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10 Mistakes You're Making When You're Ordering Fast Food

Make sure you're getting the best meal you can while keeping safe as you enjoy your favorite go-to order.

Sometimes, a trip to the drive-thru for a burger and fries is just necessary. And while we're currently living in a world where dining at a sit-down restaurant is out of the question, most fast-food establishments are still allowing customers to order via delivery and the drive-thru. So if that hankering for your go-to fast-food meal just won't go away, you can still order that beloved meal.

But you want to make sure you're ordering the right way, of course.

Here, we rounded up the biggest fast-food mistakes you just might be making so the next time you roll up to the drive-thru, you're getting the best and safest experience. Those fries are worth it, after all.

You change your order at the window.

McDonald's employee handing customer food through the drive thru window

There is one big mistake you should never make, no matter when you're heading to the drive-thru, and that is changing or adding more items on to your order when you're already at the cashier window to pay. Asking if you can add on a drink you forgot or ordering another milkshake slows down the process for you, the customers in line behind you, and the employees, too. Overall, it makes their job more difficult, as they then have to re-enter the entire order in order to charge you for the additional items and you make everyone wait longer. Plus, this is more time you're spending in front of these workers when we're living in a time when social distancing is vital and limiting the amount of contact with others is imperative.

If you really want something else, just looping back around, getting in line again, and making another order is best!

You're eating right from the bag.

Man eating an hamburger while driving car

Hey, it's happened to the best of us: you're super hungry and once the delicious smells from that bag of food are wafting through your car, you reach in and steal some fries. But if you can wait until you're home to start eating, please do. A study has shown that coronavirus remains infectious for up to 24 hours on cardboard surfaces, and it may be able to survive on other surfaces, as this is something that is still being tested. So opening the bag of food and digging into it without properly sanitizing the surface or yourself most likely isn't your best bet if you're trying to play it safe! This brings you to our next point…

You're not washing your hands.

man eating sandwich

According to the CDC, you should wash your hands with soap, lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails, for 20 seconds. So going straight from McDonald's to your kitchen and eating your meal without washing your hands is simply not something anyone should be doing right now. And as Cordialis Msora-Kasago, MA, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics told us in a previous article, "Before eating, or even taking a little nibble of french fries, wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer. If possible, take the food out of the bag and use a plate and utensils."

You're not taking the food out of the containers it came in.

empty McDonalds containers

Again, this all comes back to not wanting to eat from something that may have dangerous germs on it, but this also helps with portion control. Taking food out of the containers it's served it and putting it on a plate helps you see just how much food is in front of you and will allow you to think about portion control.

RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

You're paying with cash.

fast food drive thru

A direct hand-off of cash is another way to spread germs and it's apparent how rapidly COVID-19 has been spreading to people all over the world. Instead, pay with a credit or debit card, or better yet, if you can pay ahead via an app, that would be ideal.

You're not making any meal modifications.

Big Mac and fries

We get it, you're not necessarily heading to your favorite fast food joint for a healthy meal. But it's important right now that you try to get as many nutrients as you can in every meal. So maybe swap out a side order of fries for a salad (as long as it's not an unhealthy salad!) or even apple slices; skip the soda and go for a bottle of water instead; try out some of the vegetarian options; maybe not order a large-sized of, well, anything on the menu. Small modifications are all we're asking for here!

You're using touch screens to place your order.

drive thru sign

While the dine-in experience is no longer an option, there's still a chance you can encounter a touch-screen. Whether it's at a drive-thru, or your local fast-food favorite is allowing customers to come inside and place their order for takeout that way, there's a possibility you might have to use a touch-screen. This is yet another surface that germs can linger. As Cedrina Calder, MD, Preventive Medicine Doctor, and health and wellness expert, told us in a previous story, if someone with COVID-19 coughs or sneezes, "respiratory droplets containing the virus can land on nearby surfaces or objects," so "it is possible that you could get COVID-19 by touching surfaces or objects where the droplets have landed and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes."

In short, steer clear of the touch screen!

You're standing too close in line to other customers.

Mcdonald's line

You're most likely not the only person craving a burger. So if you happen to find yourself in line waiting to place your order, make sure you're standing at least six feet apart from other customers waiting to order their food.

You're ordering more food than you can eat.

cheeseburger piles

Your eyes can sometimes be bigger than your stomach and if you end up over-ordering, that's OK. As long as you don't eat it all in one sitting! And the best way to avoid this from happening is to practice mindful eating habits—stop eating when you're full and save any leftover food to eat the next day. Leftovers are always a gift that keeps on giving. Speaking of leftovers…

You're not storing leftovers in the fridge fast enough.

leftover french fries with a little tiny bit of ketchup

If you return home with your loot in hand and get to eating—after properly washing your hands and disinfecting surfaces, that is—and you have leftover food, your first instinct might just be to let it sit out on the counter while you relish in that meal you just enjoyed. But you don't want to leave those leftovers sitting out for too long, as prepared foods left out at room temperature for more than two hours can cause illness. So you're going to want to make sure any food you don't eat is immediately stored away in containers in your refrigerator.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
Jennifer Maldonado
Jennifer Maldonado is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and health content. Read more about Jennifer
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