"The average American consumes close to 50 percent of his or her meals outside of the home and fast-food restaurants are abundant," Dr. Jessica Bartfield, who specializes in nutrition and weight management at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of Loyola University Health System, said in a statement.
Bartfield likes sandwich shops that allow customers to load up on vegetable toppings, which adds nutritional value, but she advises to pass on cheese and dressings.
"I am also a fan of fast-food places that offer soup, or even chili as soup can be a terrific option, particularly ones loaded with veggies, lean meats and beans," she said. "Be careful to avoid the cream- or cheese-based soups and beware the bread bowl, which can increase the calories by up to 1,000."
Bartfield's fast-food favorites are:
-- Select grilled rather than fried. A fast-food grilled chicken sandwich has 470 calories and 18 grams of fat while the fried version has 750 calories and 45 grams of fat.
-- Hold the cheese, mayonnaise and salad dressings unless they are low-fat options.
-- Order the smallest size. Go for the single burger rather than the double.
-- Skip sugar-sweetened drinks. These calories quickly add up, especially at restaurants offering free refills on drinks.