Editor’s note: The following article is written by a Skinny Mom Resident Mom. The Resident Mom program gives a voice to our readers, allowing moms across the world to contribute content to Skinny Mom. If you’re interested in becoming a Resident Mom, click here to apply.

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I read in “The Body Book that Cameron Diaz goes through her busy life with a constant supply of lentils and rice in her purse, ensuring that she’s never stuck eating unhealthy fast food when hunger strikes. I’d love to say that I’ve adopted her tips and have become a healthy snack superwoman, but that’s far from the truth. It’s not even a time issue for me, though indeed the thought of spending even more time in the kitchen preparing lentil snacks doesn’t thrill me in the slightest.

I eat fast food on occasion because, like it or not, it’s part of everyday life. When I’m alone, it’s easy to avoid the golden arches. With friends and family, though, it’s a different story. Road trips, mall outings, spontaneous post-ballgame munchies… Fast food sneaks up on me all the time and I refuse to be the psycho lady who pulls out a Tupperware container of cold beans at Burger King (no offense, Cameron). Plus, have you ever tried eating leftover veggies with the smell of fast food floating around? I don’t have that kind of willpower.

fast food

The good news is that most fast food chains have nutrition information readily available, so it’s easy to enjoy the moment and still avoid a 1,000-calorie catastrophe. I usually set a calorie limit of around 500 for a fast food meal. Then, I look for the options that will fill me up the most with those 500 calories. It’s better if I can have an idea beforehand of what I’m going to choose as it can take a few minutes to solve the “puzzle” and find the best combination to order.

Skinny Mom’s Fast Food Under 500 guides are really helpful for this and I also have a note on my phone with our family’s favorite fast food chains and my preferred orders for each one. It looks like this (with the calorie counts in parentheses):

McDonald’s

  • 6 piece chicken nuggets (280) + small French fries (230)
  • Cheeseburger (300) + fruit and yogurt parfait (150)
  • Bacon ranch salad with grilled chicken  (310) + vanilla cone (170)

Taco Bell

  • Cantina power bowl with chicken (490)
  • Grilled steak soft taco (200) + chicken soft taco (160) + black beans (80)
  • Chipotle chicken loaded griller (350) + Cinnabon Delights (160)

Chic-Fil-A

  • 8 chicken nuggets (270) + side salad (80) + large fruit cup (90)
  • Chicken sandwich (440) + side salad (80)
  • Chicken minis (280) + multigrain oatmeal (140)

I know that none of these can really be considered “healthy,” but I truly believe that everything – even fast food – is fine in moderation. Taco Bell offers a wide selection of items with fewer than 300 calories, so it’s normally my top pick. However, it seems like more and more chains are offering health-conscious meals, which is great progress! And you? How do you handle the fast food dilemma?