Fast-food need not be high in calories

Dec. 16, 2011 at 8:44 PM

MELROSE PARK, Ill., Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Busy schedules and holiday shopping cut into meal time at home but a U.S. nutrition expert says it's possible to eat fast-food without loading up on calories.

"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.

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