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So what's a fast-food lover to do?

Well, aside from avoiding "value meals" and "super-size" deals like the plague, our best bet is to know which menu items are the lower in fat, saturated fat, and calories.

The better choices listed below for six of the top fast-food chains have 15 grams of fat or less (compare that with some menu choices with 30 grams of fat or more, such as the Burger King Double Croissanwich with double sausage and cheese. This item would add 770 calories and 63 grams of fat to your diet -- all before lunch!). Of course, it also matters whether the fat is the unhealthy saturated kind; the fewer saturated fat grams, the better.

Another thing to watch for: The sodium tends to be high at fast-food restaurants, so beware if you are on a sodium-restricted diet.

Here are some of the best offerings of several popular fast-food chains, as of January 2005.

McDonald's

Item Calories Total fat (g) % cals from fat Sat. fat (g) Cholesterol (mg) Sodium (mg) Fiber (g)
Best Sandwiches:
Hamburger 260 9 31% 3.5 30 530 1
Cheeseburger 310 12 35% 6 40 740 1
Chicken McGrill 400 16 36% 3 70 1,010 3
Filet-O-Fish (no tartar sauce) 310 9 26% 2.5 30 520 1
Egg McMuffin 290 11 34% 4.5 235 850 2
McVeggie Burger* 350 8 20% 2 0 1,200 8
*Available only in New York and California.
Best Desserts:
Fruit 'n Yogurt Parfait (with granola) 160 2 11% 1 5 85 <1
Vanilla Reduced-Fat Ice Cream Cone 150 3.5 21% 2 15 60 0
Apple Dippers 35 0 0 0 0 0 0
Best Salads*:
Grilled Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad 240 9 34% 4 85 940 3
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad 200 6 27% 3 70 820 3
Grilled Chicken California Cobb Salad 270 11 36% 5 145 1,060 3
California Cobb Salad (no chicken) 150 9 54% 4.5 85 410 3


*Totals do not include dressing; for 1/2 packet of Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette, add 20 calories, 1.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat and fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, and 375 mg sodium to each total.

Note: The best sauces at McDonalds are:

  • Ketchup, with 10 calories and 0 gram fat, 100 milligrams sodium per package
  • Barbeque sauce, with 45 calories, 0 gram fat, 260 milligrams sodium per package
  • Hot Mustard sauce, with 50 calories, 2 grams fat, 260 milligrams sodium per package

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