Eat like a kid.
The regular portions at fast-food restaurants often contain a staggering amount of calories, saturated fat and sodium, warns Aldana, who notes, for example, that the Texas Double Whopper from Burger King has 1,050 calories — roughly half of what a typical man should consume in a single day — as well as 130 percent of the daily recommended allowance of saturated fat.
If you must have an occasional splurge on nuggets, fries or any other fast-food standbys, it’s best for an adult to order a child-size portion. “It’s just around the right amount of calories you should have, and you don’t feel deprived,” says Ginn. For a child, similarly order small portions or best options, such as lowfat milk instead of soda and fruit instead of fries.
Do some research.
Luckily, it’s now quick and easy to check menus and specific nutrition information for almost any eatery using any number of Internet and smartphone tools, such as Healthy Dining Finder or Aldana’s Stop and Go. Once people see how unhealthful certain items are, they’re “often shocked into making better selections,” says Ginn.
Pack healthful snacks.
Load up a cooler with some fresh fruit and veggies, which are typically in short supply on the road. They can help balance out any fast-food binges. If you’re leaving early, Aldana recommends bringing along some yogurt, a whole-wheat bagel or another nutritious morning meal, since he says that fast-food chains that specialize in breakfast foods tend to have some of the most unhealthful offerings.
At the end of the day, just remember that while succumbing to that urge for a burger and fries every now and again won’t kill you, making better choices at fast-food restaurants and keeping to as normal an eating routine as possible may mean a better arrival at your destination. “You will just feel so much better along the way,” says Jamieson-Petonic. “Choosing some of the healthier options will provide more clarity, more energy, and allow you to sleep better.”
I have already started mapping out the most healthful rest stops along the New Jersey Turnpike for a post-Christmas road trip. Now, if I could only keep my children out of those establishments’ indoor play areas — which one mom on a crusade recently discovered are often overrun with bacteria that cause skin infections, nausea and other problems — we’ll all be starting the new year on a much healthier note.