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Tips for Eating Out at Fast Food Restaurants on a Cholesterol-Lowering Diet


Updated June 17, 2014

Tips for Eating Out at Fast Food Restaurants on a Cholesterol-Lowering Diet
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Even though you may prepare most of your heart-healthy meals at home, you may find yourself in a situation sometimes where you either leave your lunch at home, or just want to snag a quick bite to eat. Fast food restaurants are usually the quickest way to grab your meal and go. Unfortunately, they can also add unwanted calories – and fat – to your diet. If you’re watching your cholesterol, and find yourself in a situation where you need to either eat or starve – try these healthy tips to avoid adding extra fat to your meal that could eventually increase your lipids:

Avoid fried foods.

When you usually think of fast food, you may envision greasy hamburgers, fried chicken tenders and French fries. These foods are mostly cooked in fat, which can introduce extra saturated fat, trans fat and calories into your diet. If possible, these menu items should be avoided if you are following a cholesterol-lowering diet.

Additionally, food items coating the outside of a meat, such as fish or chicken, may have been deep fried. If possible, these foods should also be avoided. Another possible option would be to completely remove the batter from the chicken or fish before consuming.

Opt for sandwiches or wraps.

Some fast food restaurants have adopted a healthier approach to dining, so if you’re looking for more cholesterol-friendly menu options, you have a wider selection at some fast food establishments. Therefore, instead of burgers and fried chicken, you can select foods such as grilled chicken, fresh sandwiches, and low-fat wraps. However, you should be careful about the ingredients placed on these food items as well, since they can also be high in fat. If possible, opt for whole grain varieties of breads and wraps, which contain more fiber than their more refined counterparts. Lean meats and vegetables are also possible additions to your sandwich and wrap that can provide added flavor.

Ask for sauces and toppings on the side.

Although some toppings, like mustard or vinegar, are fat-free and unlikely to increase your cholesterol levels, other toppings, such as creamy blue cheese dressing or mayonnaise, can also contribute more fat to your diet. Many fast food restaurants may automatically add these sauces and dressings to your food in order to save time, and -- in some cases -- these toppings can be added in excess. In this case, you can request that these toppings be placed on the side.

Skip the cheese.

Most fast food restaurants may use full-fat cheeses to their foods, so if you’re looking to save on fat and calories, ask for your food item to be prepared without cheese. You can also remove the cheese before consumption.

Select salads cautiously.

Salads can be an excellent, filling choice if you are following a cholesterol-lowering diet. Unfortunately, the types of ingredients that you put in your salad can either make it a healthy dish – or a cholesterol-raising disaster.

Some fast food restaurants have a salad bar that allows you to select your salad ingredients. In other cases, your only choice may be to select a salad that has already been prepared and packaged. In this case, you should select salads that contain plenty of veggies, including lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots. Try to avoid, or carefully remove, any toppings such as ham, shredded full-fat cheese, or bacon -- all of which can add saturated fat to your meal. Another way to reduce the amount of fat in your salad is to add your salad dressing in a separate cup and lightly dip each bite into the dressing, rather than drenching your salad with it.

When in doubt, always check the nutritional labels.

Many fast food restaurants have a listing of each food item along with its nutritional value, including calorie, carbohydrate, sodium, and fat content. These menus can be found onsite at the restaurant (either displayed on the wall or behind the counter) or on their website.

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