Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Fort Carson Mountaineer

Dietitian top tips when ordering fast food

By Capt. Stephanie Ticer | Registered Dietician, Evans Army Community Hospital

FORT CARSON, Colo. — Let’s face it, we all have those days when we are tired after work, don’t feel like cooking dinner, and don’t have the energy to figure out what to eat. So what do we do?

We stop by a fast food restaurant on our way home or use an app-based food delivery service to get our food brought to our door. Eating out is so convenient, but at what cost?

One hour later, we’re out $15 (after the tip and delivery fee) while rocking a food baby after consuming 1,500 calories. We’ve exceeded the daily value for sodium and fat, and if we ordered a sugary drink, we may have consumed over 30 teaspoons of sugar. Now we are even more tired because we overate, skipped our workout, and proceeded to veg out on the couch for the rest of the night. We’ve all been there. How often does this happen though, once a month or a couple times a week?

If this is something you find yourself doing on a weekly basis, you may have a difficult time losing weight or maintaining weight. If you’re prediabetic, diabetic, or have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, this may also increase your health risks, such as negative impacts to your blood sugar, blood pressure, or fat/cholesterol levels. Dietitians encourage preparing meals at home because you have more control over what goes in and doesn’t go into your food. If you do end up ordering out, fortunately there are usually better options available and steps you can take to improve the nutrition in your meal.

Let’s compare three ‘not-so-great options’ and ‘better options’ from different fast food restaurants: Subway, Taco Bell, and Starbucks. Take a look at the table below, our not-so-great options are high in calories, fat, carbohydrates, sodium, and sugar. Keep in mind that the better option at Taco Bell still has a lot of sodium but is almost 1000mg less than the not-so-great option. The total amount of sugar in Taco Bell’s not-so-great option is the equivalent of 32 teaspoons of sugar. Can you imagine measuring 32 teaspoons of sugar and eating it?!

So what can you do to make the better option? Most fast food restaurants have calorie amounts listed on their menu in the drive thru and displayed inside the restaurant. You can also visit a fast food restaurant’s website to access a nutrition calculator or nutrition facts document listing every menu item. This is one tool you can use to select better options.

Here are a few more tips for picking better options:

Tip #1 —

Skip sugary beverages like sweet teas, sports drinks, sodas, and juices. They provide a lot of calories and added sugar. Instead, opt for water or another zero-calorie option.

Tip #2 —

Choose smaller portion sizes. Instead of a large fry, get a small fry. Order a tall versus a venti-sized drink at Starbucks or order a six-inch sub at Subway, you can also save half of a foot-long sub for later.

Tip #3 —

If you’re ordering coffee drinks, look at the posted menu to identify those with lower calories. If you ask the barista how to lower calories or sugar, they can give you alternatives like fewer pumps of syrup, sugar-free syrup, low-fat milk, or alternative milk options.

These small changes can dramatically reduce the amount of calories, added sugar, fat, and sodium in your meal and make you feel less sluggish and more energized!

For additional information regarding nutrition and diet concerns, contact your local registered dietitian or the Evans Army Community Hospital Nutrition Care Department at 526-7290.

Chart of 3 fast food chain options

Dietitian top tips when ordering fast food
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