11 Points

11 Fast Food Items That are Surprisingly Not Terrible For You
written by Angie Greenup and Sam Greenspan

Today's a Very Special 11 Points... guest-written by my fiancee and occasional website contributor, Angie Greenup. In addition to being my fiancee -- which is an exhausting endeavor, I've been told -- Angie is a TV host. Today, she's launching a new web series called Eat, Drink and Be Skinny. In my opinion, both biased and unbiased, it's excellent. Angie's one of those people who has the nutritional information of every food and restaurant memorized and, for her show, she's going one-by-one through restaurants to highlight the menu items that are actually not that bad for you.

To give her show a proper launch, I asked her if she'd be willing to put together this guest 11 Points on 11 fast food items that are surprisingly not that unhealthy or bad for you. As with all guest lists, I add a little comment on each one of the points. Hope you enjoy the list and please do check out her new show.

Now on to the fast food...

  1. Apparently they don't take photos of these in the non-Supreme form, so I had to Photoshop out the sour cream.
    Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos. Taco Bell has built up a lot of hype around its new Doritos Locos Tacos -- and apparently it's the fastest-selling product they've ever had. I didn't love them when I tried them, but clearly most people think they're great judging by the amount of photos of them that have shown up on my Instagram. And here's some good news: One Doritos Locos taco has the same amount of calories as the regular crunchy taco-- 170. Instead of a regular taco, have a regular taco lightly dusted in nacho cheese dust!

    Sam's comment: I had to edit this because she kept calling them "Los Doritos Tacos." Which is really just an anagram away from being correct if you eat them in the O.C.

  2. McDonald's Chicken McNuggets. Chicken nuggets are a decently low-calorie choice at almost any fast food restaurant, but here's a real shocker. McDonald's 10-piece Chicken McNuggets is 470 calories. Only 47 calories per nugget. I would've guessed way higher. My rule of thumb is that you should aim to keep your fast food meals around 400 cals or less, but for 10 McNuggets, I'd go 70 calories over. Or instead of eating 10, eat 8 and 51/100ths.

    Sam's comment: This doesn't take into account any dipping sauces But you don't really need them anyway. They just mask the flavor of the McNuggets. And in a way, isn't their grease kind of a built-in dipping sauce?

  3. KFC Mac and Cheese. Macaroni and cheese (and even Cheese and Macaroni) are typically off-limits when you're doing a lower calorie diet. However, an individual side of mac and cheese from KFC is only 160 calories. Have you ever had KFC's mac and cheese? It's kind of amazing. And you can get two sides for under 400 cals. Or add it on to your meal without feeling super disgusting.

    Sam's comment: This was one of the items on the list that surprised me the most. Actually, browsing through the entire KFC menu it's all a little less terrible for you than I would've guessed. Even the Double Down sandwich. Remember when people thought that thing was the downfall of society?

  4. Chipotle Hard Tacos. It is not easy to keep your calories down at Chipotle, mainly because of their flour tortillas. One way it IS possible is to choose two tacos over a burrito. Two crunchy taco shells total 120 calories, which pales in comparison to the 290 calorie burrito shell. And the portion sizes of the fillings (beans, rice, etc) is much smaller for the tacos, keeping their calories down too.

    Sam's comment: I appreciate that she didn't take the cop-out here and go for the Burrito Bowl. Which used to be called the Burrito Bol. Yes, they used to spell it like Manute Bol. Anyway, this list isn't about getting things in bowls.

  5. See, without anything for scale it looks huge.
    Burger King Whopper Jr. Burger King's Whopper Jr. is 340 calories. No, it's not as big as a regular Whopper, but it tastes the same. Maybe you can hire someone with tiny hands to feed it to you so it looks larger. Like Cee-Lo Green? There's something really great about knowing you can eat an old school item at a fast food restaurant without feeling guilty about it.

    Sam's comment: I believe she was referring to Cee-Lo's freakishly tiny hand, NOT to the burger looking large like Cee-Lo. Although it could really go either way.

  6. Jack in the Box Tacos. There might not be a Jack in the Box where you live, but if there is you'll be happy to know that two JITB tacos clock in at 390 calories. I've never tried these, but my mom is a big fan. And I always trust moms.

    Sam's comment: If Taco Bell, Chipotle and Jack in the Box can all find a way to make a taco not horrible for you, I'll take that as a sign that having a taco or two, in general, is not horrible for you. Jack in the Box might be the biggest surprise of the three because their tacos are always just dripping in my retirement grease.

  7. Panda Express Broccoli Beef. Panda Express has many choices that will fulfill your entire daily caloric intake in one meal. Especially the Orange Chicken. One item that will not do this is the Broccoli Beef. They give you a decent amount of beef in a sea of broccoli florets (I'm so excited to use "broccoli florets" in a sentence) -- and it is only 120 calories per serving! I'm not even sure how that's possible, but it is! Unless, of course, their nutritional information is all just a lie.

    Sam's comment: Their nutritional info might be a lie. According to the commercials their CEO and COO are both pandas.

  8. Soup.
    Subway Golden Broccoli and Cheese Soup. One place that runs the gamut from super healthy to terrible for you is Subway. Most items are pretty obvious-- turkey breast is low in calories, a pound of steak covered in cheese is high, etc, etc. But one thing that sounds like it should be high in calories -- but isn't -- is the broccoli and cheese soup. Typically broccoli cheese soup is calorie packed (because if you do it right, it's basically a vat of melted cheese with a few broccoli florets thrown in), but Subway has managed to do it in 200 calories.

    And it has the fewest carbs of any of the soups, which is good if you eat low carb and are stuck going to Subway. Otherwise you have to get one of their subs as a salad, which is disappointing.

    Sam's comment: The phrase "broccoli florets" is quickly becoming the MVP of this list.

  9. Dunkin' Donuts Sugared Cocoa Donut. One of the worst parts of living in Los Angeles is that there is not a Dunkin' Donuts anywhere around here. Some people complain about the traffic or the smog, but the complete absence of Dunkin' Donuts is worse. So next time I get out and have a chance to eat Dunkin' Donuts again, I'm going to try their new not-that-terrible-for-you donut. It is 200 calories and goes by the name of "Sugared Cocoa Donut". I'm guessing it's a chocolate donut covered in granulated sugar. Sounds perfect! Someone in the Midwest or the East please go get one and report back. I must know how it is. Even if it's just decent, I'll eat two decent donuts for 400 calories over one good donut for 400 calories any day.

    Sam's comment: It is kind of mysterious that there are no Dunkin' Donuts in L.A. It's not that the city is health conscious. The are tons of cupcake shops and In-N-Out Burgers. Outside of building a bullet train to Vegas, bringing a Dunkin' Donuts to Los Angeles is probably the second-most lucrative urban development project here.

  10. Wendy's Double Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. Wendy's has always been one of my favorites. And their Double Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger is 440 calories, which is not bad at all for a fast food burger with TWO patties. And not just two patties, two square patties. Those eight extra corners add up.

    Sam's comment: This was my biggest surprise on the list. Even "junior"-sized double bacon cheeseburgers sound like they're conspiring actively to kill you.

  11. Starbucks Caramel Macchiato. I am not a coffee drinker. I just don't like it and have no interest in acquiring a taste for it. But most of the world enjoys coffee, so I had to include something from Starbucks. Yes, they have plenty of "light" and "skinny" options that you know are going to be lower in calories, but there's a hidden gem that's in the "full figured" category (I wish they called it that). And that's the tall Iced Caramel Macchiato for 170 calories (as is, with 2% milk). Compared to the rest of Starbucks menu, that's extremely low. Starbucks has perfected the art of making coffee -- which should have around zero calories -- really bad for you.

    Sam's comment: I don't drink coffee either. We're both very lucky that we don't have to wake up to be anywhere... well, almost ever. Leisurely mornings equal no coffee drinking.

One final note from Angie: I am not a nutritionist or dietician. I do not suggest that eating fast food is "healthy" -- but if you're going to eat there, might as well know what's not horrible for you.

One final note from Sam: I agree. Everyone knows the answer to eating healthy is "don't eat fast food." But that's like abstinence-only sex education. Doesn't work, leaves people unprepared. Angie's creating the fast food equivalent of teaching kids about condoms and dental dams.

This post was originally published on Monday, January 7, 2013 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Food & Drink.

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