Burgers Chicken or Fish

Hamburgers may be America's all-time favorite fast food. But chicken and fish have gained a significant market share, in part because consumers perceive them as lower in calories and fat. Chicken and fish sometimes have a lean advantage. However, fast-food preparation—breading, battering, and frying—bump up the calorie and fat content significantly. A fried fish or fried chicken sandwich may supply more calories and fat than a burger!

To keep the lean advantage of hot sandwiches and to boost other nutrients, consider this advice:

  • Boost the nutrients in all kinds of hot sandwiches— burgers, chicken, or fish—by adding tomato slices and other vegetables. If you're short on calcium, add cheese. For a fiber boost, ask for a whole-wheat bun.
  • Cut calories by ordering sandwiches without higher-fat condiments and special sauces, such as mayonnaise-based spreads and tartar sauce. Instead use mustard, relish, or ketchup. As a rule of thumb: calories go up with the number of "extras."
  • Skip the super-size sandwich; go for the regular, junior, or single size instead. The bigger size can about double everything, including the calorie, fat, and sodium content. A large hamburger, for example, supplies about 510 calories and 28 fat grams compared with 275 calories and 12 fat grams in a regular hamburger. A regular burger has about 2 ounces of cooked meat, compared with 3 to 4 ounces in a larger sandwich. Double patties are bigger still.
  • To lower the calories and the fat, remove the crispy crust from fried chicken and the skin from rotisserie chicken. Get grilled, skinless chicken. If you prefer fried chicken, order the regular variety rather than "extra-crispy," which soaks up more oil when cooked. The batter or the breading may have a high-sodium seasoning, too, so you can lower the sodium by removing the crust. And eat just one piece, rather than a two-or three-piece order. Chicken nuggets are usually fried and may contain skin and meat (white and dark). Poultry skin is high in fat.
  • Choose broiled or baked fish if you have a choice. But be aware that the fillets on most fish sandwiches are battered and fried. Go easy on tartar sauce; ask for tomato-based cocktail sauce instead.
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