12 Healthy Fast Food Lunches

Bodybuilders, beware those fast-food meal deals. For just a few pennies more, you can add hundreds of excess calories, many from fat and/or sugar. That’s what researchers from several health organizations found when they visited fast-food and mall eateries, as reported by the American Institute for Cancer Research.

At one fast-food burger chain, supersizing the meal deal provided 1,380 calories total for only 58 cents more. What a deal — until you consider that’s about twice the calories our diner should eat for lunch.

At Cinnabon, the upgrade from the 300-calorie Minibon to the 670-calorie classic Cinnabon netted 123% more calories for only 23% more money, says the AICR. And at 7-Eleven, the shopper went from 150 calories of Coke to 600 calories for only 37 cents more. That’s four times the sugar calories for less than four more dimes.

These were all upgrades for customers who originally ordered less, but were pitched supersizing or larger portions for just a little higher price. Why the hard sell of the excess calories? Simple — so restaurants can make more money.

“Since food, as opposed to labor, rent or utilities, is their smallest cost, they make money on such deals,” says the AICR Newsletter for summer 2003. “Customers are happy, too. They pay a little less per unit and get an enormous amount of food.” Seventy percent of customers generally eat everything they’re served, says the AICR.

False Economy

In a society where people spend billions to lose weight, and where low-calorie and low-carb products bring premium prices at weight-loss centers, grocery stores and some eateries, why would someone want excess empty calories? It’s truly an impulse buy.

Too bad we don’t see deals for an extra chicken breast on a sandwich or salad. Since fast-food deals are mainly for extra fat and sugar, learn to think small when you order. When the server asks, “Do you want to supersize that?” consider whether you want to supersize your gut and butt.

Think of the cost not only to your health but also your physique. With most fast food, the more quantity you get for your money, the worse the food will be for you.


NEXT: Healthier Options >>


Real Deals

Make your choices based on nutrition, on eating what’s good for you and your physique. Avoid empty, fattening calories, no matter how cheap they are. In that light, the broiled chicken sandwiches and salads become excellent choices. The best buy of all? Probably the water you can get for free! (Yes, just ask. We know it’s not on the menu.)

A small order of fries should be manageable on your bodybuilding diet. Instead of getting them supersized for a few cents more, consider adding a side salad with fat-free dressing. You may spend a little more, but you’ll get more nutrition and stick to your muscle-building program.

Beware of specialty burgers and extra toppings, whether they’re marketed as deals or not. The Quarter Pounder has 420 calories and 21 grams of fat. With cheese, it has 530 calories and 30 grams of fat. Upgrade again to the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese and you get 760 calories with 48 grams of fat, 20 of them saturated. That’s 430 calories from fat!

Check out some healthier choices, too – from your grocery-store salad bar to lighter, fresher fast foods from local eateries. At El Pollo Loco chicken restaurants, for example, you can eat heart-healthy food that’s also physique-friendly, as long as you don’t overdo the rice and beans.

Don’t fall for cheap thrills for meal deals. Spend a little more money to get more quality, not more calories. It’s an investment in your physique and your health. 

Don’t Supersize . . . Minimize

French fries

Small fries (about 21/2 oz): 210 Calories, 26g. Carbs, 10g. Fat
Supersize fries (about 7 oz.): 610 Calories, 77g. Carbs, 29g. Fat

Nutritional cost to Supersize: 400 Calories, 51g. Carbs, 19g. Fat


Small cola (16 oz.): 150 Calories, 40g. Carbs, 40g. Sugar
Supersize cola (42 oz.): 410 Calories, 113g. Carbs, 113g. Sugar

Nutritional cost to Supersize*: 260 Calories 73g. Carbs, 73g. Sugar

* Or go with diet soda and have almost no calories

Source: McDonald’s Corp., A Full Serving of Nutrition Facts, April 2003