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Five Fast Food Fixes

Do you try to make healthy choices when you eat fast foods, opting for salads, grilled chicken and anything vegetable?

Good for you -- but do be careful, as you could be doing yourself a disservice with a "healthy" choice. It's sad that the best intentions can backfire like this, but a little knowledge will go a long way in protecting your waistline.

The Five Fast Food Fixes

To make sure you are not getting more calories and fat than you realize, check out the following comparisons -- then put your newfound knowledge into practice.

01. Veggie Wrap vs. Veggie Pizza

The better of these two is the Veggie Pizza. A slice of Pizza Hut Veggie Lover's pizza has only 200 calories and 8 grams of fat. A Fields and Feta Wrap at Au Bon Pain has 560 calories and 17 grams of fat. In this case, a slice of vegetable pizza is a much better choice. Wraps often have gobs of cheese, lots of oily dressing and a wrapper bigger than a dinner plate.

By comparison, a single slice of veggie pizza is a smaller, healthier quantity of the same types of food.

Alternative choice: Order a wrap, but eat half and toss the rest. Better it goes in the waste can than on your waist! Or, look for wraps made with raw vegetable, one or two slices of cheese and mustard instead of mayonnaise or oil.

02. Hamburger vs. a Bowl of Chili

Hamburger This is a tough one. Most weight conscious people avoid hamburgers, but that isn't always necessary.

You might be surprised to learn that a McDonald's hamburger, with 280 calories and 10 grams of fat, is a much better deal than an order of Taco John's Texas-Style Chili, with a whopping 380 calories and 22 grams of fat. But a small chili at Wendy's has only 210 calories and 7 grams of fat, so it is the best deal of all, especially since the beans give it 5 grams of healthy fiber.

The lesson to be learned with chili is this: Do not assume all chili is low calorie. Most fast food chains have Web sites where you can check nutrition information.

If you do choose chili, go easy on the cheese topping, or sour cream. They send the calorie and fat content through the roof.

03. Taco Salad vs. Taco

Taco The taco is by far the best choice. Salad simply is not always synonymous with "skinny". A Taco Bell Salad with salsa has a staggering 850 calories and 52 grams of fat, while an order of Taco Supreme at Taco Bell, with basically the same ingredients, is a mere 210 calories and 14 grams of fat.

In this case, portion size is the main factor. Almost half of the calories in the taco salad come from the super-sized taco shell it is served in. Take a good look at the ingredients before you choose that "low calorie" salad.

Make your own healthier taco salad! Combine leftover chips, salsa, ground beef, onions, tomatoes, and lettuce to create an irresistible taco salad.

04. Grilled Chicken Salad vs. Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Grilled Chicken While both choices have basically the same ingredients (lettuce, chicken, onions, tomatoes, and croutons/bread), the better of the two is the grilled chicken salad. However, many choose the salad over the sandwich thinking, mistakenly, that the bun will ruin their diet. However, bread is not the enemy. In fact, these items come out surprisingly similar in calories, though the salad wins by a nose. A McDonald's Chicken McGrill sandwich with mayonnaise has 450 calories and 18 grams of fat. A McDonald's Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with one package of Caesar dressing and one package of croutons has 300 calories and 16.5 grams of fat.

Beware: The theory that any salad is low calorie is totally false. The addition of croutons drenched in oil, gobs of salad dressing send calories and fat soaring. For example, the Grilled Chicken Caesar salad with 2 ounces of dressing at Chili's has 660 calories and 32 grams of fat.

Tip: Never eat salad with the dressing mixed in. Keep dressing on the side and use the dip-spear-eat method: Dip your fork in and out of your dressing so a little bit clings to the tines. Then spear some salad and eat. By doing this, you will not eat all of your dressing, but you will enjoy the dressing's added flavor.

05. Ice Cream vs. Frozen Yogurt

Ice Cream Yogurt Cones Frozen yogurt is often lower in calories than regular ice cream, but the key here is not to eat too much. Depending upon the sugar content frozen yogurt can have enough calories to put a serious dent in anybody's weight control program. For example, two scoops of Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie Frozen Yogurt contain 320 calories and 4 grams of fat. By comparison, two scoops of Ben and Jerry's Original Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream contain 460 calories and 22 grams of fat.

So frozen yogurt saves you some calories and a lot of fat, but it still has enough calories to be a special-occasion only food. In ice cream and frozen yogurt shops, always ask what the calories are - don't just assume they are all low in calories and fat. Be careful with the toppings, too. Piling on sprinkles, M & M's and candies can add loads of fat and calories.

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