Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue
Health & Wellness

8 Hacks for Healthier Fast Food


Fast food is often a necessary evil for first responders. All it takes is one morning inconvenience and boom! You forgot your lunch. Healthy eating and even weight loss are possible with the right choices. Dodge the supersized portions and fried appetizers by using the following smart eating strategies.

  1. Plan ahead: check out the restaurant before you go, maybe around lineup in the morning. Look for a healthier option and make the decision to order before you go. If you wait to order when you’re tired and cranky, you are less likely to make a healthy decision. Or, if you know you will want a burger or another meal off your typical plan, plan the rest of your day around that. Double up on vegetables, fruit, lean protein, and water leading up to that meal.
  2. Keep portions reasonable: resist the urge to supersize and pick the smaller or medium burger size.
  3. Choose healthier sides and dips: load up on healthier sides like an apple or orange slices, a baked potato, a fruit and yogurt parfait, beans, chili, steamed rice, or baked potato chips. Opt for low-fat dressings, balsamic vinaigrette, or oil and vinegar.
  4. Go bun-less: ask for an open-faced or take off half the bun on burgers or sandwiches. This doesn’t mean that carbs are “bad,” but it is a way to reduce portions if the bun isn’t your favorite part of the meal. If you ran some high intensity calls that day, keep the bun to help replace your glycogen stores. This may be important for your energy if more intense calls come later in the shift. 
  5. Have a salad: as a full meal with grilled chicken or shrimp or as a side. Avoid excess calories by throwing away the croutons, crunchy noodles, cheese, croutons, and full fat dressing.
  6. Watch what you drink: order water, diet soda, unsweetened iced tea, or sparkling water. Diet soda in moderation is a great option to reduce sugar, so long as artificial sweeteners do not give you headaches or stomach aches. 
  7. Ask for grilled, steamed, or broiled entrees: avoid crispy or fried when possible. Grilled, steams, or broiled entrees are often lower in fat but still flavorful. 
  8. Customize your meal: do not hesitate to ask for substitutions. Ask for no bun or bread, less condiments, or to add veggies when possible. If you are at Cava or Chipotle, as for extra veggies and salsas. Load up on beans and lentils to boost the fiber content of your bowl.


It may sound impossible to lose body fat on fast food, but it all comes down to your choices. As a dietitian, I have worked with several firefighters who don’t have time or don’t like to cook. These firefighters saw over 20 pounds of weight loss by making better fast food decisions. These decisions were not easy but still made a difference in these firefighters’ fat loss goals.


Megan Lautz, MS, RD, CSCS, TSAC-F 

Megan is a Registered Dietitian and coach who specializes in firefighter nutrition. Megan’s mission is to help firefighters perform better, recover faster, and enjoy long healthy retirements. Megan is the owner of RescueRD LLC, which provides nutrition seminars and coaching for tactical athletes across the country. Check out @Rescue.RD on Facebook and Instagram.

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