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Hitting the Drive Thru? Prepare Yourself!

Truck-Stop French Friesphoto © 2008 Kaspar | more info (via: Wylio)We get it. You have 60 million things to get done and 4 kids in the backseat screaming for drive-thru. Here are some tips on how to make your healthiest choices without succumbing to the fast food franchise’s marketing scams.

Tip #1: Don’t fall for combos
Expect the inevitable: “Would you like to make it a combo meal?” Duh, of course you would. What a bargain!  And with it you get an average of 55 percent more calories for 17 percent more money. It’s also the cheapest way for excess sugar, salt and lard to get you fat in a hurry. Not such a deal anymore is it?

Secret #2: Beware the “health halo”
What’s the health halo? It’s where people think that because they are eating at a healthy chain they are truly eating healthier. Consider this: A study from the Journal of Consumer Research asked diners at Subway and McDonald’s to estimate the number of calories in their meals, and although both groups underestimated the actual amount, the Subway diners were off by a larger margin. The reason? When seduced by the promise of a healthy meal, diners tend to order more food.

Secret #3: Side with Wendy’s Chili
Compared to a large fry, a small chili at Wendy’s provides 25 percent more food and three times as much belly-filling protein. Plus, it saves you an astounding 320 calories. Pair it with a Jr. Cheeseburger for one of the most powerful fast food meals with fewer than 500 calories.

Secret #4: Give milk shakes the cold shoulder
Next time you crave a milk shake, break it down into its nutritional components: #1: liquefied sugar; #2: liquefied fat. Not sure of the calories, be sure of this: they rarely carry less than 700 calories, and often they hold well over a thousand. Craving ice cream? Head to a place that scoops. There you’ll find single-scoop cones for about 200 calories.

Secret #5: Beware the deli “salad”
On most menus, salad denotes some leaf-based bowl of veggies. On a deli menu, it more likely means chicken, egg, or tuna suspended in a massive glut of fatty mayo. Just say no and you’ll avoid monstrosities like Quizno’s 1,520-calorie Tuna Melt, which essentially consists of tuna salad glued to bread by a blanket of melted cheese.

Secret #6: Think thin (crust)

The biggest problem facing your pie is the massive loaf of oily bread hunkering along the bottom. Three deep-dish slices from a large Domino’s pie, before toppings, will cost you 1,050 calories. Switch over to a thin crust and you just burned off 360 calories without lifting a finger.

Secret #7: Order a cappuccino over a latte

What’s the difference? Cappuccinos are built with a base of steamed milk, which means more air and fewer calories. At Starbucks, ordering a Grande Cappuccino with 2% milk will save you 70 calories over a latte with the same specs. Do that on a daily basis and you’ll eliminate nearly 500 calories from your weekly intake.

Secret #8: Go Fresco at Taco Bell

Is it gimmicky that Taco Bell has branded its Fresco Menu the “Drive-Thru Diet”? Of course, but the truth is the options are surprisingly balanced. No single item has more than 340 calories, and they all come with a stomach-filling blend of protein and fiber. Try this: 2 Fresco Crunchy Tacos with a side of Pintos ‘n Cheese. It’ll cost you a mere 470 calories and pad your belly with 24 grams of protein and half your day’s fiber.

Secret #9: Choose bacon over sausage

In the breakfast meat battle, no meat trumps ham. But when it comes to flavor-rich fatty cuts, bacon takes sausage every time. Consider this: At Dunkin’ Donuts, ordering a Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich on English Muffin has 150 fewer calories than the same sandwich built with sausage.

Secret #10: Skip the soda … and the juice and sweet tea
Here’s a fact overlooked by most diet plans: Liquid calories represent a bigger threat to your belly than food calories. A study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that after six months, subjects who cut 100 daily calories from sweetened beverages lost five times more weight than people who cut 100 daily calories from food.

Secret #11: Build your own sandwich
Most sandwich places load on the mayo or oils. You can save up to 400 calories by building your own. That’s why your best bet, no matter who’s doing the making, is to control the show yourself. Pair a whole-grain bread with a lean meat like turkey, ham, or roast beef, and then load up on vegetables without sullying it with mayo or oil. Love mustard? Layer it on instead of mayo!

Secret #12: Call in the dogs
Hot dogs trump burgers in 99 percent of nutritional matchups. At A&W you save 130 calories when you order a Chili Dog over a Papa Single Burger. At Five Guys the dog bests the regular burger by 155 calories. Why the savings? It’s simple: portion size. Thanks to an arms race among burger joints, hamburgers today are two to five times bigger than they were 20 years ago. The humble hot dog, however, has remained relatively unchanged.

Secret #13: Skip the Breakfast Muffins and Bagels
Not only are they deceptively high in calories (a Pumpkin Muffin at Dunkin’ Donuts harbors 600 calories), but they also lack the one nutrient most responsible for keeping you full: protein. See, protein digests slowly, whereas starchy breads pass quickly through the stomach and help pack pudge around your midsection. Avoid the problem by sticking to egg-based sandwiches. My favorite is McDonald’s 300-calorie Egg McMuffin.

Sources: http://health.yahoo.net; David Zinczenko

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