The Emergency Fast Food Guide

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We’re proud to be bringing you the first article from our sponsor, Protein Dynamix. It just goes to show that there are ‘good’ options, even when dealing with fast food! Emergency fast food features in most of our lives, especially when we’re busy dads, this guide can help you make the right choices with that fast food!

Burgers, pizzas, kebabs, Chinese, Indian, fish & chips – the options are endless when it comes to fast food. The truth is, we live in a society where sometimes time is against us and these options are, quite frankly, the most convenient. Also, let’s face it, the meals can be cheap, tasty and hit the spot when craving something naughty.

Emergency fast food guide

This guide should steer you towards healthier alternatives when you are seeking food on the go… along with some tips on how you can make little adjustments to a meal to reduce those sneaky extra calories that may be overlooked! These can be very helpful not only for weight management but also for healthy living.

It’s no secret to any of us that the typical choices for fast food are unhealthy – they tend to be high in trans fats, saturated fats, sodium and calories. The meals are not very balanced, often extremely high in carbohydrates and lack nutritiously dense ingredients such as fruit and vegetables. The key to eating fast food is moderation. I’m not saying, “Don’t eat these foods”, but it’s important to do it only occasionally, so you don’t get reliant on the habit of take-away and convenience.

Plan ahead

If you know you are having a take-away that evening then plan for it. Take into account that the sodium levels in the foods will be higher than you would normally consume, so reduce your salt content in foods leading up to the meal. Also, most fast food chains have a website that will contain the nutritional information of all their foods. Failing that, many apps that we can download to our iPhones and Androids can provide nutritional information (I highly recommend downloading one of these).

Sounds healthy? Double check!

A typical example would be a salad. Certain salads are emphasised in taste due to the high fat dressings they come with and often the protein content is minimal. So, you find yourself with some lettuce, high-fat dressings and little else, however, the calorie content can be surprisingly high. This is where learning how to read nutritional information on food labels comes in useful. Ironically, some burgers can be nutritionally healthier than some salads!

Tweak your food order

You have the right as a customer to make slight changes to meals to make them more suitable for you. For instance, you could order a plain burger with no sauce, cheese or extras, such as bacon. Another alternative would be to change the bread type – from white to wholegrain. Try a lighter sauce for your curry, or even opt for marinated spices over sauce. Choose a thin crust pizza over any other base. I appreciate not all restaurants and fast food chains are able to accommodate, but it’s worth asking.

Read the menu properly

Check how the food you order is cooked. Opt for lean meats and grilled options over fried, battered, creamy options. Even a simple change in an Indian-based dish from a creamy korma dish to a masala dish can make a lot of difference in calories. When ordering Italian food, consider tomato-based sauce as opposed to cream. Simple changes and wiser choices can make a lot of difference to the nutritional make-up of the meal.

Do you really need that side dish?

Many fast food chains offer a meal and then tempt you with many delicious sides to accompany the meal. These innocuous dishes all create additional unwanted calories. Ask yourself, would you have opted for the extras prior to seeing them? Hunger and greed can sometimes kick in at this visual stage. Be careful! These extras can add calories to the meal, usually with no nutritional benefit. For example, large fries at McDonalds provide more than 500 empty calories!


We all need to wash down that tasty food with something refreshing right? Take care again on what you choose. Many sodas have more calories than you may realise, so try and keep to the zero calorie options, or better still, bottled water!

Make informed decisions

So you can see, there are ways you can make wiser choices in relation to fast food. It is about educating yourself to a different way of thinking. Be aware of the extras and sides that are offered, normally you don’t really need them. Try to keep meals to under 500 calories (a lot of take-away chains have meals over 800 calories) or alternatively choose from the children’s menu. Plan ahead in some cases and take your own sides, just pick something as a main dish.

The best thing you can do though is to plan ahead, check the websites of the chosen food chain as mentioned previously, plan your food choices, track in a food app and adjust your food for the rest of the day to accommodate those tempting extra calories!

Enjoy! (In moderation, of course).

It would be great to hear your thoughts and experiences on fast food choices, or if you have any questions just tweet @proteindynamix and @sportsdadhq

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  1. casey grice

    Oh man. So tough. I usually just eat what I want and try to exercise it off. The older I get, the tougher that is to do though. Maybe I’ll wise up one day. Posts like this sure help.

  2. John Adams

    Emergency fast food? Fish fingers cooked under the grill. You can’t go wrong. A bit of white fish in paprika and breadcrumbs. Served with peas of brocolli and voila! A great meal.

  3. Sarah Howe

    I’m a dietitian so I think my programmed Brain looks to do a lot of the things you suggest! Good tips; eating out can be so tricky when aiming for a healthy diet! Also I’m similar to one of the other comments; don’t do it often and exercise it off! ️Xx #bigfatlinky

  4. Urban Mumble

    I’m always shocked by how little people understand about healthy eating. I mean, the information is out there and there’s plenty of it! Somehow it’s just not getting through. Nobody thinks they have an unhealthy diet or eat too much sugar/white flour/processed foods etc. It’s like when we are the ones eating it, it somehow doesn’t register…

  5. Lisa (mummascribbles)

    We actually hardly ever have fast food. Maybe once a month we might get a Chinese or a pizza but that’s about it! Zach thinks the M sign outside McDonald’s is just M for mummy – he has no idea what’s inside and I have no intentions of him finding out any time soon!! #bigfatlinky

  6. Laura @ Life with Baby Kicks

    Oh man, see I am the marketers dream. This whole post had me wanting big fat burgers with cheese and sauce, thick creamy curry……….good job I don’t do it that often. And that I can blame pregnancy!!!x

  7. LittleOandMe

    Fab tips, We are guilty of a few too many take away pizzas although I would never let my son eat any maybe that says something! #BigFatLinky Becky

  8. Lewis AKA Dadwhoblogs

    We let the boys eat fast food but as with everything we enjoy, we do it in moderation.
    I think the government needs to do more to restrict what can and can’t be done with fast food but then I would imagine that 90% of those eating fast food knows how bad it CAN be unless you use the things mentioned in this post.

  9. Alana Perrin

    I’ll try to bear this in mind when I eat out … And I’ll stop using a weaning baby to buy garlic bread as a side!

  10. Megan - truly madly kids

    A little of what you fancy …!

    I’m good during the week, and not so good at the weekend! All in moderation though #bigfatlinky

  11. Ashley Beolens

    I just can’t resist the “dirty” food once in a while (well way too often really).

    But I really must make that change.

  12. Kaye

    I’m with Becky, I’ll always splurge but never let Archie near fast food, should care about being healthy as much as I care about Archie being healthy!

  13. Mrs Puddleducky

    Me & hubby always eat more when we get a takeout & always order way too much food, not sure why. Not done a takeaway for the kids yet, my boys probably just getting to the age where we could. Weve done MacDonalds with him but he hates it! Thankfully!

  14. Morna

    I agree with Adam – I’m a fish finger girl! We’re off takeaway at the moment for money saving reasons – I really miss it. This evening I nearly broke but got my act together and cooked a healthy meal instead. I think the odd takeawy is find though -provided you eat healthily 90% of the time.

  15. DeVon

    Yeah I agree with you on the moderation advice. We generally avoid fast food and are trying to wean our kids away from the lure of those places. Due to busy day we did succumb to eating at 2 of these places today! Very rare for us. Here’s a taste of how generally eat on Saturday mornings….

    • Al Ferguson

      Sometimes it’s just one of those days! :)

  16. Michelle Reeves (bodfortea)

    Great tips! We don’t do that much fast food at Bod Towers, mostly because of the HUGE calorific value of most fast foods, but when we do I usually tweak the order a bit as this post suggests. That said we are SO having pizza the night of our house move next week – thin crust of course :) #bigfatlinky

    • Al Ferguson

      A bit of tweaking is always good :) Good luck with the house move and enjoy the pizza! :)

  17. Laura- Dot Makes 4

    I really love takeaways, but both my hubby and I are being good and enjoying home cooked meals instead- much better for you, and I love the fact that we know exactly what’s in what we’re eating :)

    • Al Ferguson

      Glad to hear you’re enjoying the change :)

  18. Lianne

    Very informative post defiantly make me think twice when ordering x

  19. Joanna @mumbalance

    I think it’s difficult to plan things ahead with fast food. By nature of it, if you are having a fast food day it’s likely to be a busy day. You won’t have time to look up content or check out apps. And as you point out good old common sense does not work when making a choice of your meal (all the fat and hidden sugars in salads).
    Out of takeaways I only really have fish and chips, and if I’m feeling really health conscious I’ll take the batter off (I know it’s the best bit :( and skip the chips for a quick home salad (greens from a bag with olive oil and lemon juice and maybe tomatoes). So I guess my way with a take-away is to add quick, healthy home-made sides to add nutrition.

  20. Mike Smith | Sunshine Dad

    Easier read than done. Great tips and pointers. Wouldn’t it be great if we never needed to eat unhealthy fast food? Those big menus with the delicious pictures get me every time. And what’s funny is I’ll go out of my way to make sure my kids are eating healthy and I’ll just put any old junk in my body when I’m hungry.

  21. Tony

    Being a vegetarian with a vegetarian 16 year old daughter adds a whole new level to making sure our dietary needs are met, there are certain minerals and vitamins that may be low in our bodies like vitamin B12, though this can be found in certain foods and marmite, also Iron levels are quite critical and need to be monitored, as do sodium levels etc, for me getting the balance right is very important, getting the balance right for my daughter is far more critical as at certain times of the month her iron levels will deplete more rapidly and needs to be addressed pre menstruation, combining the correct diet and regular exercise is key to maintaining a healthy body and mind, that being said we both have a penchant for “naughty food” or sugar laden processed junk food, and I doubt if a week goes by where we do not treat ourselves to an unhealthy choice, balance is the key.

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