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Fast Food: Best Choices under 350 CALORIES

Feel like you're always dieting but never losing weight? Draining huh? Recently the hubs and I were out on a Saturday night enjoying a kid-less dinner at one of our favorite tapas places. After we shared an order of shrimp tacos, I proceeded to wolf down a chicken quesadilla. A very unlikely dish for me to order. My excuse? "I'm pregnant AND...it's the weekend." Unfortunately the weekend excuse is statistically the main culprit for people's INability to lose weight.

If you are fighting the scale, I highly encourage you to take a closer look at what you are eating (and drinking) on the weekends. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are among several who have performed scientific studies to confirm what seems like a no-brainer: People eat more on weekends. Grabbing meals at malls and fast-food stands, going to parties and other social events, or indulging in a little bar food while having a few drinks, are all sure ways to sabotage a diet. On weekends, you're more relaxed, having fun, and not paying full attention to what you eat. Or maybe you're thinking you'll let yourself off the hook, "just this once." But when you're trying to lose weight, these indulgences could be just enough to undo a week's worth of willpower.

While researching consumer shopping and eating behavior, Dr. J. Jeffrey Inman, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty at the University of Pittsburgh, found that since eating patterns are different on the weekend for many people, the types of foods people eat on weekends is also very different than what they eat during the week. The result, he says, is not only more calories but less nutritional value. University of North Carolina researchers found that the average adult consumes between 82 and 115 more calories and eat more fat each day from Friday to Sunday than from Monday to Thursday. They calculated that weekend overeating can result in an average weight gain of 5 pounds a year.

For some people, weekend eating is very much like holiday eating. Everything is different, including your mindset. There is less of a routine to the day, and normal eating patterns are interrupted. Couple that with the sheer fact that restaurant food is down right fatty, your diet is doomed. So what can you do when eating out is inevitable? It's simple - order appropriately and don't make excuses. You can eat all the foods you love, at all the restaurants you love, without condemning yourself to massive portions and coma-inducing calorie counts, and lose tons of weight—without ever dieting again. Want proof? According to Yahoo's Men Health Columnist David Zinczenko, here are 7 fast-food meals with fewer than 350 calories. Next time you’re in a bind, opt for one of these meals and banish excess calories for good.

Best CHINESE Meal Under 350 Calories: Panda Express Mongolian Beef and Mixed Veggies
235 calories
7 g fat (1.5 g saturated)
1,260 mg sodium

This was surprising to me. I always think chicken would be the better option but this is not the case at Panda. Panda actually has several options that come in below the 350-calorie mark. As with any Chinese meal, the key is skipping the greasy mound of fried rice and the oily tangle of noodles. Pair a low-calorie entrée such as the Mongolian Beef or Green Bean Chicken with a side of veggies and you wind up with a fairly nutritious meal with plenty of protein to keep you full. Entrees to avoid: Beijing Beef, Orange Chicken, Sweet and Sour Chicken, and anything with pork.

STEER CLEAR OF: Beijing Beef w/ Fried Rice
1,260 calories
59 g fat (12 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
1,830 mg sodium

Savings: 1,025 calories, 52 grams of fat, 600 mg of sodium, and a half day’s worth of saturated fat!

Best SANDWICH Meal Under 350 Calories: Subway 6” Turkey Breast and Black Forest Ham (on 9-grain wheat bread with tomatoes, onions, green peppers, pickles, olives, and mustard)
310 calories
4 g fat (1 g saturated)
1,255 mg sodium

The health halo surrounding Subway is a boon for the sandwich chain, but for everyone else, it’s quite problematic. The numbers Subway advertises are only for a 6-inch sub and don’t account for cheese, mayo, olive oil, or any extras most people get on their sub. Order a 12-inch sandwich with a couple of extras and your “healthy” sub suddenly becomes an 800-calorie, diet-sinking torpedo. To be fair, though since I LOVE Subway, there are many nutritious sandwich combinations at Subway, and this is one of them. Just make sure to go with 6 inches (not 12), mustard (not mayo), and take advantage of Subway’s best option: unlimited veggies.

STEER CLEAR OF: Subway 6” Meatball Marinara Sub w/ Provolone
630 calories
27 g fat (11 g saturated, 1 g trans)
1,655 mg sodium

Savings: 320 calories, 23 grams of fat, 400 mg of sodium, and a half day’s worth of saturated fat!

Best CHICKEN NUGGET Meal Under 350 Calories: Chick-fil-A Nuggets (8 count) with Barbecue Sauce
315 calories
12 g fat (2.5 saturated)
1,170 mg sodium

When it comes to healthy fast-food chicken, Chick-fil-A definitely rules the roost. Lately, though, sodium and calorie counts have started to creep upward so beware of the nutritional content. This 8-count meal is packed with 28 grams of hunger-blasting protein—a perfect way to refuel for lunch. Just say no to the Polynesian dipping sauce. One tub contains 110 calories!

STEER CLEAR OF: Spicy Chicken Sandwich Deluxe
580 calories
27 g fat (8 g saturated)
1,880 mg sodium

Savings: 265 calories, 710 mg of sodium (nearly half a day’s worth), and 15 grams of fat!

Best WRAP Meal Under 350 Calories: McDonald’s Grilled Honey Mustard Snack Wrap and Side Salad with Newman’s Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette
320 calories
12 g fat (3.5 saturated)
1,540 mg sodium

You’d be hard-pressed to find a healthier wrap at any other major fast-food chain. Why? Because this one contains only five ingredients: grilled chicken breast, flour tortilla, jack and cheddar cheese, lettuce, and honey mustard. That’s the kind of ingredient list we like to see: simple and delicious. Tack on a side salad and you’ve got a well-rounded meal with fewer calories than one Double Cheeseburger.

STEER CLEAR OF: Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich w/ Medium Fries
1,010 calories
47 g fat (9.5 g saturated)
1,630 mg sodium

Savings: 690 calories (an entire meal’s worth, basically) and 35 grams of fat!

Best BURGER Meal Under 350 Calories: Burger King Jr. Whopper w/o Mayo and BK Apple Fries
330 calories
10.5 g fat (4 g saturated)
500 mg sodium

Burger King holds the dubious distinction of being the unhealthiest of the Big Three burger joints, but that doesn’t mean you can’t concoct a decent meal. By simply 86-ing the mayo, the Whopper Jr. becomes one of the healthiest burgers in the fast-food kingdom, and BK’s fresh apple fries are a delicious and nutritious side. Together, they make a fine meal if you must dine on the dash. Warning: Every other Whopper sandwich has anywhere from 0.5 grams to 2.5 grams of trans fat.

STEER CLEAR OF: Whopper w/ Medium Fries
1,110 calories
62 g fat (15.5 g saturated fat, 1 g trans)
1,650 mg sodium

Savings: 780 calories, 52 grams of fat, and a half day’s worth of both sodium and saturated fat!

Best MEXICAN Meal Under 350 Calories: Taco Bell's Fresco Chicken Soft Tacos (2)
340 calories
8 g fat (2 g saturated)
1,360 mg sodium

Taco Bell got a lot of flak this past year for advertising its Drive-Thru Diet, but truth is, this taco joint provides dozens of possible meal combos for less than 500 calories. The same certainly can’t be said for any of the nation’s most popular fast-food burger chains. Taco Bell’s menu still has plenty of pitfalls, so order wisely. Our advice: 1) Stick to the Fresco Menu, where not one item is more than 350 calories; 2) Run from Grilled Stuft Burritos, food served in a bowl, and anything with multiple layers.

STEER CLEAR OF: Grilled Stuft Chicken Burritos (2)
1,320 calories
48 g fat (14 g saturated fat)
4,020 mg sodium

Savings: 980 calories, 40 grams of fat, more than a half day’s worth of saturated fat, and nearly two days’ worth of salt!

Best BREAKFAST Meal Under 350 Calories: Dunkin’ Donuts Egg White and Cheese Breakfast Wake-Up Wraps (2) w/ Small Black Coffee
305 calories
14 g fat (6 g saturated)
965 mg sodium

Dunkin’ might be known for its donuts, but the DDSmart Menu is the real reason to swing by this spot on your way to work. A couple of Wake-Up Wraps and a small black coffee will give you exactly what you need to stay energized through the morning. (In fact, if you don't if you don't mind 60 extra calories, opt for the whole-egg Wake-Up Wrap instead—yolks contain vitamins and minerals that are good for eye health.) This meal delivers 16 grams of hunger-fighting protein. You definitely won’t find that in two glazed donuts.

STEER CLEAR OF: Sausage, Egg & Cheese on Croissant
680 calories
46 g fat (18 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
1,280 mg sodium

Savings: 375 calories, 32 grams of fat, and a half day’s worth of saturated fat!

Stop talking two steps forward during the week and one step back on the weekends. Be mindful of what you order and make minor substitutions and I guarantee the scale will reward you.

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