Striking a Balance: Incorporating Mediterranean Diet in Fast Food

Fast food is fast and convenient. Sometimes it’s even delicious, especially if you’re extremely hungry. On the other hand, fast food almost always has unhealthy ingredients and low nutritional value. However, adopting the principles of the Mediterranean diet will help you make the right choice when you only have two options: fast food or starvation. So let’s learn how to balance the convenience of fast food with the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. 

Opt for Grilled Proteins

Some fast-food establishments offer grilled protein options, such as chicken or fish. Grilling is a cooking method favored in the Mediterranean diet, preserving the natural flavors of the food without excessive added fats. So, when it comes to health, grilling always edges out frying for a few reasons:

Less Fat Absorption: When you grill meat, excess fat drips off the meat and away from the food, especially if you’re grilling on a slatted surface. In frying, however, the food is immersed in oil, causing it to absorb more fat, which contributes to higher calorie intake.

Preservation of Nutrients: Grilling typically involves cooking meat at high temperatures for a short period, which helps to preserve more of the nutrients compared to frying, which often requires longer cooking times and leads to the breakdown of some nutrients.

Reduced Formation of Harmful Compounds: Grilling typically produces fewer of harmful compounds like heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), especially if you marinate the meat beforehand or use indirect heat methods.

So it’s recommended to choose grilled options over fried alternatives for a healthier meal. 

Load Up on Vegetables

Mediterranean cuisine is characterized by a colorful array of vegetables. When ordering fast food, opt for menu items that incorporate vegetables, such as salads, sauteed veggies or veggie-packed wraps.

Several fast food chains offer options that are relatively rich in vegetables. Here are some examples:

Subway: Subway offers a variety of sandwiches and salads with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers, spinach, and more.

Chick-fil-A: Their salads and wraps include options like the Market Salad, Cobb Salad, and Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap, all of which contain a mix of vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and more.

Chipotle: While Chipotle is known for its burritos and bowls, you can pack them with healthy veggies like lettuce, peppers, onions, corn salsa, and more.

Panera Bread: Panera offers a variety of salads, soups, and sandwiches that are rich in vegetables. Their Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich, for example, is loaded with cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and peppers.

Taco Bell: While known for its tacos and burritos, Taco Bell offers vegetarian options like the Veggie Power Menu Bowl, which contains black beans, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, and other veggies.

You can often customize your order at fast food restaurants to include extra vegetables or substitute ingredients to add more fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your meal.  

Choose Whole Grain Options

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat. When available, choose fast-food meals that are rich in whole grains instead of refined grains. This choice contributes to higher fiber content and improved nutritional value. Finding such meals is really hard, however you still can find some options.

For example, Chipotle offers burrito bowls with brown rice as a base. You can also opt for a salad with brown rice or choose a whole wheat tortilla for your burrito.

Also, Subway offers whole wheat bread as an option for their sandwiches and wraps. You can choose from a variety of fillings to create a sandwich or wrap that includes whole grains.

You can find whole grains in some meals of Panera Bread: quinoa bowls, ancient grain and arugula salads, and whole grain bagels.

When buying coffee at Starbucks pay attention to a couple of dishes that include whole grains, such as their protein boxes with whole grain bread or their oatmeal made with whole grain oats.

Swap Fries for a Side Salad

French fries are a common fast-food side, but they can be high in unhealthy fats and calories let’s be honest: it’s just some shit invented so that all the morons die of cancer as fast as possible. Consider swapping fries for a side salad, incorporating a variety of vegetables and possibly a lean protein source. Opt for a vinaigrette dressing to align with Mediterranean flavors. 

Yes, this might require a bit of creativity, but it’s possible. Need examples?

Greek Salad: Look for a Greek salad on the menu, which includes fresh vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers, along with olives and feta cheese. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get real extra virgin olive oil for dressing. 

Grilled Vegetables: Some fast food restaurants offer Mediterranean grilled vegetable sides or sandwiches. These often include a variety of vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, and onions.

Hummus: Try hummus as a side dish or part of a wrap or sandwich. Hummus is a Mediterranean staple made from chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and garlic, and it pairs well with fresh vegetables. 

Tabbouleh: Consider this side dish option. Tabbouleh is a salad made from bulgur wheat, parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and mint, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

Mediterranean Veggie Wrap or Sandwich: Some fast food chains have Mediterranean-inspired wraps or sandwiches that include grilled vegetables, hummus, and/or feta cheese. 

Sounds great, but where to find these healthy Mediterranean side dishes?

Their availability in fast food restaurants can vary depending on the region and the specific chains present in that area. However, here are some global fast food chains that may offer options aligning with Mediterranean flavors:

Subway: Subway offers salads and customizable sandwiches where you can add Mediterranean-inspired ingredients like cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and peppers. Almost Greek salad, right? They also often have hummus as a topping option.

Pret a Manger: This international chain offers a range of salads, wraps, and sandwiches with fresh and healthy ingredients, some of which may have Mediterranean flavors.

Nando’s: While primarily known for their grilled chicken, Nando’s also offers sides like mixed vegetables and salads that could be customized to include Mediterranean flavors.

Leon: This UK-based chain focuses on healthier fast food options, often incorporating Mediterranean-inspired ingredients into their salads, wraps, and bowls.  

What Else Should Mediterranean Diet Followers Know About Healthy Fast Food? 

Mindful Portions and Moderation: The Mediterranean diet encourages mindful eating and savoring the taste and flavors (of course if they are there) of each bite. Apply this principle to fast food by being mindful of portion sizes and avoiding super-sized options. Opt for smaller portions and try to savor the taste of your meal. Or just feign pleasure and look at yourself in the car’s interior mirror. After doing this several times, you will be able to believe that you are really eating something tasty.  

Limit Added Sugars: The Mediterranean diet is low in added sugars, a principle that can be applied when making fast-food choices. Forget cola (unless you are Warren Buffett or at least Duncan MacLeod) and other sugary shit-beverages. Choose water or herbal teas to stay hydrated without sugar. 

Prioritize Seafood Options: Fatty fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, is a staple in the Mediterranean diet. When available, choose fast-food options that include seafood, such as grilled fish sandwiches. Seafood provides essential nutrients and aligns with heart-healthy Mediterranean principles.

Customize Your Order: Most small fast-food shop (not chains monsters) will allow you to customize their orders. Take advantage of this by omitting or adjusting ingredients to make the meal align more closely with Mediterranean diet principles. Choose their dressings and sauces carefully. It may sound crazy, but you can even keep a small bottle of real olive oil in your bag to dress your fast food salads. Let the idiots laugh, your goal is to be healthy. You will still have the opportunity to have the last laugh.

Conclusion: Enjoy Fast Food (even Mediterranean Fast Food) in Moderation!

The Mediterranean diet encourages a balanced and moderate approach to eating. Apply this philosophy to fast food by enjoying it occasionally rather than making them a regular part of your diet. 

Perhaps you think you have an excuse, something like “I live so fast that I don’t have time for cooking and eating real food”. Are you sure? Are you sure you really live if you are forced to eat all kinds of rubbish on the run instead of enjoying the natural taste of this life?

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