What Fast Foods do Registered Dietitian Nutritionists Eat?

Yay! Yay! It’s National Fast Food Day!

Back in the olden days, (1982) I taught Fast Food Operations at the University of Wisconsin – Stout and ran the Edible Express Restaurant. I was so lucky to be paid to work with dietetics and hospitality majors to manage the restaurant and serve healthy lunches to their fellow students in the Home Ec building. Of course, the special of the day always included a fruit and milk which bothered the hospitality major for the added cost of fresh fruit and milk but was welcomed by the dietetics majors. The bonus was I was only about 5 years older than my students so every day was fun and enjoyable. (What college teachers get earrings and perfume from their students? ME! )


Since then I have been enamored with the latest foods and fast food trends. It was a JOY DAY when I lived in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Taco Bell opened.  I was enamored with their taco pizza dripping with cheese. I traveled for the Dairy Council of Wisconsin and remember how difficult it was to eat this pizza while driving. I was washed down my fast food with a nice carton of milk.

I also remember thirty plus years ago when I first moved to Minneapolis, one of my first “must eats” was White Castle. I will never forget watching two guys buy watches while standing in line. Yes, this White Castle was in a rough neighborhood. Not every day is there “bartering” going on in your fast food line.

I discovered the White Castle slider (slides down as there are 18 sliders per pound) was not my favorite, and never ate another one.

My all time fav is simple – McDonald’s Cheeseburger on a leaf of lettuce with extra pickles with a Side Salad with Paul Newman’s Balsamic Vinaigrette. Since being diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity no bun for me. Three years later I can finally say I am used to no bun. It is convenient and the perfect size combination of burger with a crunchy salad with a savory vinaigrette. My only wish was that that salad had more tomatoes and veggies. Note: You must be a passenger when eating this and not the driver!

My Registered Dietitian Nutritionist friends have more ideas for you.

When life gets hectic and when Sharon is out and about, one of her favorite fast-casual restaurants is Chipotle. Since their food borne illness scare in October 2015, they instituted a rigorous food safety protocol, probably making them one of the safest places to eat. Sharon also really likes their food and agriculture philosophy They have a great interactive nutrition calculator allowing you to build your meal and see the nutrition facts as you go. You can add or remove items to get just the calorie level you are looking for. For example, if you are making a bowl, you can skip the rice and do lettuce instead. Then add the tofu sofritas, 2 kinds of beans, the fajitas veggies, and tomatillo salsa (this one is the lowest in sodium). You get a very yummy and filling salad for a reasonable 450 calories meal with at least 4 servings of veggies! Sharon’s biggest gripe is the high level of sodium in their foods. It’s difficult to stay under the daily guideline of 2300 milligrams since they add sodium to just about every ingredient.  So, if you have hypertension you need to keep an eye on the sodium when you are building your meal. Thanks Sharon!

For the longest time, like years, Julia loved the treat of a McDonald’s McChicken sandwich with a side of hot, salty fries and a fountain Diet Coke. Her perfect fast food combo! Zero guilt – as it was a very occasional indulgence. Nowadays, sadly, Julia’s gluten-free life doesn’t allow it, but if she really wants that combo she says she can make it herself Of course you can Julia! I get it I am gluten free too. Thank you Julia for the great idea! @jugglingjuliaRD

Lauren has 3 fave “fast foods”

Subway rotisserie chicken on a “scooped out” 6″ whole grain roll with every available veggie except olives and a tiny bit of chipotle sauce. Panera “You pick two” with garden vegetable and pesto soup, 1/2 ancient grain and arugula salad with chicken (dressing on the side) and an apple.   And Lauren adores the Starbucks Spinach, Feta and Cage Free Egg White Breakfast Wrap or Chicken and Quinoa Protein Bowl with Black Beans and Greens. Each of these is a fast and easy source of protein, fiber, veggies and whole grains you don’t need to make yourself. Each meal averages 300-400 calories which is incredibly modest for fast food and really tasty too!  The key Lauren like you stated, is that they are a wholesome source of calories and as you pointed out…you don’t need to cook them yourself. Sometimes we want to have less kitchen time and eat out. And eating out doesn’t have to break the calorie and fat bank. Thanks you Lauren! @LaurenPincusRD

Judy jokes that she is a fast food illiterate.  She reminds us that it seems like they ask for your order as you approach the counter and she doesn’t even know what is on the menu. (Because she loves loves loves to cook!)  However, at Wendy’s during colder weather, she enjoys the chili over a plain baked potato. Hearty! Satisfying! And an inexpensive food solution!

She also enjoys the half-size apple pecan chicken salad. This salad has enough protein that it keeps her full plus she enjoys the variety of textures and flavors. Thanks Judy. You bring up a good point about the chili. It is an inexpensive solution when you are hungry and want to not cook and eat very quickly. Thanks Judy! @JudyBarbe

Samina’s favorite fast food is Whataburger’sWhataburger Jr. It is just the right size for her to enjoy the whole burger without feeling super stuffed and has all the components of a classic burger. Just like most fast food joints, this burger is high in sodium so she makes sure she grabs a bottle of water to stay hydrated. When Samina goes out for fast food she tries to savor every bite and enjoy the experience mindfully. She believes all foods fit within a wholesome diet and one fast food meal every now and then won’t make you a bad or unhealthy person. Samina believes your food choices do not define your morality and you don’t have to eat a 100% “clean” diet to achieve your best health. It’s all about finding the right balance for you. I agree Samina. I love your philosophy that all food fits! @wholesomeStart

Sarah wants to liberalize all foods and loves to show that dietians are “real” people and sometimes eat fast food. Sarah favorite road trip meal is

Chic Fila Fried Chicken Sandwich with Waffle Fries – so simple but tasty! Sarah loves the taste of fried chicken and Chic Fila does it really well. Sarah says you can’t beat their waffle fries with chic fila sauce and honey mustard. Sarah, who doesn’t love fried chicken with a side of fries on a road trip  @bucketlisttumRD

Caroline’s favorite fast food is the Taco Bell Veggie Power Bowl.  She says this bowl has it all – black beans, rice, pico, guacamole, reduced fat sour cream and avocado ranch sauce.  It tastes AMAZING and is under 500 calories (420 to be exact) with 13 grams of fiber!  (Most Americans don’t even consume 13 grams of fiber in a 24 hour period!).  Caroline also loves supporting Taco Bell as they have 2 dietitians on staff.  I love it too Caroline. Thanks Caroline! @CarolineSusieRD


Hope you have a new food that sounds yummy and healthy that you want to try.
What is your favorite fast food meal?



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