says.
If you are a die-hard carnivore and can't fathom a vegetarian meal, Wayne recommends ordering the chicken, but then omitting the rice in order to maintain a steady level of energy. Click here for the Chipotle nutrition calculator, or here for the special diet information.
4. Starbucks. While a dieter's first choice for food on the go has not typically been the vast pastry counter at Starbucks, the company has grown to include much more than its usual marshmallow squares and muffins. Valerie Orsoni, founder and CEO of the online health and wellness program LeBootCamp, feels that there is a four-pronged approach to overall health and wellness without a side of deprivation: nutrition, fitness, motivation and stress management. Orsoni finds that you can still retain your health goals even when forced to eat fast food.
"Starbucks' Spinach and Feta Breakfast Wrap is a great choice on the go," she explains. "It's a healthier choice for breakfast than a regular muffin, croissant, or coffee cake, because it is an amazing source of healthy fiber, Vitamin C, protein, and calcium, while bringing very little saturated fat."
Orsoni adds that she even creates her own Chai Tea Latte to go along with the wrap. By ordering a Chai Tea bag in a Venti-sized hot water, adding a shot of soy milk, and sweetening with Stevia that she brings from home, she saves a ton of calories and money. While the regular Chai Latte can pack around 300 calories for an average size, her version is sugar free, dairy free and almost calorie free Click here for the Spinach and Feta Breakfast Wrap nutrition facts.
5. McDonald's. When forced to eat on the run, Dr. Keith Kantor, author ofThe Green Box League of Nutritious Justice, suggests the Egg White Delight McMuffin from McDonald's. Kantor explains that this breakfast choice is a "balanced breakfast option that is lower in calories and cholesterol than the traditional breakfast sandwich options." As an added benefit, Kantor adds that the protein from the egg whites will also help keep blood sugars stabilized, so that you're not running back for more within an hour or two. Coming in at only 250 calories, the sandwich also contains 18 grams of protein to help keep you satisfied. Click here for the nutrition facts for the Egg White Delight McMuffin.
Written by Ciara Larkin for MainStreet