At Lake Highlands
Acupuncture, we believe in following a common sense diet based on the way
humans have eaten since the beginning of time. To understand what that means,
think back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. They ate mostly plants, especially
wild greens, berries, and nuts, and some meat and fats, like eggs. They didn’t
have ready access to sugar, except for the occasional honey from a highly
guarded beehive! Further, they didn’t binge on processed grains, which add on
excess calories with little nutrition to speak of.
But eating fresh, unprocessed, low-sugar foods isn’t always an option during
our fast-paced, 30-minute-lunch-break kind of lives. So we must learn to forage
for real foods the way our ancestors did, except what once were lush forests
and rivers are now golden arches and concrete drive-throughs. In our modern
jungle, we’re looking for vegetable- and protein-heavy meals made out of real,
fresh ingredients. That means no buns, no batters, and no weird oils. It also
means high quality meats and organic veggies, which, let's be honest, you're
not going to find in a fast food joint. But let's act like our foremothers and
fathers and make do with what we can. Prepare your own high-quality food
anytime you can, but in a pinch, these fast food options won’t derail the
healthy patterns you’ve already set in motion.
Chick-Fil-A Grilled Market Salad
This gorgeous salad features baby greens, cabbage, carrots, blue cheese, and
berries. As with most fast food salads, this chain gets you with the dressing.
We love good fats, but these dressings are riddled with soybean oils, sugar,
and fake colors. Their Light Italian Dressing most resembles real food, so go
with that—unless you keep your own olive oil and vinegar in your car, which
these days, is not a bad idea. You’re a modern-day forager after all!
Subway Make Your Own Salad
Their marketing doesn’t lie! Subway is one of those few gems where you
really can “eat fresh.” Still, forego the processed buns (your other buns will
thank you), and order a plain salad loaded with veggies, and stack it high with
plain chicken. Top it off with a little olive oil and vinegar. Subway does
offer real oil and real vinegar, so hug your sandwich artist.
Carl’s Jr. Low Carb Six Dollar Burger
Carl’s Jr. was among the first to market a bun-free burger. Made of the
standard 100% black angus beef patty, two slices of cheese, tomato, red onions
and dill pickles wrapped in a romaine lettuce leaf, the burger, which boasts
just 6g of carbs, is a great fast food option. And as if we needed to remind
you, say no to the fries and soda.
Wendy’s Chicken Caesar Salad
The Wendy’s Chicken Caesar Salad has just 180 calories and 8 grams of carbs.
As with the other salads on this list, ditch the dressing they offer and forage
for your own real oil and vinegar. And those “homestyle croutons”? Throw them
to the pigeons. On second thought, don’t. Pigeons shouldn’t eat them
KFC Oven Roasted Chicken with Green Beans
Most chicken joints offer some sort of grilled option, so this tip isn’t
just for your next visit with Colonel Sanders. We’re not worried about the fat
in the fryer (assuming it’s real fat, not chemical soybean garbage) or the skin
(yummy and healthy). It’s the floury, sugary, processedy batter. Pair your
batterless chicken with some green beans, mustard greens, or other non-potato
veggie, and you’ve got a delicious lunch ready to go. You don’t even have to
run to your car for salad dressing!
Chipotle Burrito Bowl
At Lake Highlands
Acupuncture, we’re often too busy (and too lazy) to make our own lunches.
So we have Chipotle at least once a week. It’s the best of the fast food world
hands down. The company actually cares about the quality of its food and offers
hormone-free meats and cheeses, and some locally sourced vegetables. Still, the
only way to go is the burrito bowl with no rice and beans. (Okay, you can have
a few beans… and light on the mucus-producing cheese.) Stack the bowl high with
grilled veggies, meats, fresh salsa, and guacamole. But their sugary salad
dressing? Off to your car…
Boston Market Healthy Buffet
We know you’ll want some potatoes and gravy, but focus on what you can have
at Boston Market. How does some delicious Roast Turkey Breast sound? Or some
Tuscan Herb Rotisserie Chicken? Pair these forager-friendly options with fresh
steamed vegetables or the broccoli with garlic butter sauce. You’ll be so
satisfied, you won’t sweat the missing starch.
Panda Express Mandarin Chicken
Nearly all of the entrees at Panda Express are trans-fat free, which means
no chemists in the kitchen. So they’re doing something right. The Mandarin
Chicken has 250 calories and just 8 grams of carbs, making it a tasty,
healthier choice for Chinese take-out. (Don’t confuse this with the Orange
Chicken, which is a sugar bomb with 42 grams of carbs.) A second good option
for Texans is the Broccoli Beef, which gives you a nice dose of your
cancer-fighting cruciforms as well.
Taco Bell’s Fresco Tacos
Taco Bell’s Fresco or “Fresh” menu sounds promising for us fast food
foragers! Well, it almost is… if you skip the two Fresco burritos. A
single burrito packs a whopping 48g of carbohydrates—over one-third of what an
average person needs each day. The tacos, however, are only about 13-17g per
taco and feature meat and fresh salsa made in-house. While we don’t like the
refined grains in the tortilla, foraging is about compromise. It’s also about
moderation, so stick to only one or two tacos (or ditch the tortillas and order
more). And skip those weird Styrofoam cinnamon things they call dessert. What
are those anyway?
Five Guys Bunless Burgers
We love that this beloved Northeastern chain has taken root in Texas. Null
on sugar and refined carbohydrates, the bunless burgers pack a big protein
punch. Still, moderation is important. The Little Hamburger has 16g of protein,
whereas the regular hamburger has 32g. Adults need around 45-60g of protein per
day, depending on body type and activity level, so plan your daily protein
intake accordingly. Admittedly, the vegetable offerings are slim-pickings at
Five Guys, but load up where you can on grilled mushrooms, green peppers,
jalepenos, tomatoes, and pickles. High fives for Five Guys!
McDonald’s Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Grilled Chicken
Do you detect a pattern? What does a healthy meal look like in the fast food
world? A grilled chicken salad! No complaints here. We’ll take it, especially
with 3 cups of veggies, jack and cheddar cheese, and thick cut Applewood smoked
bacon, as this tasty salad boasts. As a bonus, McDonald’s does offer Newman’s
Own brand dressings, which are historically health-minded (hello, pronounceable
ingredients!). Use Newman’s balsamic or Italian dressing, and you really will
have a happy meal!
Burger King’s Chicken Caesar Garden Fresh Salad
Second verse, same as the first… batterless chicken, veggies, use their
dressing if you
dare must. Word to the wise: skip the “Real Fruit
Smoothie.” Poor BK’s heart is in the right place, but these sugar bombs aren’t
doing us foragers any favors. Stick to your veggies and protein, and you will
have earned that paper crown.
Long John Silver’s Baked Cod and Shrimp and Seafood Salad Side
The baked cod contains only 120 calories, 21 grams of protein and is carb
free. All this makes for a particularly tasty meal when paired with a shrimp
and seafood salad (carrots, cherry tomatoes, salad shrimp, shredded cheese, no
croutons) for just 15 grams of carbs. Shiver me timbers, if you can eat healthy
here, you can eat healthy anywhere!
Inspired and adapted from 10 Ways to
Forage in a Fast Food Nation