A heart-healthy diet is characterized by whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, and lean protein, an ingredient list that doesn’t read exactly like the contents of a typical menu. fast food. Still, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck finding heart-healthy options at popular chains. In fact, many fast food companies are becoming more aware that most Americans would like to eat better, and many need to focus specifically on heart health. (Heck, nearly half of us — 47% — have high blood pressure, whether we know it or not.)
If you’re tired of staring at a drive-thru menu and scratching your head to figure out what to choose, fear not. We’ve rounded up six fast food orders that dietitians say are actually good for your heart.
“I love Blaze Pizza, where you can go all out and make your own pizza,” says Julie Chudak, RDN, CPT, CLT, nutrition and fitness throughout life. “There’s no limit to vegetable toppings (and there are 14 to choose from) and every month there’s a seasonal vegetable option.” When building your pie, consider leafy greens like fresh spinach, which are high in potassium and nitrates. Potassium helps counteract the effects of sodium, while nitrates can help regulate blood pressure.
If you’re not a fan of vegetables on pizza, you can always enjoy them in a salad! “There’s also their ‘Take Two’ option where you can make a half pizza order and a salad,” says Chudak. Just go with the dressing on the side, as some of Blaze’s dressings are high in sugar and saturated fat.
Chipotle may be known for burritos as big as your head, but the Mexican chain offers less indulgent options. “Lifestyle Bowls, primarily the keto, Whole30 and Paleo options, are wonderful selections for those looking to dine out but make heart-healthy choices,” says Sharon Puello, MA, RD, CDN, CDCES, from FRESH Nutrition. “These meals follow a whole food approach, which may help reduce systemic inflammation, a known cause of heart plaques.”
According to Puello, Lifestyle Bowls are also a good source of heart-healthy fats. “Getting enough dietary fat while minimizing highly processed carbohydrates is key to improving lipid particle size, a measure of heart disease risk,” she says. And the benefits don’t stop there. “The products included in these meals (cooked onions, salsa, etc.) provide heart-healthy nutrients such as quercetin and lycopene.”
Need a heart-healthy breakfast on the go? Swing by McDonald’s for fruit and maple oatmeal, says Patricia Kolesa, MS, RDN. “Oatmeal contains fiber, which is helpful in lowering cholesterol,” she explains. The fresh apple slices that top this breakfast add to its fiber content (a total of 4 grams) and provide antioxidants that can help reduce overall inflammation. And at 320 total calories, this on-the-go breakfast cup keeps portion sizes moderate.
It’s tinkering for the win once again! Designing your own fast food dish puts you in control of which heart-healthy ingredients make a difference and which ones you can leave behind the counter. At Qdoba, consider making your own taco bowl, suggests Amanda Lane, MS, RD, CDCES, from Healthy Lane Nutrition. “Choose lettuce, brown rice, beans and avocado for fiber and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Look to limit animal protein and cheese sauce, as they are higher in sodium and less in healthy saturated fats.”
With baby carrots, snow peas, falafel-style bites, and an avocado spread, it’s hard to find fault with this vegan protein box from Starbucks. “These boxes are pretty perfect! says the heart dietitian Veronica Rouse, RD, MALEwho also recommends Starbucks Cheese and Fruit Protein Box and PB&J Protein Box. cheese, nuts, seeds, or legumes to be considered a good source of heart-healthy protein.And they usually have other treats for the added fiber to fill you up.Finally, they all contain a reasonable amount of sodium.
I bet you didn’t expect tacos to be back on the list! Over the past few years, Taco Bell has made a name for itself as a healthier chain with smaller portions and “fresco-style” menu options. Among their best options for heart health: soft chicken tacos. According Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LDfrom Sound Bites Nutrition, “Each is just 160 calories, 12 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and 2.5 grams of saturated fat. Add a side of black beans to boost the fiber content of the meal with just 140 milligrams. extra sodium.”
Sarah Garone, editor’s note
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a Certified Nutrition and Dietetics Technician and Health, Nutrition and Food Writer. Learn more about Sarah
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