Michael and I are trying to eat healthier. So, I found this article very helpful. Enjoy. :)
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Check out those restaurants that scored a B+ or higher:
Between the breakfast and lunch menus, there are only two entrées at Chick-fil-A that break 500 calories, a rare feat in the fast-food world. What this means is that you can't possibly do too much harm—especially if you stick to the chicken. And unlike the typical fast-food chain, Chick-fil-A offers a list of sides that goes beyond breaded and fried potatoes and onions. (Just beware the large cole slaw, which adds an extra 600 calories to your daily intake!) That's why we dub the Atlanta-based chicken shack one of our all-time favorite fast-food restaurants.
Also, be sure to check out our exclusive list of the best and worst restaurants for kids to see why Chick-fil-A receives an even higher grade when it comes to kids' meals.
Survival strategy: The worst thing you can do is supplement your meal with a milkshake—not a single cup has fewer than 600 calories. And instead of nuggets or strips, look to the Chargrilled Chicken Sandwiches, which average only 320 calories apiece.
A menu based on lean protein and vegetables is always going to score well in our book. With more than half a dozen sandwiches under 300 calories, plus a slew of soups and healthy sides to boot, Subway can satisfy even the pickiest eater without breaking the caloric bank. But, despite what Jared may want you to believe, Subway is not nutritionally infallible: Those rosy calorie counts posted on the menu boards include neither cheese nor mayo (add 160 calories per 6-inch sub), and some of the toasted subs, like the Meatball Marinara, contain hefty doses of calories, saturated fat, and sodium.
Survival strategy: Cornell researchers have discovered a "health halo" at Subway, which refers to the tendency to reward yourself or your kid with chips, cookies, and large soft drinks because the entrée is healthy. Avoid the halo, and all will be well.
Boston Market: B+
With more than a dozen healthy vegetable sides and lean meats like turkey and roast sirloin on the menu, the low-cal, high-nutrient possibilities at Boston Market are endless. But with nearly a dozen calorie-packed sides and fatty meats like dark meat chicken and meat loaf, it's almost as easy to construct a lousy meal.
Survival strategy: There are three simple steps to nutritional salvation: 1) Start with turkey, sirloin, or rotisserie chicken. 2) Add two non-creamy, non-starchy vegetable sides. 3) Ignore all special items, such as pot pie and nearly all of the sandwiches.
Cici's Pizza Buffet: B+
Cici's began in Texas in 1985 and now boasts more than 600 locations, proving definitively that Americans love a good buffet. The good news for our waistlines is that the crust is moderately sized, and the pizza comes in varieties beyond simple sausage and pepperoni. But if you check your willpower at the door, you're probably better off skipping the pizza buffet entirely.
Survival strategy: It takes 20 minutes for your brain to tell your body it's full, so start with a salad and then proceed slowly to the pizza. Limit yourself to the healthier slices like the Zesty Vegetable, Alfredo, and the Olé, which is a Mexican-inspired pie with only 108 calories per slice.
The world-famous burger baron has come a long way since the days of Fast Food Nation—at least, nutritionally speaking. The trans fats are mostly gone, the number of gut-wrecking calorie bombs are now fewer than ever, and the menu holds plenty of healthy options such as salads and yogurt parfaits. Don't cut loose at the counter just yet, though. Too many of the breakfast and lunch sandwiches still top the 500-calorie mark, and the dessert menu is fodder for some major belly-building.
Survival strategy: The Egg McMuffin remains one of the best ways to start your day in the fast-food world. As for the later hours, you can splurge on a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder, but only if you skip the fries and soda, which add an average of 590 calories onto any meal.
Taco Bell: B+
Taco Bell combines two things with bad nutritional reputations: Mexican food and fast food. The result should be horrendous, yet somehow it works out so that a little prudence at the ordering window can bag you a meal with fewer than 500 calories. The potential for belly-building is still there, but the calorie bombs are generally easy to spot. And to limit the chances of a mistake, Taco Bell reengineered some of its classic items and listed them under the Fresco Menu for a savings of up to 10 grams of fat per item.
Survival strategy: Grilled Stuft Burritos, anything served in a bowl, and anything prepared with multiple "layers" are your worst options. Instead, order any combination of two of the following: crunchy tacos, bean burritos, or anything on the Fresco menu.
Scoring a decent meal at Wendy's is just about as easy as scoring a bad one, and that's a big compliment for a burger joint. Options such as chili and baked potatoes offer the side-order variety that's missing from less-evolved fast-food chains like Dairy Queen and Carl's Jr. Plus they offer a handful of Jr. Burgers that don't stray far over 300 calories. And for our money, the 1/4-pound single is one of the best substantial burgers in the industry. Where they err is in their recently expanded line of desserts and a lackluster selection of beverages. But you're happy just drinking water, right?
Survival strategy: The grilled chicken sandwiches and wraps don't have more than 320 calories, which is less than even a small order of french fries. Choose the chicken or a small burger and pair it with a healthy side, and then hit the door before you receive the 500-calorie penalty for giving in to your Frosty hankering.
We thought we'd see some improvements after we identified Baskin's Heath Shake as the Worst Drink on the Planet. But all they did was lower it from 2,300 to 1,900 calories, leaving an almost equally egregious drinkable disaster to set back unsuspecting sippers. It's typical of the menu there; B-R's soft serve is among the most caloric in the country; the smoothies contain more sugar than fruit; and most of what Baskin sticks into a cup winds up with more fat than a steakhouse buffet. Check out our list of the 20 Unhealthiest Drinks in America to see other liquid offenders. If you learn how to make smart choices when you sip, you can lose a few pounds a month—without giving up your favorite foods or ever dieting again.
Survival strategy: With frozen yogurt, sherbet, and no-sugar-added ice cream, Baskin's lighter menu is the one bright spot. Just be sure to ask for your ice cream in a sugar or cake cone—the waffle cone will swaddle your treat in an extra 160 calories.
Carl's Jr.: D+
Most fast-food restaurants today are making at least some attempt to offset their bulging burgers and deep-fried sides with healthier options such as lean sandwiches or yogurt parfaits. But Carl's Jr. is swimming against the nutritional tide, trying to attract those with hearty appetites and less concern about fat, salt, and calories. The lightest item on the breakfast menu, for instance, is the Hash Brown Nuggets—but even they have 21 grams of fat, and 5.5 of them are trans fats. (As a rule, you should try to get 2 grams or fewer of the stuff in an entire day!) The burgers are worse, and there's not a side on the menu that hasn't been given a long, bubbling bath in their trans-fatty frying oil.
Survival strategy: Find another place to grab lunch. Failing that, you should settle on either the Charbroiled Chicken Salad with Low-Fat Balsamic Dressing or the Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich—the only sandwich on the menu with fewer than 400 calories.
Too bad the adult menu at Denny's doesn't adhere to the same standard as the kids' menu. The famous Slam breakfasts all top 800 calories, and the burgers are even worse. The Double Cheeseburger is one of the worst in the country, with 116 grams of fat, 7 of which are trans fats. Make sure you try to avoid it whenever possible.
Survival strategy: The Fit Fare menu gathers together all the best options on the menu. Outside of that, stick to the sirloin, grilled chicken, or soups. For breakfast, order a Veggie Cheese Omelet or create your own meal from à la carte options such as fruit, oatmeal, toast, and eggs.
Dairy Queen: D+
Dairy Queen's taste for excess rivals that of other fast-food failures such as Carl's Jr. and Hardees. But unlike Carl's, DQ offers an avalanche of abominable ice cream creations to follow up its sodium-spiked, trans-fatty foods. Here's a look at one hypothetical meal: A Bacon Cheddar GrillBurger with onion rings and a Small Snickers Blizzard—a staggering 1,740-calorie meal with 2,640 mg sodium and 83 grams of fat, 2 grams of which are trans fats.
Survival strategy: Play solid defense. Skip elaborate burgers, fried sides, and specialty ice cream concoctions entirely. Order a Grilled Chicken Sandwich or an Original Burger, and if you must have a treat, stick to a small soft-serve or a small sundae.
Ruby Tuesday: D+
The chain earned its fame from a hearty selection of hamburgers. The problem: They average 75 grams of fat apiece—more than enough to exceed the USDA's recommended limit for the day. Even the veggie and turkey burgers have more than 850 calories! The chain rounds out its menu with a selection of appetizers than hover around 1,000 calories (supposedly to be split four ways), a smattering of high-impact entrées like potpie and ribs, and sloppy selection of salads that's just as bad.
Survival strategy: Solace lies in the three Ss: steak, seafood, and sides. Sirloins, salmon, and shrimp all make for relatively innocuous eating, especially when paired with one of Ruby Tuesday's half-dozen healthy sides such as mashed cauliflower and baby green beans. Other than that, think Mick Jagger, and think about occasionally saying goodbye to Ruby Tuesday!
From burgers to baby back ribs, Chili's serves up some of the saltiest and fattiest fare on fast-food row. In fact, with 3,810 mg of sodium and 122 grams of fat, Chili's Smokehouse Bacon Triple Cheese Big Mouth Burger earns the distinction as being one of the worst burgers in America. The Guiltless Grill menu is Chili's attempt to offer healthier options, but with only eight items and an average sodium count of 1,320 mg, there’s meager hope for nutritional salvation.
Survival strategy: There's not too much to choose from after you omit the ribs, burgers, fajitas, chicken, and salads. You're better off with a Classic Sirloin and steamed vegetables or broccoli. Another decent option is the Chicken Fajita Pita with Black Beans and Pico de Gallo. The appetizers are off limits—the Texas Cheese Fries with Jalapeño-Ranch Dressing has 2,070 calories, 160 grams of fat, and 73 grams of saturated fat!
For years now we've been on Romano's case to clean up the menu at his beloved Macaroni Grill. So far we've had no luck. This Italian grease spot serves some of the worst appetizers in the country, offers not one dinner entrée with fewer than 800 calories, and hosts no fewer than 60 menu items with more than 2,000 mg of sodium—almost an entire day's worth of salt! A select few menu items earn the restaurant's Sensible Fare logo—a fork with a halo over it—but unfortunately these items can still carry up to 640 calories and 25 grams of fat.
Survival strategy: Macaroni Grill will let you build your own dish. Ask for the marinara over a bed of the restaurant's whole-wheat penne, and then top it with grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. Just beware their salads—the Seared Sea Scallops Salad has more than 1,000 calories and 90 grams of fat!
Applebee’s, IHOP, Outback, T.G.I. Friday's: F
These titans of the restaurant industry are among the last national chains that don’t offer nutritional information on their dishes. Even after years of badgering their representatives, we still hear the same old excuses: It’s too pricey, it’s too time-consuming, it's impossible to do accurately because their food is so fresh, or we have too much variety. Our response is simple: If nearly every other chain restaurant in the country can do it, then why can’t they?
Survival strategy: Write letters, make phone calls, beg, scream, and plead for these restaurants to provide nutritional information on all of their products.