500-Calorie Fast-Food Meals
										If you're aiming for around 2,000 calories per day, check out these 500-calorie fast-food meal options.

500-Calorie Fast-Food Meals If you're aiming for around 2,000 calories per day, check out these 500-calorie fast-food meal options.

When you go out to eat at a restaurant—whether it’s fine dining or fast food—you surely want to get your money’s worth. That might make you think that more is better when it comes to what you’re served. However, a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics took a look at meals from various kinds of restaurants and found that most restaurant meals were around 1,200 calories.

They discovered that the calories in these meals were much higher than the 570 calories that the researchers noted was a reasonable amount per meal. This is based on the fact that adult women tend to require anywhere from 1,600 to 2,400 calories each day, while men need in the range of 2,000 to 3,000 calories, according to the USDA’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. That’s why you may want to do what you can to stick with lower-calorie menu items next time you eat out.

“There are a few key tips to choosing healthier options at fast food restaurants,” says Sarah Olszewski MS, RDN, CDN, Owner of Sarah Lynn Nutrition, a virtual and in-person nutritional counseling service based in New York. “To cut down on calories and saturated fat, choose grilled or roasted lean meats, like chicken, over fried or breaded meats. The side dishes can also make a big difference. Instead of fries, try choosing a salad or fruit. If you can, try to avoid drinking your calories via soda or shakes, and drink water instead. Portion size is another major factor. Instead of choosing the super-sized portion, choose the regular or junior option. Remember, you can always save some of your meal for later or share with another person to avoid over-indulging.”

Hamburger: 250 calories, 9 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 510 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (1 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 12 g protein

Small Fries: 230 calories, 11 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

If you want to keep your fast-food meal within 500 calories, it’s best to stick with the simple classics when you stop by McDonald’s. Forget about a Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese, and don’t even think about a Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich. Instead, grab a regular hamburger that will take you to 250 calories. Add small fries, which are 230 calories, and you end up at 480 calories, which means you might be able to steal an extra fry or two from a friend for that additional 20 calories. Also, a small McDonald’s Coca-Cola has 150 calories and a large one has 290, so you might want to go with a refreshing bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated and healthy.

RELATED: The Best & Worst Menu Items at McDonald’s, According to RDs

Big King: 492.1 calories, 30.3 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 1498.8 mg sodium, 32.4 g carbs (2.5 g fiber, 8.3 g sugar), 26.2 G protein

Burger King’s food tends to contain quite a few calories, like the Whopper, which has 670 calories. Enjoy that with onion rings, and you add another 360 calories, or four mozzarella sticks that have 328 calories. This obviously makes it pretty much impossible to enjoy a burger and side that come out to around 500 calories. To stay within that range, you can have a Big King, but at over 490 calories, the burger alone will nearly push you to the 500-calorie goal.

“While the calories of this burger are not too much for one meal, you’re probably not just getting the burger,” Olszewski points out. “Not to mention, the sodium content almost meets the recommended limits for a full day. If ordering this option, try skipping the fries and getting a side of fruit or a salad for a more balanced meal with more fiber. You can also eat half and save the rest for later, or choose a smaller size sandwich.”

Jr. Cheeseburger: 290 calories, 14 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 610 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (1 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 14 g protein

Junior Fries: 210 calories, 9 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 370 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

Wendy’s is another fast-food chain that offers a fair share of calorie-packed items on its menu. Understandably, the bigger options significantly multiply the calorie count with extra meat, layers of cheese, and sizzling strips of bacon. On the other hand, Wendy’s has smaller options that you might find more tempting if you don’t want to consume a day’s worth of calories in one sitting. Try their Jr. cheeseburger, along with their junior fries, and your meal will come out to exactly 500 calories.

8-piece Chick-fil-A® Nuggets: 250 calories, 11 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 1210 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 27 g protein

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