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Know What You’re Ordering With ‘Healthy’ Fast Food

By Kate Merrill, WBZ-TV
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Fast Food Salads

Fast Food Salads

WBZ-TV's Kate Merrill Kate Merrill
Kate Merrill is an Emmy award winning journalist for WBZ-TV News and...
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Good Eats

BOSTON (CBS) — When you think fast food, a few things may come to mind like “inexpensive” and “convenient,” but “healthy” may not make the list.

But these days you can find salads, oatmeal and veggie burgers at fast food places. Even though they sound healthy, you have to look beyond the names.

Here’s one that will make your eyes pop.

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

Fast food nation anyone?

But give them credit, fast food restaurants are evolving.

Most 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.

WBZ-TV’s Kate Merrill reports.

We bought all kinds of good sounding goodies, and asked registered dietitian and Boston University professor Joan Salge Blake to look under the lettuce leaves.

“Unfortunately a lot of health conscious diners look for buzz words… chicken… salad… and then they stop at that,” says Salge Blake.

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

A turkey sandwich we bought at 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,” says dietitian Salge Blake.

We also bought fruit and maple oatmeal at McDonalds. It’s low in fat, but it can be tricky if you’re counting calories. Because of brown sugar, it has only 10 fewer calories than an Egg McMuffin and 10 more calories than a Snickers bar.

At Wendy’s we got an 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,” says Salge Blake.

However, you can choose wisely.

Here’s what we mean.

We bought three of those apple pecan salads at Wendy’s. We got one of them with grilled chicken and fat free dressing and it had only 430 calories.

Getting one with vinaigrette dressing bumped it up to 590 calories.

But the third one, 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,” says Salge Blake.

And 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.

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