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You know fast food isn’t good for you. Everybody knows that. Yet the cheeseburgers, tacos, pizza slices, egg rolls, and fried chicken tempt us with irritably effective persistence; but hold your head up high. You don’t have to feel guilty each time your busy schedule forces you to head to a drive-thru or the food court. Here are 10 ways to cut calories from your fast food meal combo.

1. Skip the Fried Food

Fried foods aren’t just high in fats, they’re also high in calories. Cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra created the Fast Food Diet, which cuts out all fried foods, reports webmd.com. And that means fried chicken, nachos (the tortilla chips are usually fried), fish sandwiches, General Tso’s Chicken, French fries, chimichangas, chicken nuggets, egg rolls, refried beans, fried rice, onion rings, and so much more. Not sure if something is a friend, just ask.

This could save you 738 calories (three pieces of chicken)

2. Have a Side Salad

Whatever you order, add on a side salad – even if it costs you a few more cents than the fries that typically come with the combo, suggests Dr. Oz. Most fast food places, from burger joints to pizza deliver to taco stands to Chinese food court restaurants, have salads on their menu. Order your meal with a side salad, and eat that first. You’ll fill up on nutritious calories instead fatty ones.

This could save you 300 calories (the difference between a side salad and large fries)

3. Deconstruct Your Salad

Now that you have your salad, or if you’ve ordered a meal-size one, assemble it in a healthy way. Only using half the dressing, not eating the croutons, or as a writer for Fitness Magazine did, saving the almonds for your post-workout snack. Just because your salad comes with little plastic envelopes of toppings, it doesn’t mean you have to use them all.

This could save you 125 calories (half of a dressing package)

4. Go for Grilled

Fast food restaurant menus are loaded with protein, and it’s not always the right kind of protein an active person like yourself needs. Mayoclinic.org says to go for grilled (or roasted) meats, such as turkey or chicken breast, lean ham, or lean roast beef.

This could save you 320 calories (the difference between a fried chicken sandwich and a grilled one)

5. Order the Smallest Size

Fast food restaurants can be sneaky to get you to buy more. They’ll often put the best value for drinks and side dishes on the large and extra-large portions. And the same goes for that extra piece of chicken, patty, or taco. So go for the smallest portion, the regular size, or off the children’s menu, suggests mayoclinic.org.

This could save you 260 calories (the difference between a regular soda and an extra-large)

6. Order from the Snack Menu

Snack menus are often used for meal add-ons. You know when you want that bacon cheeseburger, and at the same time are craving a chicken wrap. Familycircle.com suggests that chicken wrap and apple slices off the snack menu can be good for you: It has protein and unsaturated fat from the walnuts, and they could be a good source of iron and calcium.

This could save you 1,000 calories (the difference between a snack wrap and a burrito)

7. Cut Some Toppings

Did you know you could eat clean at a fast food restaurant? Hold the cheese, bacon, mayonnaise, chocolate sauce, and tartar sauce, Madelyn Fernstrom, director of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, tells today.com. The same goes for pizza, too. Half the cheese instead of doubling it.

This could save you 740 calories (no cheese or bacon)

8. Add Other Toppings

Not all toppings are bad. Vegetables, like pickles, onions, lettuce, and tomato, and sauces, like mustard and ketchup, add flavor without the fat, says the American Heart Association. You can do the same with a hotdog, burrito (sour cream vs salsa or guac), As for your ’za, swap the sodium stacks of pepperoni for nutrient-rich peppers and mushrooms, and spice up your slices with herbs.

This could save you 160 calories (the difference between pepperoni and a veggie slice)

9. Check the Calorie Count and Compare

Take a moment before order and check out the nutritional information. The National Institutes of Health said: “Knowing the number of calories, fat, and salt in fast foods can help you eat healthier.” Restaurants will have this information on their phone apps, on their websites, and in flyers or posters at the stores. In a pinch, you can always ask the cashier for the information.

This could save you as many calories as you desire.

10. Go to the Grocery Store Instead

The easiest way to cut calories from fast food is to not eat from a fast food restaurant and rethink how you define fast food. The American Heart Association says that grocery stores are a healthy alternative to fast food. Why not buy a whole-grain bun from the bakery, a few slices of turkey, assemble a sandwich and have an apple, too. You can even find salad bars, prepped food aisles, and hot-food counters at many grocery stores nowadays.

This can spare you 250 additional calories (the difference between a sub and a sandwich).

About the Author: LISA HANNAM

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