Feeding your hunger vs. filling your wallet

As our current economic climate settles in, those $1 Value Menus may be looking awfully tempting for some people right now. McDonald's even reported a rise in sales a few months ago as people reign in their spending and tighten their budgets.

Supplementing your grocery budget with fast food fare doesn't have to blow your entire fitness plan, however, if you choose wisely.

* Go online and check out the menus. Every major fast food restaurant has nutritional information on their website. You can also ask for info when you pick up your order. Know the impact of your choices. At Wendy's, for instance, one can get a side salad, a baked potato, and 5-piece chicken nugget for $3.00 (535 calories; 15 g fat; 570 mg sodium; excludes condiments). Knowledge is power!

* Skip the fries and order a side salad. Fries are, well, fried. Anytime you cook food in oil the calories skyrocket. And you know this! Fries ~350 calories, side salad (sans dressing) ~ under 100 calories. Hmm. Do go easy on the dressing though; remember a serving is 2 tablespoons.

* Ask for the mayo on the side. In general, gooey is not good. At 100 calories per serving, take control! This will save you from having to scrap it off onto a napkin. . . not that I know anything about doing that. . .

* Go bunless. Or, at least get rid of the top bun. White flour, no fiber, and little if any nutrients are in that bread. Other than consuming "empty" calories, what's the point in eating it?

* Use salsa, ketchup, mustard, and barbeque sauce. No, not together (ick)! You can, however, add more flavor with less caloric impact by using these condiments rather than choices such as ranch and honey mustard.

* Hold the cheese. Depending on the type, omitting the cheese can save you 90 calories and 7 grams of fat or more. And do we even need to discuss the cholesterol content?

* Order from the "healthy" area of the menu. Every fast food restaurant seems to have their own take on the healthy menu. Taco Bell, for instance, has even introduced its Fresco Menu. While perhaps not the most wholesome of food, it does offer better offerings than other menu items.

Stay focused, stay fit!

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