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Eating Fast Food Doesn't Mean You Can't Be Healthy

MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- A majority of us do it regularly. We end up in the drive-thru line because we're too busy or too tired to cook.

According to a Gallup Poll, 80% of the country eats at a fast food restaurant at least once a month.  In fact, revenue at fast food restaurants topped $191 billion last year.

But fast food doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your health.

It is certainly not the best choice, but sometimes you can't avoid it.  That being the case, we wanted to know what the healthiest fast food menu items are.

CBS4's Vanessa Borge went to four popular fast food restaurants with Miami Children's Hospital certified dietician Erin Corrigan to find out.

Click here to WATCH Vanessa Borge's report

First stop is McDonald's...before 10:30 A.M. to scope out the breakfast menu.  They ordered the oatmeal, filled with fruit and nuts, the yogurt parfait and the Egg McMuffin.

"If you want a sandwich the best option is to get one with the muffin rather than the biscuit or croissant," said Corrigan. "It has less calories, fat and sodium. The best option out of the three is the oatmeal. You're getting whole grain and fresh fruit."

Time for lunch! Burger King, though known for its beef, has surprisingly good salad options.

We chose the cranberry apple salad and the Cesar chicken salad.

"The area you need to be careful with is the dressing," explained Corrigan. "The dressing can sabotage your nutrition efforts. Don't use the whole packet.

And then everyone's midnight munchie favorite...Taco Bell.  Fresco tacos are the way to go, filled with chicken, lettuce, and salsa.

"Have it on a soft shell tortilla so it's going to have less calories than a hard shell tortilla," said Corrigan.

Taco Bell Cantina Bowls are also great. You can fill them with healthy options and remember to leave off the sour cream and cheese!

Last stop...Kentucky Fried Chicken. Most of it is fried so here it's all about portion control.

They have chicken bites, but only get the four or six piece. They also have Chicken Littles which are mini sandwiches

Made to order restaurants like Pollo Tropical or Chipotle are popular too, but can also be dangerous for your diet.

"Chipotle is a great option," added Corrigan. "Although you have to be careful there because it is very easy to get a high calorie burrito, you can easily go over 1,200 or 1,500 calories."

Make sure you pass on the tortilla and go for the bowl.  Choose either rice or beans and cover it with veggies and lots of salsa.

But Erin stresses to keep your fast food trips to a minimum.

"The food, although you can try to order healthy options, still is mostly processed very high in sodium and in the long run can contribute to heart disease and cancer," said Corrigan.

You may be wondering…what's the best option of all the meals we ordered? The two Fresco Tacos from Taco Bell. They add up to less than 300 calories for the pair.

So again, don't let fast food become your go-to meal when you can't find the time or energy to cook.  But on that rare occasion, at least now you know there are better choices on the menus.



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