Posts Tagged ‘Healthy Food Choices’

Too busy?  Late for a practice?  Another meeting?  Only way to eat is to go through the fast food lane.  Oh well, maybe they will have a quick healthy option.    

fast food meal bag

We know fast foods are usually high in fat, calories and sugar and many are also high in sodium.  Eating these frequently can have long-term consequences on our health increasing our risk of chronic diseases and obesity.  But when you are too rushed for time fast food seems to be the only option.  How can you eat healthy at fast food restaurants?  Some of the restaurants do have some healthier choices. With us buying more healthy choices and asking for additional healthy choices, they may start providing better options.  Start now to make healthier choices by following these guidelines:

  • Fill up your sandwich, salad, or bowl with vegetables, whole grains, beans, and/or seafood or other low-fat proteins.  Limit sugary items and high-starch items.
  • Aim for getting whole grains.  This is not easy as many fast food restaurants do not offer any whole grain options. For breakfast choose oatmeal. Other meals ask for a whole-grain bun or wrap.  The more people ask, the more likely it will appear on the menu. 
  • Small portions– choose the smallest portions.  Calories add up quickly.  Check out the calorie amounts on sandwiches, French fries and other fried food. Go with the smaller portion. 
  • Think non-sugary drinks.  Order water, low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, plain coffee, or sparkling or mineral water. Avoid the sodas, super coffee drinks, milkshakes and other sweetened drinks. Many have 600+ calories.   
  • Favor healthy side dishes.  Instead of French fries pick a side salad with low-fat dressing, baked potato, mini-carrots, fruit bowl or a fruit and yogurt option to your meal.  You can change a kid’s meal to have a fruit bowl, applesauce or sliced fruit.  At some places you can choose an apple, orange, corn on the cob or baked potato chips. 
  • Opt for grilled items instead for fried.  You will cut calories and fat.
  • Opt for a green salad with grilled chicken, shrimp, or vegetables.  Only add half the salad dressing or use on the side.  This will cut back on added fat, salt and sugar.  Skip salads in deep-fried shells or with breaded or fried ingredients.  To cut the calories reduce or skip the cheese and croutons. 
  • Decide to eat healthier.  You don’t have to take what comes with your sandwich or meal.  Ask for healthier options and substitutions. Busy day ahead, pack some mini-carrots and fruit, buy a salad or small sandwich, and you have a healthy meal. 


Salad with chicken, strawberries, nuts, oranges. Seasonal foods.
Seasonal Salad

If you see few or very limited healthy options at your favorite fast food restaurant, ask for them. The more people who ask for them the more likely the restaurant will provide some healthier options.  Calories add up quickly at fast food restaurants, so keep portions small. Enjoy your meal!

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator



Sparks, D. (2019) Fast Food: Tips for choosing healthier options.  Mayo Clinic.  Available at https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/fast-food-tips-for-choosing-healthier-options/

Tufts University. (2018). Healthy Fast Food Choices?  Health & Nutrition Letter, Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, 36(12). 1&3

Jiao, J; Moudon, AV; Kim, SY; Hurvitz, PM; Drewnowski, A.  (2015).  Health Implications of Adults’ Eating at and Living near Fast Food or Quick Service Restaurants. Nutrition and Diabetes 5(7) e171. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4521173/

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Farmer's Market

Does anything taste better than corn on the cob or a tomato fresh from the garden? Many of us don’t have the space or time to grow our own but the next best thing may be visiting your local farmer’s market.

The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Thomas J. Vilsack has proclaimed the week of August 4-10, 2013 as National Farmers Market Week. This proclamation encourages the people of the United States to visit a farmers market and to increase awareness of the many important contributions farmers make to daily life in America.

Be sure to plan ahead for your visit to your local Farmer’s Market. This is a great time to taste and explore fresh summer produce – maybe even some fruits or vegetables that are new to you! A few things to remember when visiting your Farmer’s Market:

• Take cash with you in case they don’t accept debit or credit cards.
• Bring your reusable grocery bag to reduce the environmental impact of plastic bags.
• Take a cooler with you to refrigerate produce if you won’t be going home after your market visit.
• Find out if the market is pet friendly before you take your pet with you.

Buying local is good for many reasons.
• Local foods are good for your health.
• Local foods are good for your wallet.
• Local foods are good for your community.
• Local foods are good for your taste buds.

While visiting your local market, ask the grower if they grew the produce themselves. Some markets have policies about the food being grown by the farmer while others allow vendors to purchase produce to sell.
See if the Farmer’s Market has a website or Facebook page. A visit to their website or page will tell you which vendors will be at the market. You might also want to check out what produce is in season and search for some recipes that will incorporate that produce.

To find out what is in season in Ohio, visit this website:

If you want to find a market near you, visit this USDA site to search for a nearby Farm Market: http://go.osu.edu/USDAFarmMarketSearch

This weekend at our local market, I picked up fresh peaches, sweet corn, baby cucumbers and black berries. What a great way to support your local farmers and enjoy the harvest of the summer. Go green, go local and enjoy the fresh flavors!

Local Foods

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service retrieved from http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/farmersmarkets
Local Foods retrieved from
Ohio Produce in Season retrieved from
USDA Farm Market Search retrieved from

Writer: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Marilyn Rabe, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, rabe.9@osu.edu

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Hunger strikes and you are out shopping for the holidays.  No time to cook?  It is so convenient to go through the drive thru and pick up a meal.

Instead of ordering the first thing you see on the menu, plan ahead to pick some healthier choices.  If you have those choices in mind, you can make good selections at the drive thru window.

How can you make a healthier choice?

  • Think SMALL not large.  Check out the child’s menu.  Order a smaller sandwich or side dish.
  • Watch anything that is breaded or fried.  Choose GRILLED instead.
  • Choose a SALAD but go easy on the dressings, bacon, cheese and sour cream.  Ask for light or low-fat dressings.
  • Watch the calories in BEVERAGES.  Order water, unsweet tea or diet sodas to reduce calories.

French Fries

French Fries

Here are some calorie and fat comparisons from some national chain restaurants.

Be informed, know the calorie content and use that information to make a healthier choice.

McDonald’s Restaurant

Single Cheeseburger                                             300 calories       12 grams fat

Double Quarter Pounder w. Cheese                        740 calories        42 grams fat

Small Fries                                                           230 calories        11 grams fat

Large Fries                                                           500 calories       25 grams fat

Taco Bell

Crunchy Taco                                                       170 calories        10 grams fat

Fiesta Taco Salad- Chicken                                    730 calories        35 grams fat


6″ Veggie Delight                                                 230 calories         2.5 grams fat

6″ Spicy Italian                                                    480 calories         24 grams fat

Remember “extras” add up.  Adding mayonnaise to your sandwich can add 100-110 calories and 12 grams fat.  Veggies, vinegar, pickles and peppers only add flavor, not calories.  Add a variety for additional flavor.

Veggie Sub

Veggie Sub

As you can see, you can make healthy choices while visiting a fast food restaurant.  Think fresh, grilled and portion size.  Watch the “extras” – they may just add fat and calories.  Pack a piece of fruit or vegetables with you so you aren’t famished.
Please note:  this article is not endorsing restaurants but is for informational purposes only.
Nutritional Guide to Fast Food  Healthy Ohioans (2004).  www.healthyohioans.org
McDonald’s USA Nutrition Facts for Popular Menu Items from http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/nutritionfacts.pdf
Subway Nutrition Information from http://www.subway.com/nutrition/nutritionlist.aspx

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