By Dr. Jennifer Ashton, Chief Women’s Health Correspondent for ABC News
That’s a riddle I ask my patients when we discuss the perils—and pleasures—of eating out when pregnant. They think I’m about to deny them McDonald’s, assuming fast food is off-limits. On the contrary, I tell them: You can enjoy McDonalds, or Denny’s, or most fast food joints or sit-down restaurants. I just want to make sure you’re the one deciding what to buy there, instead of the food marketers who just want your money.
This story—an excerpt from my new book Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting—will help you do just that.
Without a book like mine, it’s nearly impossible to make the exact right choice every time. That’s because the people selling you food don’t have your baby’s best interest in mind. Instead, their main interest is in selling you food—and a lot of it! But I encourage my patients to ask three simple questions before they walk into any restaurant, or prepare any meal: ‘Where’s my protein, where’s my fiber, where’s my healthy fat.’ And if you’re eating at a restaurant, I’d add one more: ‘Do I need this carb? Like, do I really need this carb?’”
Here’s six swaps—and how they can save you calories, sodium, fat and more. And for the complete guide to every popular restaurant—not to mention an aisle-by-alsie guide to the supermarket, featuring brand names like Breyers, Kellogg’s and all the biggies—click here to buy Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting.
Red Mango Strawberry Sonata
(24 oz, 230 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated, 5 g fiber, 28 g sugar, 3 g protein)
With almost 100 fewer calories and more fiber than the “Not That,” this all-fruit pick will give you a steady stream of energy and keep you feeling full until your next meal.
Red Mango Strawberry Energizer
(24 oz, 320 calories, .5 g fat, 0 g saturated, 4 g fiber, 65 g sugar, 5 g protein)
That “energizer” feeling is the sugar coursing through your veins. Believe it or not, this super-sweet yogurt-
based smoothie is on Red Mango’s “Body Balance” menu. Just say no.
IHOP Simple & Fit Vegetable Omelet with pre-cut fruit mix
(350 calories, 10 g fat, 2 g saturated, 905 mg sodium, 7 g fiber, 17 g sugar, 27 g protein)
Simple is the key here. You’ll get iron, calcium, protein, and other pregnancy power-nutrients through the omelet and plenty of fiber through the fruit. No muss, no fuss, no bacon on the side.
IHOP Harvest Grain ‘N Nut Egg White Combo
(610 calories, 35 g fat, 8 g saturated, 1,490 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 25 g protein)
From the name alone, you’d think egg whites would be the star of this meal, and some unhealthy bacon along but they’re not! Instead, you’re getting carb-heavy pancakes with a small portion of egg whites.
Chipotle Soft Corn Tortilla Tacos with Steak, Cheese, Lettuce, and Fresh Tomato Salsa
(530 calories, 16 g fat, 7 g saturated, 1,135 mg sodium, 8 g fiber, 39 g protein)
As you’ll learn in Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting, your body uses iron to make extra blood for your little one, and steak delivers more than 20 percent of the amount you need in a day. Plus, this protein and fiber combo will fill you up without weighing you down with rice.
Chipotle Burrito with Steak, Black Beans, White Rice, Cheese, Sour Cream, and Roasted Chili-Corn Salsa
(1,115 calories, 39.5 g fat, 15.5 g saturated, 2,165 mg sodium, 19 g fiber, 58.5 g protein)
The calorie count skyrockets when you’ve got two big starch items on your plate—in this case, a large flour tortilla and a heaping scoop of rice. Do your body and your baby a favor and go for one or the other—not both!
Panera Roasted Turkey Cranberry Flatbread, served hot
(300 calories, 12 g fat, 6 g saturated, 460 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 13 g protein)
Not only does the schmear of cranberry sauce punch up the flavor profile of this sandwich, cranberries have also been known to help fight back against heartburn. And at just 300 calories, you’ll still have room for dessert!
Panera Roasted Turkey, Apple, and Cheddar Sandwich
730 calories, 32 g fat, 12 g saturated, 1,260 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 34 g protein)
This pick has more than four times the amount of sodium as a large order of McDonald’s fries. Aren’t you feeling bloated enough as it is?
Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich
(440 calories, 18 g fat, 4 g saturated, 1,390 mg sodium)
The sodium level here is off the charts—see Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting for the complete sodium guidelines—but if you’re really needing that deep-fried crunch, this is the way to go.
Chick-Fil-A Cobb Salad with Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing
(500 calories, 27 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 1,360 mg sodium)
Because there’s more surface area, there’s more fat and fried bread covering the chicken. You’d be better off with the sandwich.
Ben & Jerry’s
Ben & Jerry’s Banana Peanut Butter Greek Frozen Yogurt
(1⁄2 cup, 210 calories, 8 g fat, 3 g saturated, 23 g sugar, 5 g protein)
Greek fro yo—newish to the menu—offers the same creamy goodness of regular ice cream, minus most of the saturated fat.
Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream
(1⁄2 cup, 370 calories, 26 g fat, 14 g saturated, 25 g sugar, 7 g protein)
Ben and/or Jerry managed to cram more than half a day’s saturated fat into this peanut butter-chocolate bomb, making it the worst scoop on the menu.
For Hundreds More Food Swaps from Your Favorite Restaurants, and a Complete Aisle-by-aisle Shopping Guide and Trimester-by-trimester Diet Plan, Check Out Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting.