Be Smart with Fast Food Sides

Nutrition expert Hope Warshaw shares smart options for popular fast food sides from her book Eat Out, Eat Right.

French Fries

It seems that nearly every fast-food sandwich is accompanied by crispy golden French fries. They are very hard to pass up, especially once you enter the restaurant and smell them. A small or regular order of French fries isn’t horrible—200 to 300 calories. Potatoes are a vegetable and offer some nutritional value.

Unfortunately, they often also contain trans fat because of the hydrogenated shortenings in which they are often cooked. If you must have them, share them with a dining companion. Always
order a small size and order them salt-free if you want to save a few hundred milligrams of sodium.

Baked Potatoes

Baked potatoes appear on some fast-food menus, but Wendy’s is the only national burger chain that has consistently offered them for years. Potatoes are inherently healthy, but avoid loading on fat-containing toppers like butter, margarine, cheese, bacon, and sour cream. Instead, choose lighter toppings like broccoli or chili, without the cheese. Wendy’s value menu offers a plain baked potato and a small chili. If you leave off the sour cream, you can have a delicious, filling, low-calorie, and healthy meal. Another option is to split a baked potato in lieu of fries with a dining companion.

Salads

A wide variety of salads—side, garden, chicken, chef, and more—are available at most national burger, roast beef, and chicken chains. Clearly, a side or garden salad with a sandwich is a far healthier alternative to French fries. Better yet, opt for a meal-size salad at Wendy’s or Chick-Fil-A, but skip the high-fat add-ons—sour cream, Chinese noodles, nuts, and the like. You must also use the ridiculously large servings of salad dressing sparingly. Choose a lowfat or nonfat salad dressing if you like the taste, but even these should be used judiciously. They might not have the calories, but their sodium count can be sky high. If you like a regular dressing best, make sure you leave more in the packet than you put on your relatively small salad.

Excerpted from Eat Out, Eat Right by Hope S. Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE. Copyright © 2008 by Hope S. Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE. Excerpted by permission of Surrey Books, a division of Agate Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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