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Fast Food Notion - Mr. Bad Food's Best Bets

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

Fast food comes in all tastes and sizes, and it continues to be a regular part of our diet, even though six in 10 of us are overweight or obese. Good news: you can drive-thru rather than drive by, thanks to healthier choices now available at your favorite fast food joints!

When in Rome, do as the Romans do... but when at McDonald's or Burger King, do as Mr. Bad Food (yeah, that's me posing with a fistful of fried potatoes) would do: make the less-painful pick!

Let's cut to the chase. As the busy father of a 6-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter, I find myself at the nearby McDonald's on nearly a weekly basis. Yes, I know fast food places like Mickey D's get a lot of heat for creating future generations' fat kids today. But that's fodder for another column.

Today we're talking about us -- the overweight men and women who find ourselves hungry and stuck at a fast food restaurant. I am going to serve up what I consider safe picks for the low-carb and low-fat dieter.

NOTE: Click on the restaurant name to view the entire menu with nutritional info for that specific restaurant.

McDONALD'S

My favorite low-carb option:
The Grilled Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad is a hearty 10.2-ounce meal that'll weigh you down with just 250 calories, 10 grams of fat (4.5 saturated), 85 grams cholesterol, 930mg sodium, 9 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 31 grams of protein.

The other salads are good choices too; however, keep in mind the above numbers DO NOT include croutons or salad dressing. For low-carb, skip the croutons but enjoy the yummy Newman's Own dressings (Creamy Caesar, Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette, Ranch or Cobb -- each adds 4-9 grams of carbs).

My favorite low-fat option:
Same as above but with the Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing -- it has only 3 grams of fat as compared with the 9 to 30 grams of fat in the other three choices.

The No-No's!:
Low-carb:
The Vanilla Triple Thick Shake (32 fl. oz. cup) has 1,140 calories, 32 grams of fat (22 saturated), 135mg cholesterol, 810mg sodium, 178 grams of carbs, less than 1 gram fiber and 28 grams of protein.

Low-fat:
The Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese has 770 calories, 47 grams of fat (20 saturated), 165mg cholesterol, 1,440mg sodium, 39 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 46 grams of protein.

Hungry for more? Let's head over to McD's main competition.

BURGER KING

My favorite low-carb option:
The Original Whopper Sandwich with cheese (NO BUN, but try it wrapped in lettuce leaves or served up in a little tray with knife and fork) has 550 calories, 45 grams fat (17 saturated), 110mg cholesterol, 1,020mg sodium, 8 grams of carbs, 1 gram fiber and 27 grams of protein.

My favorite low-fat option:
The Savory Mustard Chicken Baguette has 380 calories, 4.5 grams of fat (1 saturated), 0 cholesterol, 45mg cholesterol, 1,250mg sodium, 57 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 30 grams of protein.

The No-No's!:
Low-carb:
The ICEE Coca-Cola (Medium) has 450 calories... 113 grams of carbs!

Low-fat:
The Original Double Whopper with cheese has 1,060 calories, 69 grams of fat (27 saturated), 185mg cholesterol, 1,540mg sodium, 53 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fiber and 56 grams of protein.

SUBWAY

My favorite low-carb option:
Like many other shrewd eateries, Subway now offers "Atkins-friendly" fare. There are two main choices -- the Chicken Bacon Ranch Wrap and the Turkey Bacon Melt Wrap. I'd choose the chicken wrap, which has 480 calories, 27 grams of fat (9 saturated), 95mg cholesterol, 1,340mg sodium, 19 grams carbs, 11 grams fiber, (8 grams NET carbs) and 40 grams protein.

My favorite low-fat option:
Subway has long been noted for its low-fat line of sandwiches they call "7 Under 6" -- the 6 indicates grams of fat. My personal fave is the 6-inch ham, which has 290 calories, 5 grams of fat (1.5 saturated), 25mg cholesterol, 1,270mg sodium, 46 grams of carbs, 4 grams fiber and 18 grams protein.

The No-No's!:
Low-carb:
The 6-inch Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki has 370 calories, 5 grams of fat (1.5 saturated), 50mg cholesterol, 1,100mg sodium, 59 grams carbs, 4 grams fiber and 26 grams protein.

Low-fat:
The 6-inch meatball (remember to double up these numbers if you order a 12-inch sandwich!) has 500 calories, 22 grams of fat, (11 saturated), 45mg cholesterol, 1,180mg sodium, 52 grams of carbs, 5 grams fiber and 23 grams protein.

KFC

My favorite low-carb option:
Forget about Kitchen Fresh Chicken -- we're talking Kentucky FRIED Chicken here. That being said, the average Original Recipe Chicken Breast has 380 calories, 19 grams of fat (6 saturated), 145mg cholesterol, 1,150mg sodium, 11 grams of carbs, 0 fiber and 40 grams protein.

My favorite low-fat option:
Same as above. If you can bear to do away with the skin (I have tried and failed repeatedly), you can save yourself a lot of fat and calories.

The No-No's!:
Low-carb and low-fat:
The Twister Sandwich with cheese has 740 calories, 43 grams of fat (10 saturated), 75mg cholesterol, 1,850mg sodium, 56 grams of carbs, 3 grams fiber and 31 grams protein.

TACO BELL

My favorite low-carb option:
I tinkered around with the interactive nutrition calculator for a while and kept coming up with high-carb fare. Give it a try and keep in mind that beans and taco shells (and edible bowls) are carb-heavy. Good luck!

My favorite low-fat option:
A Regular Style Soft Taco Supreme has 230 calories, 10 grams of fat (5 saturated), 45mg cholesterol, 570mg sodium, 21 grams carbs, 1 gram fiber and 15 grams protein. Have it without the sour cream, and you'll slice off 4 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat and 40 calories.

The No-No's!:
Low-carb and low-fat:
The New Fiesta Taco Salad is not your typical salad. It comes in an edible bowl and boasts 870 calories, 46 grams of fat (16 saturated), 65mg cholesterol, 1,780mg sodium, 82 grams of carbs, 14 grams fiber and 32 grams protein.

PIZZA HUT

My favorite low-carb option:
Although the low-fat option below works quite well as a low-carb pick too, you may also want to try a slice of a Thin 'N Crispy Pizza 12-inch Medium cheese pie. The numbers: 200 calories, 8 grams of fat (4.5 saturated), 25mg cholesterol, 490mg sodium, 21 grams of carbs, 1 gram fiber and 10 grams protein. You may want to liven it up with a little green pepper and onions -- veggies like these barely move the carb-o-meter.

My favorite low-fat option:
One slice of the new Fit 'N Delicious 12-inch Medium Chicken & Veggie with Sauce, Cheese, Chicken, Green Pepper and Red Onion has just 170 calories, 4.5 grams of fat (2 saturated), 15mg cholesterol, 460mg sodium, 23 grams of carbs, 2 grams fiber and 10 grams protein.

The No-No's!:
Low-carb and low-fat:
One slice of the Meat Lover's Pan Pizza 14" Large with Sauce, Cheese, Bacon, Beef, Italian Sausage, Pepperoni, Pork and Ham. Keep in mind these numbers are for ONE slice (weight: a mere 4 ounces). The tally reads: 320 calories, 18 grams of fat (6 saturated), 35mg cholesterol, 690mg sodium, 27 grams of carbs, 2 grams fiber and 14 grams protein.

BONUS BADDIE: Half a Meat Lover's P'Zone. This 9-ounce beauty will blast your diet with 680 calories, 28 grams of fat (14 saturated), 6mg cholesterol, 1,540mg sodium, 70 grams of carbs, 3 grams fiber and 38 grams of protein.

There ya have it ... the good, the bad and the sometimes ugly at your local fast food joint.

READER FEEDBACK

I read your treatise on "Beers." In all due respect sir, your knowledge of beer is totally inadequate. To talk of Coors Light as not being a "thin" beer is amazing. How much closer to water can one get? And to advise your readers to keep the beer very cold and serve it in a frosted glass is pure Budweiser hogwash. The only way Budweiser beer products are palatable is if it they are so cold that the questionable taste is masked. One does not bring out the flavor by serving beer very cold... very bad advice, sir... To classify Budweiser, Coors, and Miller as beers is an oxymoron (my opinion). Thank you for allowing me to have my say about the so called "diet" beers. I apologize for being a bore. As for myself, I prefer a glass of cold water to anything Coors, Budweiser, Miller and that ilk foist off on the beer drinker. I'll risk the extra calories when choosing a decent beer and make up for it by eating tofu or some such thing if necessary.
William H. Hobbs

It's really weird how you mentioned not acquiring a taste for a certain beer, but then liking the diet beer. In my case, I don't like Coors Light, but enjoy their new low-carb beer, Aspen Edge. I have been drinking Michelob Ultra for six months and now enjoy Aspen Edge. I've been on a diet since October and have now lost 40 pounds. I have 50 to go, but I'm still drinking my beer.
Rain

In Canada (B.C. to be specific) there is a brand of low-carb beer called Sleeman Clear. It is similar to a Coors Light-type beer but has a bit more life and flavor. The best part is the packaging. It is in a clear bottle with a simple blue band at the neck. It doesn't scream LOW CARB on it anywhere (or "hey I have a fat butt"). My husband drinks it with the boys and no one is the wiser. I had been buying it for a month before he even knew it was low carb. Best of the Canadian brands that I have found and we have tried a few.
Debbie Hudson

Until next week, the fridge door is closed. If you have any questions and/or comments -- even a tasteful joke or story, a Hall of Shame nominee, or a great recipe to share -- feel free to write me, eDiets editor-in-chief John McGran, at john@ediets.com.

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