The lure of the drive-thru is sometimes more than I can resist, but healthy fast food sides are hard to come by. Or so I thought. When it gets right down to it, you have several options that won’t derail your health goals. Not all healthy fast food sides are available at all restaurants, but if know what your choices are, the chances of bypassing the jumbo bag of fries is easier because you’ll have insider information on yummy alternatives that won’t leave you feeling deprived. Prepare to blow your taste buds right out of the water!
1. Baked Potato
I can’t imagine a world without potatoes. It’s not a place I want to live. I know that I shouldn’t eat too many fries since they’re so high in fat and calories so I satisfy my potato cravings with a baked spud. The trick is to go easy on butter and sour cream, too much of which can quickly make your side dish choice an unhealthy one. To make sure your potato tops the list of healthy fast food sides, liven it up with a bit of melted cheese and a scoop of salsa.
A salad is an ideal side dish because vegetables contain fiber, which satisfies your appetite for just a few calories. At the same time, you get vitamins A and C as well as potassium. Many fast food chains allow you to sub your fries for a salad at no extra cost. Go easy on croutons, cold cuts, cheese and dressing, all of which are high in fat and calories and can make your virtuous choice worse than the fries.
You probably notice it on the kids’ menu, but you might not realize that most fast food restaurants allow you to pick the fruit cup, even if you aren’t a kid anymore. Opt for apple or orange slices, applesauce or a mixed fruit side dish. These items are low in fat and calories and high in nutrients. They also taste great and pair well with a sandwich or burger.
Soup as a side dish is a bit tricky. I like to order soup with a sandwich or salad on a fall or winter afternoon. It warms me up and fills me up at the same time. However, not all soups are created equal. Stay away from creamy ones and opt instead for broth-based soups. Soups that contain cream are higher in fat and calories so you won’t be doing your waistline a favor by choosing them. Chicken noodle, black bean and chili are great soup options.
Not only does yogurt contain probiotics for your digestive health, but it’s also chock full of calcium, which you need for healthy bones. It also has protein. Yogurt is better than fries, but many versions are high in sugar so be sure to balance it with the rest of your day’s meals so you aren’t overloaded on the sweet stuff.
No, I’m not suggesting that a bag of greasy potato chips is a healthy side. Baked potato chips, on the other hand, are a great low-calorie side dish. Look for them at sandwich chains in your favorite flavors. You’ll still get to eat sour cream and onion or cheesy flavored chips without all the fat and calories. Baked tortilla chips are another healthy option and work well if you’re having Mexican fast food.
7. Beans and Rice
The local taco shop is a place I often have to talk myself out of hitting up. It’s definitely not on my list of healthy places to eat. When I do give in, I have pinto beans or Spanish rice on the side rather than chips and cheese or a greasy quesadilla. Beans and rice are full of fiber, which fill me up quickly. And they still taste great!
My favorite fast food restaurants can easily hinder my health goals, but choosing a healthy side makes it justifiable once in a while. Which one will you try first? I highly recommend the baked potato. Enjoy!