Fast food – healthier options

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Tuesday, 19 June 2012.
Tagged: children, fast food, guides, healthy eating, kids, overweight, take-away

Fast food – healthier options
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Fast food. It's not healthy - but it's quick and convenient. Not to mention cheap and filling – ask any hungry young man! We all eat it when we're in a tearing hurry (or want a night off cooking). So as you're walking around that food count checking out the options, check out my handy guide to the nutrition profile of fast food. It's my guide to the best and worst of fast food ...


Generally nutritious and one of the better fast-food choices, especially if served with lettuce, tomato, beetroot and onion - items often missing from large chain burgers. Large hamburgers (Big Mac, Whopper, Eggburger) provide too many kilojoules/Calories and too much fat for inactive people. Same applies to hamburgers with cheese and egg.

biting into a burger


It's really easy to eat TOO much pizza, so opt for the small or 'regular' size (personal pizzas) or a thin crispy base. My fave. Wood-fired pizzas offer a lower-oil chewy base and a greater choice of less-cheesy toppings, which makes them lower in fat than ordinary pizzas. Say No to pepperoni, salami, bacon and mince toppings, as they pack on the saturated fat and salt.


kfc1Chicken might sound a healthy white-meat choice, but deep-fried battered or crumbed chicken is no diet dinner, as it adds a hefty pile of fat and salt, especially when eaten with chips. Select barbecued or rotisserie and scale down to smaller serves. Don't overlook the corn, coleslaw, bean salad or potato and gravy as accompaniments. They'll satisfy your appetite without overloading you.

Chose a fillet burger or flame-grilled skinless burger, as it's is a delicious and sensible choice. To cut the fat even more, ask for it to be made up without the heavy ranch dressing or mayo-like sauce.

Turkish/Lebanese donor kebabs

The combination of flatbread, hot lamb pieces, tabbouleh and hummus makes quite a good choice nutritionally. The only drawback is that sometimes the meat (or chicken) can be pieced together with layers of fat which melt during cooking to keep the meat moist.

Fish and chips

Fish is normally a healthy choice. But when you dip it in batter, deep-fry it and slather it with tartar sauce, it becomes a sponge that soaks up oil. Serve it with a bucket of hot salted chips and you're in cholesterol country! Better to swap that deep-fried greasy fish for a grilled fish with a salad and share a small chips with a friend.

Chiko rolls, dim sims, spring rolls, battered saveloys and potato scallops are definitely a no-no, as they are loaded with saturated fat, salt and kilojoules.

Double salting (once during manufacture and again when being served) gives them one of the highest salt contents. Buy thick chips or wedges as they have less saturated fat than fries or straws.

Asian take-away

Asian Take awayMany Asian take-aways tend to be less greasy and fried, but not always! The most popular combos – like sweet and sour pork or crispy skin chicken with lemon sauce - like can rack up as much saturated fat and kilojoules/Calories as a large hamburger or a couple of slices of pizza. Try the following tips to cut kilojoules:

  • Choose stir-fry dishes with meat or poultry and vegetables (chow mein, chop suey) or a combination with seafood or chicken.
  • Order a serve of seasonable mixed vegetables to dilute the meal.
  • Order clear noodle or vegetable soups are light as a first course.
  • Opt for steamed rice instead of fried rice (a dish in its own right).
  • Try not to order dishes with coconut cream or deep-fried items.
  • Don't add EXTRA soy sauce – most Asian dishes are already loaded with sodium.


Tacos, tostadas and burritos similar to hamburgers nutritionally, and beans and salad improve the fibre content and keep kilojoules low. Say No to sour cream, have only a modest amount of melted cheese, add a dollop of guacamole -  and Mexican fare can be a good choice.


Best and worst choices


Worst choice

Better healthier choice

Burgers (McDonald’s, Grill'd, Hungry Jacks, etc)

Big Mac and large fries


Double whopper burger with cheese

Grilled chicken burger with small fries  OR Filled Deli Roll


Aussie burger with beetroot and onion

Pizza (Pizza Hut, Pizza Haven, Dominos, Eagle Boys, etc)

Super supreme pan pizza with cheesey crust

Ham and cheese or Vegetarian on thin ‘n’ crispy crust

Chicken (KFC, etc)

KFC fried battered chicken pieces, potato wedges

Roast chicken breast (skin removed), mashed potato and gravy, corn cob


Meatball Sub or Italian pepperoni Sub

Turkey breast, ham, roast beef or any of the 7 Subs with under 6 g of fat (ask for lots of salad)


Sweet and sour chicken or pork with fried noodles

Mee grob (fried thin noodles)

Stir-fried vegetables and beef or chicken with steamed noodles or rice


Noodle broth with vegetables


Nachos with melted cheese, guacamole and sour cream

Soft wheat tortillas filled with beef mince, beans, lettuce and tomato. Topped with guacamole.

menu boards kj


Downloads / Fact Sheets

 Read my  pdf Fast food - healthy options (230 KB) .


Catherine Saxelby About the author

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