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Fast Food Choices for 500 Calories or Less

By all means, fast food spells calamity for many weight watchers, but it doesn’t have to be all doom. We can disagree on the real health value, or lack of, for that matter, but we all agree that fast food is convenient, cheap and, oh-so filling, not to mention tasty, at least to majority of us.

If you frequently eat out, we can understand why a fast food restaurant is your first choice eatery - cheapest option - but not always a healthy one. 

A single fast food meal contains enough calories, fat and sodium for a whole day, or even more. Eating it regularly can cause a number of health issues, both physical and emotional. In USA, fast food is often touted as the barrier for success in weight loss for men and women.

That said though, we live in hard times now where its hard to resist the quick and cheap temptation. You can still make healthier choices as you take advantage of the price and convenience of fast food.

When should you eat fast food?

Frankly speaking, rarely. A typical fast food meal is laden with saturated fat, trans fats, calories and sodium, while low in nutritious value. Here are some examples:

A sack of White Castle potato snackers, for instance, has 10 grams of deadly trans fat; the recommended daily intake is 2 grams, so in just a single side order you’ll have consumed more than the limit for 5 days worth of unhealthy trans fat. A Double Whooper meal plus cheese, an apple-pie and fries from Burger King has twice the amount of saturated fat than the daily recommended intake.

The difference between healthy and unhealthy is moderation. Indulging a craving for fries once in a while is fine, but when it becomes a regular habit, you can not stay within healthy limits. Of course, you’re not likely to find a sound, healthy meal at a fast food restaurant, but as an informed eater, you’ll still get healthy options.

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How to make healthier fast food choices

When you look at restaurant guides - detailing nutritional content of foods - prior to making an order, you’ll make an informed choice. You can get these online for many big name restaurants. Some eateries specialize in natural, high quality food, so choosing to patronize such a place is a more healthy decision. If you don’t prepare in advance, here are some common sense guidelines:

Watch your menu selections - if you pay attention to descriptions on the menu, you’ll avoid a lot of unhealthy stuff. Labels with deep-fried, butter-dipped, pan-fried, crispy, creamy, scalloped, or with sauce, are often packed with calories or sodium. Choose dishes with more vegetables and lean meats.

Opt for water instead of soda - soda contains big amounts of hidden calories. Sugar-less iced tea is also a good soda substitute.

‘Strip’ your food - be keen on fat-laden salad dressings, creams, cheese and spreads. For instance, when you order grilled chicken sandwich, forego the mayonnaise.

Special orders - if it weren’t for their preparation methods, most menu items would pass as healthy. When you order for your main dishes and vegetables, ask them to omit the sauces.

Some choices for 500 calories or under from the top 3 chains

Burger King - Burger King veggie burger, minus cheese, strawberry flavoured apple sauce, 430 calories in all.

Tender grill chicken garden salad, ken’s fat free ranch dressing, strawberry apple sauce, totalling 390 calories.

McDonald’s - Grilled chicken with Asian salad, Newman’s own low-fat balsamic vinaigrette, fruit and yoghurt.

KFC - 3-pc crispy strips with baked beans, totalling 490 calories.

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