Myth: Weight Loss Means No More Fast Food

Fast Food RestaurantFast Food Restaurant

The statement “fast food is too unhealthy for weight loss” is a myth.  

Burger and Fries
Burger and Fries

Now before you flood my inbox with emails, I am not saying that it is healthy to eat fast food every meal or even every day.  If you must have a fast food meal, it is more healthy if you make good choices.  The key part of that statement is “if you make good choices.”  If you do not choose wisely, it will likely be less healthy than your body needs.

Fast food is cheaper and denser in calories, for the most part, than compared to the foods we make at home.  Fast food is processed food that may contain significant amounts of carbohydrates, sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats.  Because of the processed nature, they are cheaper.  The processing makes them denser and thus higher in calories while offering very little in the way of nutrition. You probably cannot create a burger for what the local fast-food chain charges.  The burger from the chain is also made of much lower quality ingredients when we compare it to the ones you likely use at home.  The fat content of the burger and fries you get at the chain is high, and they top it off with a saltlick of sodium.  The sad fact is the calorie and fat content is as high or higher for many fast-food salads when compared to the burger.  Fast food restaurants are a calorie-filled minefield for those who are trying to lose weight or just eat healthier.  Maybe the double cheeseburgers, fries, sodas, and apple pies are out, but you don’t have to ditch fast food altogether to stay on your diet. 

We have all read the article on a science teacher from Iowa who lost weight eating nothing but “food” from McDonald’s restaurants.  It is not easy, but it is possible.  Weight loss is a simple concept.  You will lose weight if you eat fewer calories than you burn.  No magical process occurs in slim folks that do not happen in those that are overweight that allows them to not gain weight.  

I have never recommended that folks eat fast food regularly, but today, you can make a relatively healthy choice at almost every restaurant.  The key concept is to know your options and make good choices.  Although you may think a salad is healthy, you might be surprised by the calorie content for many of the salads and dressings you consume.  

Various Fast Foods
Various Fast Foods

Tips for fast food:

  1. Start with a salad but watch the meat and cheese content. Choose a dressing that is oil and vinegar-based and not cream-based.   Order the dressing on the side.
  2. Avoid the gravy.  No matter what food you order, gravy is just piling on the calories.  
  3. Go for grilled.  Opt for the grilled meats over fried.  Frying food adds unneeded calories.
  4. Buck the breading.  Breading is just adding calories.  It is unnecessary and adds minimal nutritive value.  
  5. Toss the hard taco shells and corn tortillas.  I recommend soft tacos and wraps that are high fiber and low-carb.  
  6. Choose fruit or yogurt as a side.  Fruit and yogurt are better for you than a potato or corn-based sides.

Bottom line: Modern fast food provides healthier options that will allow you to meet your food needs without destroying your weight loss plans.  

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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