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How To Fit Fast Food Into A Runner’s Diet

Fast food doesn’t have to be unhealthy. An expert helps us uncover the best choices you can make.

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fast food

When you’re looking for something quick to attack your hunger, you can easily find yourself befuddled. Are there any options that are (at least somewhat!) healthy? Wendy Bazilian, a doctor of public health, registered dietitian and author of Eat Clean, Stay Lean, shares her top picks for fitting fast food into a diet that fuels your runs.

Burger King
Order This: SOFT SERVE
At 160 calories with 4g protein, 4g fat and 130mg sodium, Bazilian says, this “provides a lot of satisfaction and some protein for reasonable ‘treat calories.’” And, when paired with a small handful of nuts, it’s a solid post-run snack.
Hot Tip: When you’re grabbing a goodie and fruit won’t suffice, this choice is better than fries or cookies.

The classic sandwich has 300 calories with 17g protein, 750mg sodium, 4g fiber and is an excellent source of calcium! If you omit the Canadian bacon, you reduce the sodium by 230mg.
Hot Tip: “Skip the Egg White Delight McMuffin,” Bazilian says. “You only save 50 calories, but the sodium is even higher than the original.”

Related: Satisfy Unhealthy Cravings With These Healthy Swaps

When you’re craving a burger, this one has 360 calories, 15g protein, 20g fat, 500mg sodium (surprisingly modest for a burger!) and solid nutrition from the tomatoes, onions, pickles and lettuce.
Hot Tip: “Mayo is optional—so avoid it. I call it mayo-nightmare,” says Bazilian. “The calories just add up too quickly.” She also suggests ordering extra veggies.

At 220 calories with 36g protein, 4.5g total fat, 480mg sodium, 4g fiber (good source), 50 percent of the daily value of both vitamins A and C (for skin, eyes, immune system and antioxidant functions), this salad has high protein for modest calories. Bazilian notes, “A lot of crunchy nutrition bang for the buck.”
Hot Tip: These stats are without dressing. Think of a teaspoon of oil as about 45 calories and a tablespoon as 135.

Taco Bell
With 350 calories, 13g protein, 9g fat, 1040mg sodium and 9g fiber (more than a third of the daily value), sodium is the issue here. “The rest is pretty great, considering it’s fast and convenient,” Bazilian says. “Balance by watching sodium during the rest of the day.”
Hot Tip: If you order off the regular menu, ask for it “fresco style” to swap in pico de gallo instead of mayo, cheese and sour cream. This nutritional boost with tomatoes, onions and cilantro only has about 25 calories per 1/4 cup.

Related: The One Breakfast Item You Can Order At Fast Food Restaurants