for the drive-thru

Hamburger, fries, soft drink - a low calorie fast food lunch? Photo/exercismIf fast food causes obesity, is it possible to eat fast food AND lose weight?

Low calorie food is abundant in fast food restaurants, but calories are not your only consideration.

When you reduce fat you always reduce calories. A teaspoon of butter contains 36 calories. Keep in mind, butter has more than twice the calories of sugar! Fat is more fattening than sugar.

Unfortunately when you reduce the fat content of a food item, the sodium content almost always increases.

Low Calorie Foods Should Have a Reasonable Sodium Content

Low calorie foods are infamous for high sodium content. Why worry about high sodium levels? What good does it do to reduce calories and fat if you retain so much water you bloat and your fingers are so swollen you can't get your rings off?

Salt and sodium are prime causes of water retention, which makes losing weight difficult.

Plus, too much salt has been associated with high blood pressure which may lead to several dangerous ailments. All smart, low calorie fast food lunch ideas should reduce fat, calories and SODIUM to a reasonable amount. BEWARE SALT AND SODIUM.

Go to www.bd.com for a free copy of BD Getting Started Fast Food Guide, a handy 56 page print out of the nutrition breakdown of many popular fast food chains and featured low calorie foods. I keep a copy in the car and consult it often.

Or go to your restaurant's web site for low calorie fast food nutritional information. You can also check for coupons and save a couple bucks while you're there.

5 Important Low Calorie Fast Food Tips

Make a habit of eating only low calorie foods at your favorite restaurants and you can dramatically improve nutrition and lose weight.

Low Calorie Fast Food Tip #1 -- Most calories come in the form of fat. Reduce fat and automatically reduce calories. Look for lots of fat in cheese, mayonnaise, salad dressing, large portions of meat, bacon, cream sauces, gravies and fried items. Order a hamburger instead of a cheeseburger, use half the dressing on your salad, hold the mayonnaise and pickles and make a big impact on the quality of your diet as well as reduce calories.

Low Calorie Fast Food Tip #2 -- A salad is not usually the best choice. You might assume it would be better for you but many have more calories, fat and sodium than a double cheeseburger with fries. I don’t recommend using salad dressing labeled “low fat” or “fat free” because of the long list of foreign ingredients, much higher sodium content (higher than fries!), and the taste. Use less of a “regular” dressing to shave calories, fat and salt. Unless you like dry salads, then use no dressing and enjoy!

Low Calorie Fast Food Tip #3 -- The USDA recommends 2,300 mg of sodium per day for healthy adults; 1,500 mg for older folks, African-Americans and people with high blood pressure.

Low Calorie Fast Food Tip #4 -- There are several strategies you can use to reduce calories, fat and sodium. You can scour the nutrition data on your favorite fast food restaurants. Figure out a few good options in advance so you know what to order. Or, eat 25% less of your favorite burger to eliminate 25% of the calories, fat and sodium content. Order without mayonnaise, cheese and pickles to further reduce calories, fat and sodium.

Low Calorie Fast Food Tip #5 -- Order a la carte, avoid value meals. You’ll get exactly what you want and save money as well. McDonald’s hamburger, small fries and small iced tea is under $3 where I live. See Portion Perversions for more about portion sizes in restaurants and fast food joints.

Best Low Calorie Sandwiches & Lunch Ideas

Here's a list of several fast food restaurants and sensible low calorie fast food selections. When you see menu items highlighted in yellow, it represents Best Low Calorie Sandwich for that restaurant.


  • Regular Roast Beef (320 calories, 14 grams of fat, 953 mg of sodium)
  • Kids Junior Roast Beef (272 calories, 10 grams of fat, 740 mg of sodium)
  • Jr. Ham and Swiss Melt (211 calories, 5 grams of fat, 873 mg of sodium)
  • Santa Fe Salad with Grilled Chicken (305 calories, 11 grams of fat, 621 mg of sodium)
  • Martha’s Vineyard Salad (277 calories, 8 grams of fat, 454 mg sodium)

Burger King
Order your Whopper without mayonnaise or cheese and knock off 250 calories. Whopper Jr. with Mayo is 330 calories less than a regular Whopper with Mayo.

  • Whopper without Mayo (520 calories, 23 grams fat, 880 mg sodium)
  • Whopper Jr. without Mayo (260 calories, 11 grams fat, 460 mg sodium)
  • Original Chicken Sandwich without Mayo (420 calories, 16 grams fat, 1210 mg sodium)
  • Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich (490 calories, 21 grams fat, 1220 mg sodium)
  • Tendergrill Chicken Garden Salad with Ken’s Honey Mustard Dressing (half packet) (400 calories, 20 grams fat, 1155 mg sodium)

Domino’s Pizza

  • (about 2 slices) Hand Tossed Cheese Pizza 12 inch (420 calories, 16 grams fat, 670 mg sodium)


  • Tender Roast Sandwich with sauce (430 calories, 18 grams fat, 1180 sodium -OR- to cut 130 calories and 120 mg sodium, hold the sauce)
  • Original Recipe Chicken Breast and 3” Corn on the Cob (410 calories, 18.5 grams fat, 965 mg sodium)
  • Original Recipe Chicken Breast (without skin) and 3” Corn on the Cob (220 calories, 5 grams fat, 605 mg sodium)


  • Hamburger, small fries and ice tea (480 calories, 20 grams fat, 680 mg sodium)
  • Grilled Snack Wrap with Ranch or Honey Mustard (270 calories, 10 grams fat, 830 mg sodium)
  • Snack Size Fruit & Walnut Salad (210 calories, 8 grams fat, 60 mg sodium)
  • Premium Grilled Chicken Sandwich (350 calories, 9 grams fat, 820 mg sodium)

Pizza Hut

  • (1 slice) Medium Thin ‘n Crispy Pepperoni Pizza (210 calories, 10 grams of fat, 640 mg sodium) Two pieces of pizza have 1280 mg of sodium, nearly a day’s allotment for some people.

Reduce calories by using low fat or nonfat milk in your lattes and cappuccino. Or get a smaller size than normal. You could also switch to espresso where you get your caffeine without sodium, fat or calories.

Many of their sandwiches are good choices if you look at calories, but you can easily get 2/3 of your recommended sodium intake from one sandwich. Especially the ones with less than 6 grams of fat and toasted sandwiches.

  • Ham Deli Sandwich (210 calories, 4 grams fat, 770 mg sodium)
    Roast Beef Deli Sandwich (220 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 660 mg sodium)
  • Turkey Breast Deli Sandwich (210 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 730 mg sodium)
  • 6” Veggie Delite Sandwich (230 calories, 3 grams fat, 520 mg sodium)
  • Chicken Breast and Baby Spinach Salad with half a packet (1 ounce) of Atkins Sweet as Honey Mustard or Ranch salad dressing (400 calories, 14 grams fat, 725 mg sodium)
  • Grilled Chicken Breast Strips Salad with half a packet (1 ounce) of Atkins Sweet as Honey Mustard or Ranch salad dressings (220 calories, 14 grams fat, 675 mg sodium)

Taco Bell
One crunchy taco has 170 calories, 10 grams of fat and 350 mg of sodium. I never eat just one. Two crunchy tacos contain 340 calories, 20 grams of fat (65 grams or less is recommended for adults by the USDA) and 700 mg of sodium.

  • Gordita Supreme chicken (290 calories, 12 grams fat, 530 mg sodium)
  • Gordita Supreme Steak (290 calories, 13 grams fat, 520 mg sodium)
  • Gordita Baja Chicken (320 calories, 15 grams fat, 690 mg sodium)
  • Gordita Baja Steak (320 calories, 16 grams fat, 680 mg sodium)
  • Gordita Nacho Cheese Steak (270 calories, 11 grams fat, 660 mg sodium)

Taco Bell has also added a Fresco Menu featuring items with 9 grams of fat or less and 70 calories or less. Of these Fresco items, Crunchy Taco, Soft Taco Beef and Grilled Steak Soft Taco have less than 700 mg of sodium. The Crunchy Taco has 350 mg sodium. Use caution, two of these items, while not bad calorie wise, increases sodium. I think you come out better on the regular menu all the way around.

  • Fresco Crunchy Taco (150 calories, 7 grams fat, 350 mg sodium)
  • Fresco Soft Taco Beef (180 calories, 7 grams fat, 640 mg sodium)
  • Grilled Steak Soft Taco (160 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 600 mg sodium)


  • Jr. Hamburger (280 calories, 9 grams fat, 590 mg sodium)
  • Sour Cream and Chives Baked Potato (320 calories, 4 grams fat, 55 mg sodium)
  • Small Chili (220 calories, 6 grams fat, 780 mg sodium)
  • Mandarin Chicken Salad without salad dressing (170 calories, 2 grams of fat, 480 mg sodium)
  • Caesar Salad Dressing (half a pack = 60 calories, 7 grams fat, 110 mg sodium)
  • Ancho Chipotle Ranch Salad Dressing (half a packet = 55 calories, 5 grams fat, 165 mg sodium)

For more interesting healthy lunch ideas and low calorie sandwiches visit Sandwich Solutions on this web site.

More healthy lunch ideas...

Healthy brown bag low calorie lunch ideas including 12 Easy Diet Lunch Tips and Hints & Shortcuts can be found here.

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