You can still indulge in your favorite fast food chains while losing weight with these tips.
Stick to Chipotle burrito bowls or try sushi as an alternative.
Towering soft-drinks, greasy burgers, constantly burbling deep-fryers, and questionable food additives are symbols of the American fast-food industry. It might come as a surprise, then, that despite all that, fast food restaurants can actually help you lose weight.
When it comes down to it, weight loss is all about calorie balance. On average, women require 2,000 calories per day to maintain their weight, and 1,500 calories to lose one pound per week. Men, on average, need 2,500 calories per day to maintain their weight, 2,000 to lose a pound per week.
To lose weight eating fast food alone, is difficult — but it is not impossible. It requires some moderate exercise, such as a 30-minute run three to five times a week, and a commitment to a disciplined set of dietary guidelines, which include eating a light, protein-rich breakfast, drinking only water or coffee, and embracing salads, and a caloric intake of between 1,500 and 2,000 per day, depending on sex.
However, a fast-food weight loss plan is not for everyone. Regardless of the calories they might contain, fast food is almost always loaded with sodium, sugar, and saturated fat, and is therefore not recommended for people with hypertension, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
These tips and strategies are for the single person who doesn't like to (or have time to) cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home.
At its core, fast food is designed to be quick, and convenient, and a great value and these are qualities that make dieting with it easier.
Here's how you can actually lose weight by eating fast food.
Always Eat Breakfast, But Choose it Wisely
Despite recent research suggesting that breakfast isn't really the most important meal of the day, studies show that eating breakfast leads to less overall daily calorie consumption. But fast-food breakfasts can be deceivingly caloric and high in saturated fat. Avoid the meat and cheese in the morning and stick with egg white wraps (like Starbuck's Spinach, Roasted Tomato, Feta, and Egg wrap), oatmeal, or even plain egg sandwiches (like McDonald's Egg McMuffin), which often clock in at fewer than 300 calories.
“Bowls” Are Your Best Friend
A burrito bowl can be a nutritious dinner — if it's loaded with the right ingredients. As a rule of thumb, skip the sour cream, cheese, and guacamole, and pile on the vegetables, legumes, and salsas. Chipotle Mexican Grill's vegetarian sofritas bowl with white rice, fajita vegetables, and tomatillo salsa is only 365 calories with 14.5 grams of fat, 1.36 grams of sodium, and 12.5 grams of protein.
Cut Out the Fries
Potatoes are a healthy and affordable vegetable, but when heavily processed and fried in oil, they become nutritionally unrecognizable. Besides being saturated in oil and salt, fast-food French fries have the healthiest part of the potato removed: the skin. Adding French fries to your daily lunch order can add a pound's worth of calories each week.
Embrace the Salad for Lunch
Fast-food salads have always been the outcasts of the menu board, but they're the best options when it comes to losing weight. McDonald's bacon-ranch grilled chicken salad, for instance, isn't short on delectable fast-food flavor, but swapping in salad greens for a bun or tortilla drastically reduces the meal's number of calories and carbohydrates. The salad has 42 grams of protein, and is only 320 calories with 9 grams of carbohydrates. Subway's chopped turkey breast salad and Burger King's chicken, apple, and cranberry salad are other tasty options with fewer than 350 calories.
Expand Your Definition of “Fast Food”
Fast food is more than just quickly cooked hamburgers, deep-fried chicken nuggets, and salt-drenched French fries. At its core, fast food is about time, convenience, and value, so why shouldn't a container of sushi (an average roll is less than 300 calories) or even a banana-peanut butter smoothie qualify? Don't be afraid to venture out beyond the traditional fast-food joints.
The hamburger buns, croissants, bagels, and flour tortillas offer only empty calories, with a flour tortilla from Chipotle containing a whopping 300 calories! Look for fast-food options that are absent of heavily processed carbohydrates such as salads, burrito bowls, or even grilled nuggets.
Grilling nuggets, steaks, or wraps adds extra flavor without the calories. Taco Bell's A.M. Grilled Taco for example, is only 230 calories, 14 grams of fat, 590 milligrams of sodium, and 12 grams of protein, making it a much better alternative than a greasy breakfast sandwich. Chick-fil-A's eight-piece grilled chicken nuggets contain 140 calories and only 3 grams of total fat; compared to eight pieces of McDonald's deep-fried nuggets, which have 360 calories and 22 grams of total fat.
Shift Focus to Falafel
Recently, a slew of Mediterranean-inspired fast-casual restaurant chains have opened around the country. The foundation of their menu is falafel— a spiced, fried chickpea ball— a fiber-rich vegetarian protein source that pairs perfectly with salad greens (a hamburger salad just doesn't sound that appetizing). A falafel salad is filling and offers a diverse assortment of vitamins and mineral for less than 400 calories.
Wash Down Your Meal With Water or Coffee
If you want to lose weight there's simply no room in your diet for sugar-sweetened beverages. Besides containing zero calories, water and coffee provide a number of other health benefits. Drinking water, especially before meals, is a way to boost metabolism and feel fuller. One study showed that people who drank 17 ounces of water before a meal ate fewer calories and lost 44 percent more weight than those who did not drink water before a meal. There's also a growing body of research suggesting that coffee drinkers are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and dementia.