Tips for making healthier fast food and takeaway choices

That chicken salad may not be as healthy as you think. Opt for grilled chicken over crispy or crumbed options, and be ...
That chicken salad may not be as healthy as you think. Opt for grilled chicken over crispy or crumbed options, and be wary of croutons and creamy dressings.  Photo: iStock

Does following a weight-loss or healthy diet mean you must swear off fast food? Not necessarily.

An occasional stop for fast food can fit into a healthy diet – if you're careful about what you order. Consider the following tips.

Keep portion sizes small

f the fast-food restaurant offers several sandwich sizes, pick the smallest. Bypass hamburgers with two or three patties, which can be close to 3350 kilojoules. Choose instead a regular- or children's-sized hamburger, which has about 1050kJ.

Skip the large serving of french fries and ask for a small serving instead. This switch alone can save 800kJ.

Choose healthier side dishes

Take advantage of the healthy side dishes offered at many fast-food restaurants. For example, instead of fries choose a side salad with low-fat dressing or a baked potato. Or add a fruit and yoghurt option to your meal.

Other healthy choices include apple or orange slices, corn on the cob, steamed rice or baked potato chips.

Go green


Choose a salad with grilled chicken, prawns or vegetables. Choose a dressing you like, but be cautious with the amount. Use half the package or keep the salad dressing on the side to control the number of kilojoules from added fat and other unwanted ingredients, such as added salt and sugar.

Watch out for high-calorie salads, such as those with crumbed chicken or other fried toppings. Also skip extras, such as cheese and croutons, which quickly increase your calorie count.

Opt for grilled items

Fried and crumbed foods, such as crispy chicken and fish fillets, are high in fat and calories. Select grilled or roasted lean meats – such as chicken breast or lean roast beef.

Watch what you drink

Many beverages are high in calories. Swap a large regular soft drink for the diet or no-sugar version, water, unsweetened iced tea or mineral water.

Also, skip the shakes and other ice-cream based drinks. Large shakes can contain as many kilojoules as a burger (more than 3350kJ).

Have it your way 

Remember, you don't have to settle for what comes with your burger or meal – not even at fast-food restaurants. Ask for healthier options and substitutions. And keep your eye on portion size.

This article is written by Mayo Clinic staff. Find more health and medical information on