Are you among the millions of Americans who dine out for lunch?
Purchasing lunch on the go is quick and convenient. And restaurants have expanded their menus to include more healthy options, so healthy choices are readily available.
But, you have to choose carefully.
There are a few meals that are automatically assumed to be healthy, though they can be worse than the more obvious unhealthy choices.
Check out this list of five meals thought to be healthy but that could actually be working against your fitness goals.
Chick Fil-A has become the superstar of fast-food restaurants, so much so that many people no longer consider them fast food. This is despite the fact that you are sitting in your car, picking up your food thru a drive-thru window, albeit with great customer service.
While Chick-Fil-A shines brightly in many areas, I do not want us to pretend like everything they serve is healthy.
Let’s start with their Original Chicken Sandwich, which is 440 calories.
For many people, a complete meal should be around 500 calories to meet their daily calorie goals, so the sandwich alone would be enough.
Unfortunately, it’s typically paired with their irresistible fries (a small has 280 calories, but do you ever get a small?), and, possibly washed down with their delicious lemonade (another 220 calories for a medium) or another sugar-sweetened beverage. Combined, this meal has 940 calories, enough calories for two meals.
A healthier option? If you’re in the mood for the sandwich, add a small salad on the side, topped with a low-calorie dressing, like the light balsamic vinaigrette dressing or the light Italian dressing. Many of the other dressings can add an additional 200-300 calories!
Other quick swaps: the grilled chicken sandwich paired with a salad will save you 100 calories. An 8-ct pack of chick-fil-a nuggets will save you 200 calories. An 8-ct pack of grilled nuggets will save you 300 calories!
2. Sandwich Wraps
What tastes better than a regular sandwich? A sandwich wrapped in a big tortilla! Unfortunately, the wrap (tortilla) alone normally has at least 300 calories. That doesn’t include what’s inside of it!
The innocent-looking chicken wrap pictured above has 950 calories and 58 grams of fat… and you’d probably still be hungry when you finished.
Also, when choosing your wrap, don’t let the name “spinach wrap” deceive you… a spinach wrap is just a regular wheat wrap with a little bit of spinach powder or food coloring to give its green color. There’s a common misconception that the wrap is only made out of spinach. NO! Same with tomato wraps… they have a little tomato powder in them, but they are mostly made from wheat also.
If you think a spinach wrap or tomato wrap are a low-calorie choice, guess again!
Overall, sandwich wraps generally have more calories than a regular sandwich, so you’re probably better off choosing the sandwich.
3. Tuna/Chicken/Turkey Salad
I’m still trying to figure out how tuna and chicken/turkey salad became staples in the health food category. While tuna, chicken, and turkey are all typically lean protein options (yay), the salad mixture can have tons of mayonnaise and oils that quickly boost the calorie content. Plus, some versions also add cranberries and nuts, which further add more sugar and fat.
As you can see above, even a small container of salad and crackers can contain all of the calories you may need for the whole day! Even eating half of the container would be high in calories, and you probably still wouldn’t be satisfied.
Your best bet is to make your own tuna/chicken/turkey salad so you can control the ingredients you use, and more importantly, how much you use. This will help keep the calories under control.
4. Loaded Salads
Salad seems to be the universal “health food.” If you ask anyone if they have healthy eating habits, one of the first things they will mention is all the salads they consume. But let’s talk about these salads…
Salads can be as healthy or unhealthy as you want to be.
Let’s start with the base- leafy, green veggies like lettuce, kale, or spinach- great start. Topped with more and more veggies is even better. Then comes trouble, in the names of fried chicken strips, croutons, cheese, bacon bits, nuts, seeds, avocado, and creamy dressings. A couple of these toppings in small portions is fine. But when the salad is loaded, it can easily add up to 1,000+ calories and tons of fat.
And salad dressings can make a huge difference, ranging from 15 calories to 400 calories.
Limit the amount of higher-calorie toppings in your salad, and aim for low-calorie salad dressings that can add flavor without killing your fitness goals.
Chicken, veggies, rice… sounds pretty healthy, right? A yummy stir-fry is an excellent way to boost your veggie intake and get in more nutrients.
But you have to be careful. Stir-fries can contain a lot of oils, which increases the calorie and fat content. Also, the big heaping of rice or noodles it’s served on can easily add 500 calories or more. Plus, watch for breaded meats and sweet sauces.
Can you believe this stir-fry pictured above clocks in at a total of 1522 calories, which is the regular size portion? The small size will still run you 900 calories.
To make it healthier, load up on veggies, add a moderate intake of the protein, and reduce the carb portion to help reduce the calories.