These five tips can help you make wise meal choices when going to a fast-food restaurant.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Does following a weight-loss or healthy diet mean you must swear off fast food? Not necessarily.

An occasional stop for fast food can fit into a healthy diet — if you're careful about what you order. Consider these tips.

If the fast-food restaurant offers several sandwich sizes, pick the smallest. Bypass hamburgers with two or three beef patties, which can be close to 800 calories. Choose instead a regular- or children's-sized hamburger, which has about 250 calories. And skip the large serving of french fries and ask for a small serving instead. This switch alone can save 200 calories.

Take advantage of the healthy side dishes offered at many fast-food restaurants. For example, instead of french fries choose a side salad with low-fat dressing or a baked potato. Or add a fruit bowl or a fruit and yogurt option to your meal.

Other healthy choices include apple or orange slices, corn on the cob, steamed rice, or baked potato chips.

Choose an entree salad with grilled chicken, shrimp or vegetables with fat-free or low-fat dressing on the side, rather than regular salad dressing.

Watch out for high-calorie salads, such as those with deep-fried shells or those topped with breaded chicken or other fried toppings. Also skip extras, such as cheese and croutons, which quickly increase your calorie count.

Fried and breaded foods, such as crispy chicken sandwiches and breaded fish fillets, are high in fat and calories. Select grilled or roasted lean meats — such as turkey or chicken breast, lean ham, or lean roast beef.

Many beverages are high in calories. For example, a large regular soda (30 ounces, or 887 milliliters) has nearly 300 calories. Instead, order diet soda, water, unsweetened iced tea, sparkling water or mineral water.

Also, skip the shakes and other ice cream drinks. Large shakes can contain more than 800 calories.

Remember, you don't have to settle for what comes with your sandwich or meal — not even at fast-food restaurants. Ask for healthier options and substitutions. And keep your eye on portion sizes.

Feb. 27, 2016