Sometimes, you have no choice but to grab a quick meal. When you’re heading back to the office, jumping on a plane, or heading out for the night, convenience is king – but that doesn’t mean you can’t find fast food that fuels you. Try making these tweaks to slash calories and drop the weight, the bloat and the guilt when you’re eating out.
DITCH: Tempura white rice sushi
DIG IN: Fresh veggie rice paper rolls
Determined to eat well this week? You can pop into the sushi place on your lunch break, but just be smart about it. Tempura white rice sushi is tempting, but it’s just not worth it. Tempura is a fancy word for deep-fried and we all know what that means: it’s loaded in unhealthy fat. Plus, white rice spikes your insulin and blood sugar levels, and will leave you feeling hungry a mere hour later. Opt for rice paper rolls with fresh veggies instead. Rice paper is light, fresh and low in calories (about 31.3 calories per sheet, compared to 90 calories for a slice of white bread). And anything that boosts your veggie intake also boosts your health and wellbeing.
DITCH: Chicken burrito
DIG IN: Mexican salad bowl
Is Mexican on the menu today? No worries. Bypass the burrito filled with white rice, black beans, salsa, guacamole, cheese and sour cream, and go for the salad bowl instead. That way, you can choose what goes in it, and still enjoy those Mexican flavours without the excess calories. Think shredded lettuce, chicken, tomato, a little bit of guacamole, and a portion of brown rice if you’re starving. Do this, and you’ll cut about 300 calories from your meal!
DITCH: Takeaway laksa
DIG IN: The Hart and Soul's 'Coconut Lentil Soup Pouch'
Laksa is the definition of comfort food – we get it. Made with noodles, meat or seafood, and rich coconut milk, the spicy dish is creamy and delish, but not the healthiest meal in the world. Next time you feel like something warming, grab Hart and Soul's Coconut Lentil Soup Pouch. With lentils, capsicum, sweet potato, mung beans and coconut, it’s super satisfying and free from preservatives, gluten, dairy and GMOs. The best thing? It’s ready to eat after two minutes in the microwave – that’s quicker than the line at the laksa counter!
DIG IN: Bunless burger with no cheese
There are days when you just need a burger in your belly. To lighten up your order, you just need to make a few compromises. Swap the sugary bun for two lettuce leaves, keep the tomato and request extra cucumber. Finally, ask for avocado instead of mayo or cheese. By making these small changes, your burger will have all the flavour but a whole lot less sodium, fat and sugar than the original version. Plus, it’ll leave you feeling comfortably full rather than stuffed, which is always a bonus.
DITCH: French fries
DIG IN: Sweet potato chips
Fries are the cheekiest fast food. Not only are they fried and salted to the point where they don’t even taste like a spud, but they remove the part of the potato that contains the most nutrients and fibre: the skin. They’re packed with bad fats, which can raise cholesterol levels and clog up arteries over time. And as a simple starch, potatoes quickly convert in the body to sugar – no thanks! So, what do you do when you’re faced with the age-old question, “would you like fries with that?” Summon up that willpower, say no, and ask if they happen to have sweet potato chips. Baked, not fried, sweet potato chips are crispy and tasty, but won’t cause your blood sugar level to crash and burn. They’re also a great source of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6 and magnesium.
DITCH: Fettucine alfredo
DIG IN: Pesto penne
Got a date lined up at an Italian restaurant? Bellissimo! Want to treat yourself to a plate of pasta? That’s fine too. As you’re skimming the list, mentally cross out fettucine alfredo. With only three ingredients in its sauce – butter, cream and cheese – it won’t do your heart health any favours. One standard serving (two cups) also clocks in at a whopping 670 calories and 50 grams of saturated fat. The solution? Swap it for a simple pasta dish with pesto, sautéed veggies, and a portion of lean protein, such as chicken or tuna. If the restaurant has wholemeal or gluten-free pasta on offer, you’re golden.
DITCH: Bacon and egg roll
DIG IN: Omelette with veggies
When you’re rushing out the door to be at your desk by 9am, it’s almost too easy to grab a bacon and egg roll from the café around the corner. But it’s not the best way to set up your day. Sure, it’s a protein-rich brekkie, but between the white bread, bacon (a form of processed meat) and tomato/BBQ sauce, it’s also sky-high in excess salt and sodium. If you have five minutes to spare, ask the café to whip up an omelette with tomato, mushroom and spinach. Flavoursome, filling, and high in fibre, it’s a winner – and a great way to sneak in an extra serve of veggies!
DITCH: Tomato soup
DIG IN: Minestrone
Don’t let the word “tomato” trick you. That delightful tomato soup with a sprinkling of basil is so thick because it’s made with heavy cream, and a small bowl can come in at anywhere between 400-700 calories. Crazy, huh? If you’re in the mood for soup, choose a broth-based one such as minestrone. Ask for beans, chickpeas or another protein source, and the more veggie chunks, the better!
Do you struggle to find healthy fast food options? Will you be making any of these easy swaps?