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5 Fast Food Meals for No-Brainer Weight Loss

Know before you go, and you'll put calorie-reduction on autopilot.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Every day one-third of Americans order a fast-food meal that's typically high in calories and low in nutrients, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One third! Every day!

Not you, you say? Good. However, CDC stats say most Americans go for fast food one to three times a week on average. If you're being honest, you probably fall into that category. And when you do visit a fast-food joint, you're probably a creature of habit, ordering what you always order. Considering that the average number of calories per adult fast-food meal is 836, that eating habit can quickly add up to extra pounds you don't want (especially if you're ordering one of the Fast-Food Items that are Deceptively Unhealthy).

Now, you don't have to ditch the once-to-three-times-weekly fast-food habit to lose weight. (Fast food is a convenient and affordable way to feed yourself, after all.) And since that's the case, the best thing you can do is choose the healthiest meals with the lowest calories that will still satisfy your hunger. Don't figure that out while you're staring at the menu board. Let us order for you: Here are five fast-food meals for no-brainer weight loss for whatever you're craving. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

For when you need a quick, filling breakfast.

mcdonalds egg mcmuffin

Order the classic McDonald's Egg McMuffin. It has been on the Eat This, Not That! thumbs up list since the days when we first started publishing our best-selling books. And for good reason: it hasn't changed. You get a hot egg and Canadian bacon breakfast delivering 17 grams of satisfying protein on an English muffin. Total calories and carbs: just 310 and 30 g, respectively. And you can knock down those calories, sodium, and the 6 g of saturated fat by ordering it without the cheese. It's hard to do better than this sandwich at a fast-food restaurant.

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For when you're craving a burger.

burger king hamburger
Courtesy of Burger King

Ask yourself, do you really need a Whopper or a Big Mac? Remember how bloated and tired you felt after your last one? When you're craving a fast-food burger, get your fix at BK with a single hamburger (99 calories) or cheeseburger (111) and add a garden side salad (99 calories without dressing).

If you're a little hungrier, at McD's order a Happy Meal with a hamburger, kid-size fries, low-fat milk, and apple slices (475 calories total).

But maybe you're cruising down Sepulveda Boulevard in West L.A. and can't resist the siren call of an In-N-Out burger. Order one Protein-Style and have your burger wrapped in a lettuce leaf to save you the carb-heavy bun and about 150 calories.

On the East Coast, consider going meatless with Shake Shack's vegetarian 'Shroom Burger without the bun.

RELATEDIn-N-Out's Surprising Secret Menu Item You Had No Idea Existed

For when you have kids, and you can't nix the nuggets.

chick fil a grilled nuggets

Be honest: You love chicken nuggets, too. When you pull up to the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru, order their grilled nuggets, which are much healthier than breaded and fried chicken nuggets. The 8-piece option contains just 130 calories and 6 grams of fat. The Zesty Buffalo Dipping Sauce adds only 25 calories. For a balanced meal, get your greens by ordering the Kale Crunch Side, a salad of curly kale, green cabbage, roasted almonds, and an apple cider/Dijon mustard vinaigrette (120 calories).

RELATEDSecret Side Effects of Eating Grilled Chicken, Says Science

For when you need more than a green salad.

arbys roast chicken entree salad
Courtesy of Arby's

Just add beans. You can add black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils at many Saladworks-style restaurants to make your salad heartier. Or order a grab-and-go salad with chicken for the protein boost like Arby's Roast Chicken Entrée Salad, which weighs in at only 250 calories and 14 grams of fat.

For when you're craving Tex-Mex.

Chipotle/ Facebook

Before you run to Chipotle Mexican Grill, browse the fast-food chain's online menu and play around with the nutrition calculator. You'll find that it's easy to load up those bowls and end up with a meal well over 1,000 calories.

Instead of a jam-packed burrito, miniaturize your meal and mix and match fillings in two crispy corn tortilla tacos with steak. For example, two tacos with steak, fajita vegetables, guacamole, romaine lettuce, and tomatillo green chili salsa will stick to your ribs at 412 calories, 18 g protein, and 25 g fat. Compare that to just about any stuffed burrito.

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Jeff Csatari
Jeff Csatari, a contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, is responsible for editing Galvanized Media books and magazines and for advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Moravian University in Bethlehem, PA. Read more about Jeff