There are definitely healthier choices at “fast-casual” restaurants than in fast food establishments. However, you need to understand that calories, sodium and fat can still add up real quick.
We all know that fast food can give you lots of calories, sodium and fat especially if you’re not careful with what you eat. But there is also a growing number of fast-casual restaurants such as American Deli – or what’s been dubbed “fast food for adults” that offer the convenience of fast food for both dine-in and take-out.
These restaurants originally targeted baby boomers who have more money and are leaning towards healthy food. But approximately 40 percent of their customers are 34 or younger. These places have salads, sandwiches and soups. The food in these restaurants aren’t deep-fried, so one would immediately think they are a good choice for those who are trying to limit their calorie intake.
However, to make sure you don’t end up getting a calorie surplus or consuming more fat and sodium than your daily requirements, here are some things to keep in mind:
Don’t order chips
Dishes served in restaurants already have more calories than an average home cooked meal. Try to keep it as low as possible by avoiding extras like chips which basically have empty calories and will encourage you to consume more.
Limit consumption of baked goodies
Many restaurants feature fresh-baked rolls, bagels and muffins but for the most part these are made of refined grains just like the ones you’ll find in fast food establishments.
Moreover, if you’re ordering a sandwich, you can opt for half size options so you can control your calorie intake. Full size sandwiches often have 600-900 calories which is similar to the amount of calories of a Big Mac with fries. Get a half size and simply add a half-salad or soup so you can achieve nutritional balance in your meal without going overboard with the calories.
Ask for dressing on the side
Salads are a great way to consume more veggies. They are also generally a complete meal since they come with protein in the form of chicken, shrimp, fish or cheese. But remember that a salad dressing can add up to 300 calories so keep it to a minimum or skip it altogether. They may have a reduced fat dressing available that you can order. Or simply ask for dressing on the side in order to limit the amount you’ll consume.
Be cautious of high sodium content
Through smart eating, you can have a balanced and satisfying meal at a fast-casual restaurant without worrying about the calories and fat. But you need to be mindful of the sodium content of what you’re ordering – salads and soups can have as much as 1,000 milligrams of sodium each. A sandwich could contain 1,000 to 2,500 mg of sodium. To prevent excessive sodium consumption, go for a vinegar and oil dressing, and as mentioned, go for a half-size sandwich.
Here are menu items not to order: