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Ditch the Drive-Thru & Make Healthy Versions at Home

By , Melissa Rudy, Health & Fitness Journalist
When you're racing against the clock, the convenience of the drive-thru can be tough to ignore, especially when you've got a hankering for your greasiest guilty pleasure. But go ahead and put that fry down: There is a better way. You can cater to that craving without getting crushed by calories, fat and sodium. A little planning can pay off: By preparing these fast-food copycats at home, you can also save more than a few bucks.
 
KFC Fried Chicken
 
No picnic at the park seems quite complete without a bucket of crispy fried chicken—but when you get it from the local drive-through, it also comes with a bucket of unwanted grease, fat, cholesterol and calories. As a healthier, oven-baked alternative, this Crunchy Spiced Chicken is made with low-fat ingredients, but is still finger lickin' good. (For an even healthier version of this recipe, SparkPeople's nutritionist, Becky Hand, recommends cutting back the salt to 1/2 teaspoon and halving the amount of the panko and flour coating.)
 
Nutritional Info (per serving) FAST FOOD VERSION: 
KFC Extra-Crispy Drumstick
AT-HOME VERSION:
Crunchy Spiced Chicken Drumstick
Calories 290 241
Fat (grams) 17 8.3
Sodium (milligrams) 760 869
Carbohydrates (grams) 10 21.4
Cholesterol (milligrams) 90 47.8
Fiber (grams) <1 1.1
Protein (grams) 24 17.2
PRICE (approx. per serving) $6.99 $3.37

McNuggets
 
Next time the kiddos are clamoring for chicken nuggets, skip the drive-thru and make your own. These Crispy Baked Chicken Nuggets are healthier than fried chicken or frozen nuggets, yet still  offer a spicy crunch and filling protein that will have even the grown-ups coming back for seconds.
 
Nutritional Info (per serving) FAST FOOD VERSION:
McDonald's 6-Piece Chicken Nuggets
AT-HOME VERSION:
Crispy Baked Chicken Nuggets
Calories 280 197.5
Fat (grams) 18 7.7
Sodium (milligrams) 540 149.5
Carbohydrates (grams) 18 11.3
Cholesterol (milligrams) 40 46.8
Fiber (grams) 1 1.6
Protein (grams) 13 21.2
PRICE (approx. per serving) $3.99 0.44 cents

Burger King Sweet Potato Fries
 
Traditional French fries don't typically have a place in a healthy diet, but when you’ve just got to have that crisp, spicy flavor, our healthier version—made with just a sweet potato and seasonings of your choice—leaves fast-food fries in the dust. Plus, it's just as easy to make these as it is to hit the drive-thru!
 
Nutritional Info (per serving) FAST FOOD VERSION:
Burger King, Sweet Potato Fries
AT-HOME VERSION:
Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Calories 390 103
Fat (grams) 21 .2
Sugar (grams) 11 10
Sodium (milligrams) 720 41
Carbohydrates (grams) 48 23.6
Cholesterol (milligrams) 0 0
Fiber (grams) 5 3.8
Protein (grams) 2 2.3
PRICE (approx. per serving) $2.99 $.85

P.F. Chang’s Sesame Chicken
 
It's hard to resist lunch at your favorite Chinese restaurant, but you'll pay for it—not only with your wallet, but in terms of sky-high sodium, carbs and calories. Our slimmed-down Sesame Chicken recipe delivers the same mouth-watering taste without wrecking your dietary numbers.
 
Nutritional Info (per serving) FAST FOOD VERSION: 
P.F. Chang’s Sesame Chicken
AT-HOME VERSION:
Sesame Chicken
Calories 730 300
Fat (grams) 24 17.6
Sugar (grams) 71 3.5
Sodium (milligrams) 2490 783.3
Carbohydrates (grams) 93 7
Cholesterol (milligrams) 70 47.8
Fiber (grams) 7 1.2
Protein (grams) 41 28.2
PRICE (approx. per serving) $10.50 $1.30

Egg McMuffin           
 
You already know the importance of eating breakfast, but you don't want to start off your day with an unhealthy mistake for the sake of convenience. Hitting the corner fast-food joint may seem easiest when you're pressed for time, but you can throw together your own healthier version before leaving the house—and your schedule won't suffer.
 
Lisa Andrews, registered dietitian with Sound Bites Nutrition, recommends making your own egg sandwich with spinach and cheese on a whole-wheat English muffin. Not only will you save calories, fat, sodium and cash, you'll also infuse your diet with a healthy dose of iron, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C.

Nutritional Info (per serving) FAST FOOD VERSION:
McDonald's Egg McMuffin
AT-HOME VERSION:
Egg & Spinach Muffin
Calories 300 232
Fat (grams) 12 8
Sodium (milligrams) 730 441
Carbohydrates (grams) 29 28
Cholesterol (milligrams) 245 171
Fiber (grams) 1 5
Protein (grams) 17 14
PRICE (approx. per serving) $1.19 .80 cents

McDonald’s Quarter Pounder
 
If you're a meat eater and find yourself with a hankering for a burger, you don't have to succumb to the greasy fast-food variety. For the homemade version below, Andrews used a Laura's Lean four-ounce burger with one slice of Swiss cheese, pickles, ketchup and mustard on an Arnold's thin bun.
 
Nutritional Info (per serving) FAST FOOD VERSION:
McDonald's Quarter Pounder
with Cheese
AT-HOME VERSION:
Lean Cheeseburger
Calories 540 288
Fat (grams) 28 18
Sodium (milligrams) 1110 482
Carbohydrates (grams) 42 22.5
Cholesterol (milligrams) 100 87
Fiber (grams) 3 6
Protein (grams) 31 33
PRICE (approx. per serving) $3.79 $2.50

Wendy’s Frosty
 
When the call of chocolate can't be denied, mix up this mouth-watering Mock Wendy's Frosty. For less than a quarter of the calories and barely a trace of fat, you can enjoy a refreshing frozen treat without the post-sugar guilt.

Nutritional Info (per serving) FAST FOOD VERSION:
Wendy's Frosty (small)
AT-HOME VERSION:  
Mock Wendy's Frosty
(10 oz.)
Calories 299 65.6
Fat (grams) 6 0.4
Sodium (milligrams) 222 100
Carbohydrates (grams) 54 14.3
Cholesterol (milligrams) 36 3.1
Fiber (grams) 7 0.7
Protein (grams) 8 5.1
PRICE (approx. per serving) 0.99 cents 0.50 cents

(Lisa Mikus, RDN, CNSC of Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services and Lisa C. Andrews, MEd, RD, LD of Sound Bites Nutrition contributed to this article.)
 
Do you have a favorite homemade version of a fast-food menu item? Share it in the comments.

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