Recipes and Cooking Healthy Recipes Healthy Eating 5 Ways to Eat Smart at a Fast-Food Restaurant Learn how giving in to the urge—and following a few other easy pointers—can keep your next fast-food meal from undoing your healthy diet. By Sharon Palmer, RD Sharon Palmer, RD Instagram Twitter Website Sharon Palmer is a well-known, award-winning registered dietitian with particular expertise in plant-based nutrition and sustainability. She is the author of three books on plant-based eating, and she has a popular online community with 450K followers, including her daily blog at The Plant-Powered Dietitian. She is nutrition editor for Today's Dietitian, associate faculty at Prescott College's Masters of Sustainable Food Systems program, and writes for many publications on nutrition and sustainability, authoring more than 1m000 articles. Sharon speaks at numerous conferences and events around the world, appears on television as an expert, and is quoted in the media weekly on food and nutrition topics. She became a registered dietitian via Loma Linda University and earned a Masters of Sustainable Food Systems from Green Mountain College. Learn about BHG's Editorial Process Updated on April 18, 2019 Fact checked by Emily Estep Share Tweet Pin Email Fast food and healthy eating don't always go hand-in-hand (especially if you don't have time to make a copycat version of your favorite dish at home). Still, about 1 in 3 Americans eat fast food daily, so it pays to make healthy choices whenever you stop at the drive-through. It might surprise you, but a salad isn't always the healthiest option on the menu—giving in to your cravings and indulging in a small burger or a grilled chicken sandwich can be OK too! Follow our five tips below to help you make the best choices whenever you end up browsing a menu for your meal. Check Out Our Picks for Fast Food Under 400 Calories 1. Tune Out Temptation A hungry stomach is a suggestible stomach. And a typical fast-food environment—with poster-size images of fried chicken and promos for super cheap combo meals—can bring out your worst impulses. Don't let it. Step back and read the entire menu. Mentally eliminate items described as crispy, deluxe, or double (never mind triple). Most chains offer at least a few relatively wholesome options—such as grilled chicken—that can help you make it happen. 2. Feel Free to Skip Salad Don't feel bad if you're not in the mood for a fresh green salad. Many fast-food salads are smothered with cheese, croutons, fried noodles, and bacon—not exactly a garden harvest. Even if you order plain veggies, you might not stop there. Fast-food patrons who opt for strenuously healthy main dishes can experience something dubbed "the halo effect," a feeling of virtue that drives them to reward themselves with fatty side dishes and desserts. If that sounds like you, order a modest meal that will truly satisfy—such as a hamburger and small-size fries—and think of it as preemptive damage control. Try These Healthy Restaurant Remakes 3. Tweak Your Toppings Mayo, barbecue sauce, honey mustard, and ranch dressing can pack more than 100 calories per ounce and serious amounts of sugar, fat, and/or sodium. Luckily, a little goes a long way. Ask your server to keep sauces separate, then use them sparingly (or scrape off the excess with a knife). If the restaurant has a fixings bar, help yourself to guilt-free garnishes such as onions, salsa, yellow mustard, tomatoes, lettuce, mushrooms, and peppers. 4. Choose a Smarter Sip You're probably already cautious about classic fountain drinks. However, artificially sweetened diet drinks may pose problems, too. If you want to cut down on sugar, order a beverage that's inherently calorie-free (such as seltzer, plain water, or unsweetened iced tea) or one that delivers bonafide nourishment (such as skim milk or OJ). 5. Pace Yourself Fast food is served in seconds, and people can gobble it almost as quickly. That's because most menu selections are exceedingly easy to eat—no utensils necessary. Plus, studies have found that people chew and swallow more rapidly in environments with loud colors and bright lighting. Relax and savor your meal, or get your order to go and eat at an outdoor table. 30 Recipes That Prove Healthy Food Can be Comforting, Too Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Better Homes & Gardens is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources—including peer-reviewed studies—to support the facts in our articles. Read about our editorial policies and standards to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy. Fryar CD, Hughes JP, Herrick KA, Ahluwalia, N. "Fast food consumption among adults in the United States, 2013–2016." NCHS Data Brief, no 322. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2018 "Soft lighting and music cuts calorie intake 18 percent." Cornell Chronicle, Cornell University.