If I Have No Choice But To Eat Fast Food, How Do I Eat Healthier?

This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Gabe Kapler, player development for the L.A. Dodgers and writer of a strength development blog. 

Fast food is evil. The goal of the entire industry is to sell the lowest quality food possible in massive quantities. That’s their model in a nutshell. I hate fast food and everything it stands for.

That being said, fast food is inarguably convenient and inevitably part of some lifestyles. I can’t recommend it, but if you have to continue to patronize these businesses, here are some tips to prevent it from completely disrupting your fitness goals.

Shake Shack This is how to eat healthy when fast food is the only option. Scott Olson/Getty Images

  1. Pick options in the Chipotle mold. If you can choose ingredients, you have a better chance of finding food less processed and sneaking in a healthy whole food choice or two. For example, at Chipotle, you can grab a bowl with hormone-free chicken, pinto beans, salsa, onions, guacamole, lettuce, and brown rice. You walk away with a pretty balanced meal. Even a salad from Subway with all the veggies and tuna or chicken breast can turn out to be above average.
  2. Avoid making decisions while hungry. If you’re ravenous, you’re less able to be sensible. The ease of that Whopper with onion rings will be alluring. Plan ahead and arrive at your joint of choice in a state capable of rational thought.
  3. Bring a piece of fruit. If you know McDonalds is on your route home and you may make a stop, throw an apple and some carrots in a bag. Eat those on your way. You’ll consume less of the fries and be more satisfied driving away.
  4. Pack H2O in your car. If you have a bottle of water in your cup holder, maybe you opt out of the 44-ounce pink lemonade, saving your body the shock of 480 calories from sugar.
  5. At the burger joints, ask for the patty and the veggies. The bun has absolutely zero nutritional value. None. Its net result is sugar. Fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does.
  6. Familiarize yourself with sites like this. Now more than ever, information is at our fingertips. Fast food chains hiding nutritional content data is a thing of the past, particularly if the investigator is savvy. You can find caloric information for just about any fast food menu item. Search key words like Big Mac + calories + nutrition, and voila.
  7. Know the most detrimental menu items. Soda, buns, fries, the desserts — these have minimal nutritional density. They are the items most responsible for contributions to obesity, wild blood sugar fluctuation, and generally leading you away from your goals of being fit in the mind, body, and spirit.
  8. Finally, use these foods as a holdover until you get home. Grab the smallest portion you can handle, reluctantly ingest it, and eat again when you get home. Hopefully, you have some detoxifying foods like greens and berries to balance yourself out. You’re not going to die from the cheeseburger coupled with the healthier choices at home, but there will be inevitable fallout from the supersized meal and large blizzard with M&Ms.

The general idea with fast food is to go from an F to a C. A passing grade will get you to the next test with less of a crater to fill.

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