Search     |     Share     |     Blog     |     My Food Diary     |     Login
Healthy eating and exercise for life

What to Eat When You’re Eating at the Local Burger Joint

Sometimes the day has just been too much and the thought of making dinner is overwhelming. You want something fast and easy. As you drive home the local burger joint catches your eye. You’re torn between the “torment” of making a healthy dinner at home, or the ease and speed of the “not-so-healthy” dinner at the burger joint.

Or, perhaps you are craving a delicious burger. Although your craving is a powerful one and you want to indulge it, at the same time you don’t want to forgo your healthy eating goals.

So, can you have your burger and eat it, too? Sure, eating at a burger joint doesn’t have to be unhealthy. In fact, today you have more choices and options than ever before. Just use the following tips to help you navigate through the burger world.

Chicken Sandwich or Burger?
Most hamburger joints offer a variety of burgers, chicken and fish sandwiches. Although some people may believe that chicken and fish contain fewer calories that is not always the case, especially if the fish and chicken is fried. And, keep in mind that not all burgers are created equal. Choose carefully and keep the following in mind:

Small hamburger 280 calories
Small cheeseburger 330 calories
Double cheeseburger 490 calories
Grilled Chicken Sandwich 400 calories
Fried Chicken Sandwich 510 calories
Fish Sandwich (fried) 410 calories

What to order:

Calorie wise, your best option is the small hamburger or cheeseburger. Avoid the large, big, and double-type burgers. And, if you want chicken, go for the grilled. Remember, keep any sauces on the side – these can add unwanted fat and calories.

Fries, Sides and What Not
What goes best with burgers? Most would say fries. However, many burger joints are expanding their selection. As a more healthful option, you may opt for a side salad. However, just be wary in the salad department. Again, not all salads are created equal and some are real “heavyweights” when it comes to calories.

Small fry 220 calories
Medium fry 350 calories
Large fry 520 calories

Side salad with “light dressing” 70 calories
Fried chicken Cobb salad with dressing 500 calories
Grilled chicken Cobb salad with dressing 390 calories

What to order:

If you are going to order fries, go small. To add some antioxidants and other healthy greens to your burger add a small side salad, but remember to go light on the dressing. If you decide to order a salad rather than a burger add toppings that are grilled and go for a light dressing rather than the full-fat version. For example, using the “light” dressing with the Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad would save almost 70 calories, making the salad just 320 calories.

Desserts, etc.
Want to finish off that burger with a tasty dessert? Be careful because calories can add up quickly. Consider the following:

Vanilla Yogurt with fruit 130 calories
Reduced-fat Ice Cream Cone 150 calories
Sundae 350 calories
Shake (12 oz.) 430 calories

What to order:

If you order burgers and fries, you probably don’t need dessert. But if you must indulge, choose a reduced-fat cone or cup of ice cream or opt for the yogurt with fruit.

Here’s just one example of how you can make lighter choices (and how those choices can really make a difference) at your favorite burger joint:

Lighter Version Full Calorie Version
1 small hamburger 280 calories double cheeseburger 490 calories
side salad w/ light dressing 70 calories small fry 220 calories
vanilla yogurt w/fruit 130 calories sundae 350 calories
Total: 480 calories Total: 1060 calories

As you can see, you can dine out when trying to lose weight and you can order healthier selections. And, making these healthier selections can result in a big difference in your calorie intake – in this example 580 calories were saved.

Many restaurants offer nutrition information, so if you’re unsure about something ask for the information or look it up online to see if it is available.