Fast Food & Burgers: Calories

The foods in this category tend to be calorie dense, containing high amounts of fat, added salt and sodium, and sugars. Their ingredients are also generally heavily processed and often fried. Since fast food usually has low nutritional value, it's best to enjoy them mindfully and in smaller portions. Check out our Fast Food and Burgers Chart for more nutritional information.


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Common Fast Food Items and Healthy Strategies

From pastry stands as far back as the middle ages to today’s fish and chips in the UK and White Castle burgers on the drive home, the idea of grabbing a bite to eat while out and about is nothing new. Even the Romans had what we would consider street food! Making its debut in 1948, some would say that McDonald’s was the first to turn this trend into what we know today—a restaurant offering grab-and-go food. And as cars became more popular, fast food became a trendy option for the middle-class family. Other restaurants, such as Burger King and KFC, were soon to follow.

Nutritionally, fast food is often thought of and seen as a highly caloric option that doesn’t do the body much good. Of course, this depends on what individual choices are being made and how they’re prepared. Many restaurants will make their nutritional information available in-house or online, and even provide you with a nutritional calculator to help you customize your specific individual meal and ingredients.

When it comes to fast food, it’s easy to lose sight of calorie content. A side of fries, some onion rings, a soda—the calories add up fast. It’s important to be conscious of the choices you’re making. As with anything, moderation and portion control are key. This may involve choosing a smaller portion of food choices, such as ordering small fries, opting for some plant-powered options that appear on the menu, or going for flavored water instead of pop.

Methods and preparation also play a crucial role in determining the calorie count of your fast food options. Choosing grilled or baked food instead of fried or battered can be a helpful strategy. Swapping fries or onion rings for a baked potato or side salad can also help lower the calorie count. In terms of fast food breakfast choices, it can be a good idea to choose whole grain options or low-fat, high-protein options, such as turkey bacon or egg whites. You can even make other subtle changes, such as going for skim milk when grabbing your morning coffee and avoiding sugary syrups in your drink. Small changes like these make it easy to occasionally enjoy fast food in your diet.

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