An Oxymoron?

Stay on Your Diet While on the Run

When people think of the typical foods served at fast food restaurants, the image is usually one of sugar, fat, and calorie laden burgers, fries, and soft drinks.  Most dieters and health conscious people would not consider eating at these establishments on a regular basis.  But there is one reason that finds many of us back in the drive through, despite our best intentions-convenience.  Whether it's running errands all day, in between children's activities, or just too tired to cook, we all find ourselves being lured back to the promise of  fast and easy food.  While many of the menu items are high calorie, options for the weight and carb conscious customers are available and increasing in some locations.

There are some common sense ways to reduce caloric intake on the go.  First of all, don't drink calories.  Order diet drinks, unsweetened tea, or water instead of regular drinks.  A regular 12 ounce Coca-Cola has 143 calories, 40 g sugar, and 40 g of carbohydrates.  Diet Coke, water and unsweetened tea have no calories, sugars, or carbohydrates.

There are some options, though, that seem to defy common sense.  These foods seem healthy at first glance, but contain surprising amounts of calories and carbohydrates.  A couple of these which come to mind are salads and wraps.  A Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap has 340 calories, 13 g fat, 15 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 36 g protein, and 30 g carbs.  The high fiber content does help, but it still has a net carb count of 15 g carbohydrates.  As far as salads are concerned, the dressings are the usual calorie and carb busting culprits.  Reduced Fat Berry Balsamic Vinaigrette sounds very healthy, doesn't it?  Surprisingly, one serving has 110 calories, 3.5 g fat, no fiber, 16 g sugar, no protein, and 20 g carbs.

So if salads and wraps are not good options for low carb dieters, what is?  My favorite fast food low carb foods are non-breaded chicken strips and nuggets.  Here is a comparison of calories and nutritional information  for regular breaded chicken strips versus non-breaded chicken strips.

Popeye's Chicken reports the following nutritional information.

Three pieces of mild chicken tenders(breaded) contains 340 calories, 14 grams(g) of fat, 26 g of carbohydrates, and 27 g of protein.

Three pieces of blackened chicken tenders(no breading) contains 170 calories, 2 g of fat, 2 g of carbohydrates, and 26 g of protein.

This example shows that by eating the non-breaded tenders as opposed to the breaded tenders, you would consume 170 less calories, 12 g less fat, and 24 less g carbs, without compromising your protein intake.

Another example comes from the nutritional information for Chick-Fil-A meals.

A regular (breaded) eight count chicken nugget meal has 270 calories, 13 g fat, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 10 g carbs , and 28 g protein.

The same eight piece nugget meal non-breaded and grilled has 140 calories, 3 g fat, 0 fiber, 1 g sugar, 4 g carbohydrates, and 23 g protein.

This example reveals that by choosing the grilled version of nuggets over the regular, breaded nuggets you would take in 130 less calories, 10 g less fat, 6 g less carbs while still getting over 20g protein.

Eating healthy at fast food restaurants is not easy, but it can be done.  As a general rule, avoiding breaded foods, sauces, and dressings can save a lot of calories and carbohydrates and help keep you on your diet while on the go.