On the Side

Food variety adds nutrients, so round out your fast-food meal with veggies, fruit, and calcium-rich foods —perhaps a salad, baked potato, carrot sticks, fruit, juice, milk, or frozen yogurt. In most fast-food restaurants your options are limited. Get the most nutrition mileage from the choices you have.


  • Order a baked potato as a side dish or an entrée. Served plain, a baked potato is fat-free and cholesterol-free, with almost no sodium. It also supplies starches (complex carbohydrates), fiber, vitamin C, and other vitamins and minerals.
  • Go easy on higher-fat toppings: bacon, sour cream, and butter. For more nutrients and usually less calories and fat, top with broccoli, salsa, chili, or cottage cheese. Along with a salad and milk, a broccoli-cheese spud or a chili spud make a nutritious meal!
  • Go easy on fries to limit calories and fat in an already higher-fat meal. Or ask for the small order, then share. French fries offer some vitamin C.
  • If you have the option, ask for a plain baked potato or mashed potatoes to control calories and fat. Ask for gravy on the side to control how much you add. Find out how mashed potatoes with gravy are prepared; check the nutrition information if it's posted.
  • As alternative to fries, fried onion rings, fried okra, and hush puppies, order corn on the cob, green beans, or baked beans. For corn, ease up on butter and salt.


  • Order a garden salad with dressing on the side. Use a reduced-fat or fat-free dressing. For salad bar tips, see "Sizing Up Salad Bars " earlier in this chapter.
  • Go easy on prepared salads with a lot of mayonnaise or salad dressing, such as creamy coleslaw, potato salad, or macaroni salad. They have more fat than salads with a vinaigrette dressing, such as coleslaw or three-bean salad.
  • Order a container of raw veggies or fruit chunks, or whole fruit if you can.
  • Enjoy flavorful entrée salads (easy on the dressing) from most fast-food chains.


  • Make beverages count! For flavor and nutrients, round out your meal with milk or juice. Many fast-food chains offer reduced-fat and fat-free milk. For a flavor switch, try chocolate or other flavored milk.
  • An 8-ounce carton of milk supplies about 300 milligrams of calcium as well as protein, riboflavin, vitamin D, and other nutrients.
  • An 8-ounce carton of orange juice supplies 75 milligrams of vitamin C, which more than meets your daily need.
  • Go easy on soft drinks. Reasonable amounts are okay sometimes for their fluids, food energy, and enjoyment. They don't, however, contribute other nutrients supplied by milk, or fruit or vegetable juice. Large-size drinks can add up to a lot of calories: 150 for every 12 ounces of regular soft drinks, or 800 calo-

ries for a 64-ounce cup! Diet drinks supply essentially no calories—and no nutrients (except water).

  • If the added calories match your eating plan, enjoy a milk shake as part of your fast-food meal or snack. A shake of any flavor is a good calcium source—if it's made from milk. A 10-ounce strawberry shake contains about 320 calories. It can serve double duty—as both your beverage and dessert. Super-size shakes, with their 18 ounces, may supply a hefty 575 calories.
  • Try a smoothie bar for a thick blend ofjuice, fruit, and perhaps yogurt. Consider size. A smoothie that's 20 ounces or more may supply more than you need— including calories. Beware that some smoothies are made with fruit syrup that adds sugar, but not all the nutrients that fruit contains; ask about the ingredients before you order.
  • Order a latte, cappuccino, or coffee or hot tea (chai) with low-fat or fat-free milk. Milk, rather than cream, is the calcium booster. Creamers are typically high in saturated fats, too. Remember: Sweetened ice tea and many flavored coffee drinks have added sugars, too.
  • For an ideal thirst quencher, choose water. For added flavor, add a lemon wedge. Unless bottled, it's usually offered free as a customer service—ask!


  • Go easy on fried fruit fritters or turnovers—eat them only if they fit within your daily calorie and fat budget. They're usually more sugar and fat than fruit.
  • Check to see if fresh whole or cut-up fruit is available. As another option, bring fresh fruit from home, perhaps an apple, banana, pear, or grapes.
  • For a refreshing dessert, enjoy frozen yogurt—or a scoop of ice cream. You may find low-fat versions on the menu. Either way, the small or kids' size offers a taste without indulging. For fewer calories, go easy on fudge sauce, candy pieces or mix-ins, or syrup toppings. A little of these toppings goes a long way. Ask for cut-up or dried fruit, nuts, or granola instead.
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