Being told you have (or are at risk for) high cholesterol can feel devastating—not just because the condition can lead to serious medical conditions like heart attack and stroke, but also because you may need to rethink your whole diet. Especially when it comes to how often you consume things like fast food.
“One of the key contributors to high cholesterol is a high intake of saturated fat, typically found in fried foods, baked goods (muffins, pastries, biscuits, croissants), and other desserts,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our Medical Expert Board. “So while swinging through a drive-thru is inevitable from time to time, if you do it often, the foods you are eating might be contributing to your high cholesterol.”
Thankfully, there are options for those moments when you’re in a bind and need an easy, delicious fast-food meal. Read on to learn some of the fast-food orders Goodson suggests for those watching their cholesterol, then check out 7 Fast-Food Chains That Use the Highest Quality Ingredients.
“Many drive-thru breakfast sandwiches are layered on buttery biscuits and croissants, which contain a good amount of saturated fat,” says Goodson. “A better order is oatmeal with fruit, which is high in soluble fiber and can actually help you lower cholesterol. Another option is a breakfast sandwich on a whole grain English muffin and cut the bacon, which is also high in saturated fat.”
You can get oatmeal at Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Burger King to name a few, and Chick-fil-A offers a delicious egg white sandwich on a multigrain English muffin.
Another simple way to keep your cholesterol in mind when ordering fast food is to look for a fruit option as a side.
“Instead of ordering fries as a side item, cut back on the saturated fat and order fruit instead,” says Goodson. “Fruit is lower in calories and contains fiber, which can help lower cholesterol as well.”
If you’re looking for a fast-food spot that offers fruit, places like Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s all offer some sort of fruit cup as a side item.
One easy shift to make next time you’re grabbing fast food is opting for grilled instead of fried. This simple move can help your cholesterol management significantly.
“Grilled chicken sandwiches and wraps are a great option in the drive-thru line because they are lower in total and saturated fat,” says Goodson. “Skip the mayonnaise or creamy sauce and choose mustard instead, and if you really want to up the fiber of this meal, choose a grilled chicken salad instead with vinaigrette dressing.”
“If you are craving a burger, try the kid-size or a basic quarter-pounder burger, and skip the mayonnaise and creamy sauce, the bacon, and any fried accompaniments and replace them with extra lettuce and tomato,” says Goodson.
Thankfully, almost every fast-food restaurant has a kids’ burger option, and most of them sell a simple, single-patty burger. This way, if you’re craving a burger, you can satisfy that craving while still keeping your saturated fat and processed sugar content fairly low.