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Quick and Healthy Alternatives to Fast Food Dining

Ever get a hankering for one of those egg sandwiches on an English muffin or for a juicy piece of fried chicken, potato wedges, and  biscuits? Do you feel a lingering need for a double-decker hamburger with all the fixings or a super-duper burrito with lots of cheese?

You’re not alone. Most of us who’ve grown up in this world of fast food have several favorites we long for on a regular basis, even though we know how unhealthy they can be. And though many of the fast food restaurants are now offering much healthier alternatives, few of us walk into McDonald’s® because we’re craving their salads!

The fact remains, however, that much of what is available at the most popular fast food restaurants just isn’t good for us. Most often, the foods here are high in fat, calories, and sugar and low in everything else that counts towards a healthy diet. So, it’s a good idea to drive past the drive-thru.

Of course, convenience is also a reason why we succumb to fast food temptations. We can pull up to a window and have our food in last than 5 minutes, in most cases. But with a little ingenuity, you can create “fast food” items in your own kitchen in just a snap, replacing those fatty, calorie-filled foods with similar ones that are good for you and your family.

Breakfast sandwiches – McDonald’s Egg McMuffin® has a whopping 300 calories and 12 grams of fat. (The sausage version has 22 grams of fat!) For an easy home alternative, purchase low-fat English muffins and top them with one egg that’s cooked in a bowl in the microwave for about a minute (break the yolk first). Add an ounce of deli ham or thin slice of Canadian bacon and top with 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese of your favorite variety. Ta-da! You’ve reduced the calories to about 200 and lowered the fat significantly. You can also substitute the ham for turkey sausage or 2 slices of bacon and still save calories.

French Toast – Do your kids love those Burger King French Toast Sticks? They contain almost 400 calories! Opt instead for your own version made with low-calorie white or whole wheat bread, 1% milk, and an egg substitute. Top with berries or low-cal syrup. That’s a savings of about 200 calories for 2 slices of bread.

French Fries – Though they’re thin and look harmless, the French Fries at most fast food joints are simply sponges for fat! Deep fried in oil, a large order of fries at most of these places contains about 500 calories and 25 grams of fat. At home, you can make tasty oven fries that the whole family will love and save about 300 calories per similar-sized serving. Simply brush some cookie sheets with olive oil, toss wedges of potatoes in salt and pepper, lay them on the sheets and bake at 425 for about a half-hour.

Chicken Strips – The chicken fingers at ChickFilA® or Carl’s Jr.® are wonderful but can contain as much as 700 calories. At home, you can make a quick and easy baked version. Simply mix up your favorite fried chicken recipe, coat the pieces, and pop them in the oven on a sheet coated with olive oil-flavored cooking spray or brushed with olive oil.

Burgers – Even the small, skinny burgers on most value menus at fast food restaurants contain about 250-300 calories. If you make them at home, choose 93%-96% lean ground beef for your burgers and mix with egg whites and bread crumbs made from low fat wheat bread. Serve on a standard or low-fat bun. You’ve cut the calories by about 100!

Milk Shakes – Many fast food fans fail to realize that the shakes at these restaurants represent some of the most calorie-laden food choices on the menu. A Hardee’s® chocolate malt has 780 calories and 35 grams of fat! You can make your own version using real ice cream, 1% milk, chocolate syrup, and some malt powder for about half the calories. Substitute frozen yogurt and you’ve cut it in half again.