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MIAMI (CBS4) — When you think fast food, a few things may come to mind like “inexpensive” and “convenient,” but “healthy” may not make the list. These days, however, you can find salads, oatmeal and veggie burgers at fast food places but even though they sound healthy, you have to look beyond the names.

A veggie burger from Burger King seems like the healthy choice but it has more calories, fat and sodium than their cheeseburger. In fact, it has as much salt as a full container of Pringles.

But give them credit, fast food restaurants are evolving.

Many of them are adding healthier options to their menus, which is great because more choices mean a better chance to watch your diet.

But you have to do your homework.

“Unfortunately a lot of health conscious diners look for buzz words; chicken, salad, and then they stop at that,” said registered dietitian Joan Salge Blake.

If that’s what you do, you’ll ignore important items like mayo, cheese, bacon bits and processed meats.

A turkey sandwich from Au Bon Pain sounds lean, but really has a lot of calories, fat and a ton of salt, all because of what they put on it.

“If it’s a turkey breast and it’s been seasoned with a lot of sodium, if there’s cheese added on it, if there’s a special dressing that’s going to be high in sodium, it’s all going to add up,” said Salge Blake.

Then there’s the fruit and maple oatmeal at McDonalds. It’s low in fat, but it can be tricky if you’re counting calories. Due to added sugar, it has only 10 fewer calories than an Egg McMuffin and 10 more calories than a Snickers bar.

The Wendy’s apple pecan chicken salad sounds good but it has more calories and salt than their triple stack burger.

“So what you want to do is find out what they’re adding to it, because what they’re adding may be the thing that’s causing the calorie problem,” according to Salge Blake.

However, you can choose wisely.

Here’s an example using those apple pecan salads at Wendy’s.

The salad with grilled chicken and fat free dressing and has only 430 calories.

The salad with vinaigrette dressing bumped it up to 590 calories.

The salad with breaded chicken and ranch dressing leaps to 860 calories and a lot of fat.

So you can see that by choosing wisely you can reduce the bad and increase the good.

“You just have to have a little information ahead of time, know what you’re ordering and ask questions,” said Salge Blake.

You can find all the nutrition information on each of the restaurants’ web sites.

There are also new federal regulations in the pipeline that could force many restaurants to prominently display nutrition information in the restaurant.

In fact, some of them are doing that already.

  1. Carlos says:

    Thank you. Good article.

    Ironically, eating healthy food is much cheaper than eating junk food.

    Fruit, salad greens, broccolli, salmon, tuna, turkey, nuts, eggs, fat free yogurt, etc. is much cheaper than fast food!

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