Eat out the smart way.

You know the downside to fast food: most of the menu options are high in saturated fat, trans fat, calories, and sodium and low in nutrition. The upside to fast food is that it’s convenient, yummy, and cheap. For many people, the good side of fast food overrides the bad. After all, who has time to think about health when you’re hungry and in a hurry? When work goes late, the basketball game just got over, and you have no energy to cook, grabbing fast food for dinner is an easy solution.

While it’s easy to categorize all fast food as unhealthy, Mesa Fit Body Boot Camp explains that there are healthy options out there. You just need to know where to look.

Picky about Sides

When you think about fast food sides, French fries likely comes to mind first. While they taste good, they’re not good for you. Avoid fried foods like fries or onion rings and steer clear of high-calorie foods like mac and cheese or mashed potatoes and gravy, and choose healthy, low-calorie sides instead like fruit cups, baked potato, or side salads with light dressing.

Go Light on Condiments

What’s fast food without dipping sauces and spreads? You may not know it, but half the fat on sandwiches and wraps can easily come from the sauces. Besides fat, sauces are often high in sodium. Eat healthy and take it easy on the dips and sauces. Avoid ranch dips and mayonnaise spreads. Choose BBQ sauce, mustard, ketchup, or honey mustard instead and your waistline won’t suffer.

Watch What You Drink

A fast food meal may be lacking in the nutrition department and overflowing with calories, so why add to the problem by drinking soda, lemonade, a milk shake, or sweet tea? Reign in the calories and sugar by ordering a water, skim milk, or unsweetened tea.

Be Salad Smart

Many people make the mistake of thinking they’re eating healthy by ordering a salad piled with high-calorie ingredients. Creamy dressings, croutons, cheese, crispy noodles, bacon, and fried chicken can easily make your meal as high in calories, if not higher, than a Big Mac. With the right toppings, salads can be a healthy choice when eating out. A personal trainer in Mesa suggests that you choose a salad with plenty of veggies, grilled chicken, and a small amount of low-fat dressing on the side.

Go on Portion Control Patrol

If you’re not careful, you’ll be ordering a tray full of food you don’t need. Single servings are often big enough to feed two. Regular-size portions provide plenty of food so don’t supersize your meals or drinks. Sometimes, even the child-size portions are enough food for an adult. The main dish alone should fill you up without unnecessary sides and desserts.

Keep It Under 500

On average, an adult eats 836 calories a meal when eating fast food, but that’s just an average. With a decked-out burger, fries, and drink you can easily consume a day’s worth of calories in a single sitting. Most fast food chain restaurants post the nutritional information of their menu online as well as at their location. This can be extremely helpful, so take advantage of it. Before ordering your food, add up the calories for your meal, being careful to include each item you order. Aim to keep the total calories for your meal under 500 calories.

Make the Switch

Want to eat healthier at your favorite fast food establishment? It might be as simple as making a few food swaps and you’ll save hundreds of calories. Rather than a double-patty cheeseburger, choose a single-patty hamburger. Go for grilled chicken strips rather than nuggets. Try a yogurt parfait instead of a milkshake or choose a baked potato over fries.

Fast food will never take the place of homemade meals made from fresh ingredients, but you can salvage your diet by making smart choices when there is no alternative to fast food.

Worst of the Worst. Want to know what one of the world’s worst burger choices is? Mesa fitness center reviewed several restaurants and discovered that Hardee’s two-thirds pound Monster Thickburger takes first place. With a whopping 1,290 calories, 2,840 mg of sodium, and 92 grams of fat, the Monster Thickburger contains almost all the calories an average person should eat each day.