Nanci Hellmich, USA WEEKEND
USA TODAY - Many diners gobble far more calories in fast food meals than they realize, research shows.
In one Harvard Medical School study of 3,400 people who visited 89 fast-food restaurants (including McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Subway, Dunkin' Donuts and Wendy's) diners were asked to estimate calories in their meals, then researchers collected their receipts and calculated the actual calories the meals contained.
Adults ordered meals with an average of 836 calories. Most participants underestimated by about 175 calories, and a quarter underestimated by at least 500 calories.
Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian in Chicago, offers "four golden rules" for fast-food diners who want to watch calories and fat and make smarter choices:
Order lean meat. Look for grilled or baked chicken, turkey or fish; avoid fried and breaded versions. Ordering an occasional hamburger is OK, but stick with small burgers and skip high-calorie toppings such as cheese, mayo, special sauce and bacon.
Swap out sides. Go for salads, fruits and vegetables. Skip french fries, chips and breadsticks.
Avoid sugary drinks. Choose calorie-free beverages instead: water, unsweetened tea, coffee. Avoid regular soda, juice or sweet tea.
Watch for hidden fats. One culprit is condiments: Use ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce and low-fat dressing, but skip mayo, cheese and high-calorie dressings.