The Best Fast Food Chains In The Nation

The latest issue of Consumer Reports tackles the weighty issue of the best and worst chain restaurants out there competing for your dining dollar. Here’s a quick look at the best and worst fast food/fast casual chains in America.

In the burger category, the best burger in America is In-N-Out Burger. Unfortunately, In-N-Out is only available in Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas, and Utah. Other close contenders include Habit Burger Grill, Burgerville, WhataBurger, and Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburger, and who is in last place? It’s a tie between McDonald’s and Burger King. In Mexican food, the top spot went to Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, and Chipotle came in a close second. The lowest rating went to Taco Bell, and in chicken, Chick-fil-A was No. 1. Last place went to KFC, which got one of the lowest scores of any fast food restaurant in any category. The worst fast food/fast casual restaurant of all was voted Sbarro.

Clark Howard 

Tip of the Day

Did you know that the #1 source of calories in the American diet is desserts or that Americans get more calories from sugary drinks than any other beverage?

Choose My Plate

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Article of the Week

Healthful and Safe Eating on Vacation

Summer vacations are a time to relax, revitalize and enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of new places. When it comes to maintaining a healthful eating plan on vacation, your family can still enjoy the new, fun and exciting foods that come with traveling without packing on the pounds. Here are a few tips to eat right while on summer vacation:

  • Sample small amounts of high-calorie foods. You don’t have to avoid these foods entirely, just reduce the amount you eat to a few bites.
  • Share large portions. Many restaurants serve very large portions, so don’t hesitate to split orders.
  • Space meals throughout the day. It can be easy to “graze” while on vacation. Try to set meal times and stick to them.
  • Engage in some type of physical activity most days. There is no better time to enjoy a walk with your family than on vacation. You see the new sights up close and keep your bodies healthy at the same time.

Taking It with You

If a road trip is part of your vacation, packing healthy foods is a great way to maintain a diet. Try these tips for healthful eating on the road:

  • Pack a cooler with fresh vegetables and fruit for snacks. Stock up on cut-up broccoli florets, carrot sticks and apple and orange slices.
  • For beverages, bring canned or boxed 100-percent fruit juice, canned tomato juice and bottled water.
  • Bring boxes of raisins and resealable pouches of dried fruit like apricots.
  • Deli sandwiches, yogurt and low-fat cheese make a great lunch.
  • Get out of the car every hour or two to take a short walk and stretch your legs.

Be sure to keep your backseat treats safe with these easy tips:

  • Pack easy-to-transport, shelf-stable foods. Good choices include cereal, trail mix, popcorn, single-serve applesauce, cans of tuna, peanut butter sandwiches, fresh fruit, carrots or celery.
  • Don’t let food sit unrefrigerated for more than two hours, and make sure coolers remain at or below 40°F.
  • In hot weather, place coolers and lunch bags in the back seat instead of the trunk. The environment tends to be cooler in the car, especially when the air conditioning is on.
  • Make sure everyone in the family washes their hands with soap and water before and after eating. If you don’t have access to a restroom, pack moist towelettes or hand sanitizer.

Hot Tip

Celebrate the Watermelon

watermelon

It’s fitting to celebrate the watermelon, since no summer gathering is complete without it. In addition to being a tasty treat, watermelon is a good source of vitamins A and C and contains lycopene, fiber and potassium. It’s also more than 90 percent water, so it can help you stay hydrated on hot days too.
Try a new twist on an old favorite with these ideas:

  • Caramelize watermelon slices on the grill, then drizzle with honey, lime and a pinch of salt.
  • Pair with shrimp on a kabob.
  • Carve out a watermelon to use as a bowl and fill with fruit salad.
  • Use watermelon in place of tomatoes in a citrus salsa.
  • Use its juice as a glaze on shrimp or pork.

Of course, watermelon is also a crowd-pleaser “as is.” Slice it up and you have an instant appetizer, side dish or dessert.

Recipe of the Week

Pesto Chicken Salad Pitas

pesto_chicken_pita

This Mediterranean spin on chicken salad is bursting with fresh flavor thanks to the addition of pesto. Use chopped rotisserie chicken for a time-saving substitute, if desired, to mix up an anything-but-boring lunch in no time!

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons prepared pesto
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
  • ½ cup grated carrot (about 1 medium carrot)
  • 4 mini whole wheat pita rounds, split
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves

Directions:

  1. Combine mayonnaise, pesto, lemon juice and pepper in a medium bowl; whisk until well blended.
  2. Add chicken and carrots; stir to combine.
  3. Stuff each pita evenly with spinach leaves and chicken salad mixture.

Servings: 4 (1 stuffed pita Per Serving)

Nutrition Facts (Amount per serving):

Calories 297
Total Fat 11.9g
Saturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 65mg
Sodium 415mg
Total Carbohydrate 19.2g
Dietary Fiber 2.7g
Protein 25.6g

  • Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Kids Eat Right

Tip of the Day

Tip023

 

Eating out and tempted by decadent desserts? Order one dessert and several spoons.

Restaurant desserts can look so good they can be hard to resist. Some restaurant desserts can have more fat, sugar and calories than your main meal. Luckily, some restaurants offer bite-size portions so you can enjoy the taste without filling up. If you like to treat yourself to a little dessert after a meal share the taste with friends; order one dessert and several spoons.

eaTipster

6 Tips for Dining Out without Blowing Your Nutrition Plan

We love our restaurants: According to the National Restaurant Association, Americans eat about 24 percent — that’s one quarter! — of their meals away from home.

But diners beware: Restaurant food is meant to look and taste great, says Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition And Dietetics, and that means nutrition can sometimes fall by the wayside when menus feature main dishes drenched in butter or rich sauces, salads with creamy dressings, and few whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

We spoke with the experts to bring you the best tips for enjoying a meal out while sticking to a healthy eating plan.

1. Sleuth It Out

These days, you can find healthful foods almost everywhere, says Judy Caplan, MS, RDN, and Academy Spokesperson. The trick is to know what you’re getting into before you get to the restaurant and are tempted by enticing menu descriptions. Many restaurants have their menus online — some with nutrition information readily available. You’ll be able to choose the destination with the healthiest options, and go into the eatery ready to order the best meal and ask for substitutions where necessary.

2. Don’t Split Your Plate

You’ve probably read advice to ask for half portions or share your meal with a friend. But according to Ansel, given the huge portion sizes doled out at some restaurants, “Half may still be too much.” She recommends visualizing what your plate would look like at home and trying to replicate that in your restaurant meal.

3. Add to Your Meal

Think eating healthfully is all about what you can’t eat? Caplan likes to encourage diners to think about what healthy items they can add to their plates instead of only what foods to avoid. Look for whole-grain breads, pastas and sides; opt for foods with healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds; be sure to order up lots of fruits and veggies; and go for lean meat, turkey, chicken or fish.

4. Don’t Go Hungry

You sit down starving, and before you know it you’ve scarfed down several pieces of buttered bread before your main meal arrives. If you’re already hungry before you leave for the restaurant, nosh on a small snack like a piece of fruit. Or, at the restaurant, order a cup of broth-based soup or small salad to stave off hunger.

5. Watch for the Wording

The way a dish is described in a menu can give you clues to how it’s prepared. Look for words like “grilled,” “broiled” or “steamed,” meaning the food is cooked with less fat, and avoid dishes with descriptions like “fried,” “breaded,” “smothered,” “alfredo,” “rich” and “creamy.”

6. Ask, Ask, Ask

Don’t be afraid to ask your server to help you healthy-up your meal. For example, Ansel recommends asking for a salad in place of the usual fries or chips with a meal. You can also ask for items to be prepared with less oil or cheese, ask the server to take away the bread basket and serve salad with dressing on the side, and request an appetizer portion of a main meal.

You can even often order “off-menu” — for example, ask what vegetarian dish the chef can prepare for you or if he’d be able to make grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. Many restaurants are happy to comply.

If you enjoy dining out, don’t think you have to stop if you want to stay healthy. With some preparation and savvy substitutions, you can order meals that are as nutritious as the ones you prepare at home.

By: Sharon Denny, MS, RDN

PICK PROPER PORTIONS

Restaurants want to give you more for your money, but the portions they serve are often much more than anyone should eat in one sitting! Restaurant foods also tend to be overloaded with salt, fat, sugar and calories, which can lead to weight gain. You can cut calories before they arrive at the table by foregoing the bread basket, asking for a child’s size or half order, or by making your own meal out of side salads, soups, steamed veggies and appetizers. If you do get a full-size entree, listen to your body’s natural cues and stop eating when you’re full.

It’s important not to overindulge simply because you’re eating out; enjoy the portions and meal choices that you would normally eat at home.

By: HealthCorps