It’s everyone’s dream to be able to eat fast food and actually lose weight. Imagine a world where you could have all the cheeseburgers and fried chicken your heart desires, and still look as shredded as a fitness guru. If this world existed, I would ditch my dreams of being a movie star and become a competitive eater instead.
The reality is, though, that towering soft-drinks, greasy burgers, constantly bubbling deep-fryers and questionable food additives are symbols of the American fast-food industry that don’t look like they’re going to change anytime soon. As a result, the nation gets larger, not to mention a lot more susceptible to disease.
But what if I told you that despite all this, fast food restaurants can actually help you lose weight? When it comes down to it, weight loss is all about calorie balance; you check your numbers, and you should be able to drop pounds. With that here are some tips if you want to lose weight by eating fast food.
1. Always eat breakfast, but choose wisely
Studies show that eating breakfast leads to less overall calorie consumption. Fast food breakfasts can be deceptively caloric and high in saturated fat, so make sure you choose wisely. Avoid meat and cheese in the morning, and stick with egg white wraps. Go to Starbucks for a Spinach, Roasted Tomato, Feta, and Egg wrap, or a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin.
2. Bowls are your best friend
A burrito bowl can be a nutritious dinner if it’s loaded with the right ingredients. As a rule of thumb, skip the sour cream, cheese and guacamole, piling on the vegetables, legumes, and salsas isntead. Chipotle Mexican Grill’s vegetarian sofritas bowl with white rice, fajita vegetables, and tomatillo salsa is only 365 calories with 14.5 grams of fat, 1.36 grams of sodium, and 12.5 grams of protein.
3. Cut out the fries
Potatoes are a healthy and affordable vegetable, but they end up heavily processed by the time they make their way onto your tray at a fast food restaurant. Besides being saturated in oil and salt, fast-food French fries have the healthiest part of the potato removed: the skin. As a result, they’re nutritionally unrecognizable. Cut the fries out completely and drop major pounds.
4. Blot the oil from your pizza, and don’t eat from the box
If you want to follow a pizza-based diet, coined by the chef Pasquale Cozzolino, make sure you blot away all the extra oils and juices with a paper towel. All those juices count for a lot of calories; calories that you don’t need in your life. Eating on a small plate and not from the box also helps you stay on top of portion control.
5. Embrace the salad for lunch
Let’s take a look at McDonald’s bacon-ranch grilled chicken salad. The salad has 42 grams of protein, and is only 320 calories with nine grams of carbohydrates. A simple change in thinking will save you major calories and keep you fuller for longer. Subway’s chopped turkey breast salad and Burger King’s chicken, apple, and cranberry salad are other tasty options with fewer than 350 calories.
6. Expand your definition of fast food
Fast food is more than just quickly cooked hamburgers, deep-fried chicken nuggets and salt drenched fries. At its core, fast food is about time, convenience and value. Case in point: sushi. If that doesn’t float your boat, how about a banana-peanut butter smoothie? Don’t be afraid to venture out the typical fast food joints for lunch, dinner or a quick hit.
7. Go against the grains
The hamburger buns, croissants, bagels and flour tortillas offer only empty calories. A flour tortilla from Chipotle contains a whopping 300 calories. Look for fast-food options that are absent of heavily processed carbohydrates, such as salads, burrito bowls or even grilled nuggets. Speaking of which…
8. Go grilled
Grilling nuggets, steaks or wraps add extra flavor without the calories. Taco Bell’s A.M. Grilled Taco, for example, is only 230 calories, 14 grams of fat, 590 milligrams of sodium, and 12 grams of protein; a much better alternative to a greasy breakfast sandwich. Chick-fil-A’s eight-piece grilled chicken nuggets contain 140 calories and only three grams of total fat.
9. Focus on falafel
There are plenty of Mediterranean-inspired fast-casual restaurant chains opening everywhere these days, the foundation for many of them being falafel. To the uninitiated, falafel is a spiced, fried or baked chickpea ball – a fiber-rich vegetarian protein source that pairs perfectly with salad greens. A falafel salad is filling and offers a very diverse assortment of vitamins and minerals for on average less than 400 calories.
10. Wash your meals down with coffee
If you want to lose weight, there’s simply no room in your diet for sugar-sweetened beverages. Sorry, but there’s no other way about it. Besides containing zero calories, water and coffee have a number of health benefits. Drinking water before a meal even boosts your metabolism and makes you feel fuller. If that wasn’t enough, research suggests coffee drinkers are less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and dementia.
To lose weight through fast food alone is difficult, but as you’ve seen, not impossible. It requires patience, some moderate exercise and a commitment to a disciplined set of dietary guidelines. However, if you have hypertension, high blood pressure or diabetes, this diet might not be for you.