Is Fast Food Off-Limits on a Diet?

Pamela Ofstein is the Director of Nutrition Services at, a leading provider of weight loss services, information and products.

Typically, a dietitian would say that if you could avoid fast food and create your own meal out of whole, highly nutritious foods, that would be the best option. But in the real world (mine included), fast food does have its place!

Fast food has a reputation of being high in calories, fat, and not being the healthiest fare; but we can’t say that about all fast food out there. In this day and age, often the convenience of grabbing something on the go and eating on the run is just reality. Take it from this mom of three under the age of seven (and dietitian), it happens that the occasional drive-thru works its way into my schedule when carting back and forth from work, to school, to football practice, etc. So it all boils down to your picks.

If you opt to eat out or grab something to go, many of your favorite fast food venues now have options that don’t necessarily make a nutrition lover cringe. The thing to remember is to choose wisely and not always go with your gut – just because you may be famished or craving something, think about what choice you can make that you will feel good about on your last bite and not make you regret it in the end.

Here are some of my fast food picks that won’t make you feel guilty (in no particular order):

  • Grilled chicken on whole wheat bun (limit the cheese and sauces – opt for half the bun)
  • Plain small burger
  • Side salad with chicken (watch that dressing or choose the low-fat version)
  • Chicken tortilla with lettuce and tomato only
  • Half of a sub with chicken or deli meat and load it up with veggies (lettuce, tomato, cucumbers)
  • Half a bagel with low-fat cream cheese or deli meat
  • Sides: fruit, vegetable, or yogurt
  • Drinks: water (best pick) or low-calorie beverage

Try to limit:

  • Fried foods
  • Extra toppings like cheese, sauce, dressings
  • Double meat portions
  • Shakes or ice creams (non-low fat)

All foods can fit, but some have their own place and time. Give yourself a few extra minutes to look through the menu and see what fits. A good choice now will be a better choice in the long run!

See our eDiets review or learn more healthy snacking and living better from the experts at

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