Love to cook? Read on for professional tips on building flavor without all the calories!


I can’t remember the last time I stopped for fast food. It has been so long that I decided to bring some into the test kitchen to see what it’s all about these days. I chose three popular “sandwich type” meals, dissected and analyzed them and came up with a much healthier alternative. Here they are. The “store bought” ones are listed first, followed by the healthy makeovers. Take a good look at what you are eating!

ONE:  The first one was the cheapest. At $1.05 – no joke – it was called a Beefy Crunch Burrito. I thought “crunch” sounded good, but here’s what was inside:

Taco Bell 2_1This sandwich contained 1/3 cups not so crispy – in fact very soggy things that looked like iridescent red Fritos. When I first looked at it, I said “Where’s the beef?” Then I was able to scrounge up about 1/4 cup of hamburger, not quite 1/3 cup of rice and a squirt of a liquid Velveeta type cheese. I found 1 Tablespoon of sour cream squirted in one spot, so you get that in only one bite. The flour tortilla was 10-1/2″, for comparison purposes.

This sandwich contained 540 Calories, 16 g Protein, 21 grams of Fat, 1110 g of Sodium, 71 g Carbs, 7 g Fiber an 7 g Sugar. That sugar is always there to entice you to want to eat more… and frankly this sandwich contains so little protein, you would definitely want two or three to feel full. The problem is that you can’t get the protein without all the other stuff, so then you are way off the charts in terms of healthy.

TWO:  The second sandwich – and these are all from different establishments by the way, was called a Crispy Chicken Caesar. This one weighed in at $1.37, but again I think you would need two to fill up.

Wendys Crispy Chicken Used

My first reaction to this one was, “Where’s the Caesar?” In this 8″ tortilla, I found 2-1/2 oz. breaded and fried chicken, about 1 Tablespoon of dressing that tasted like mayo, 2 slivers of Parmesan cheese included with about 1 Tablespoon of lettuce. Huh?

The crispy chicken was breaded and fried. This sandwich had 440 Calories, 17 g Protein, 26 g Fat, 970 g Sodium, 33 Carbs, 2 g Fiber, and 1 g Sugar.

I think we can do better, add some protein, use a healthier method of cooking and really get some Caesar Salad in there without sacrificing a lot of calories.

(Nutrition information came from the web-sites of their companies or Live Strong.)

THREE: My third choice was called a Chipotle Steak and Cheese with Avocado Sandwich – and I threw in some banana pepper too, but their nutrition info on their sites is not with any extras, mind you. My first reaction was NOT “Where’s the bread?” Who could miss it? This one was out of control with Carbs and out of balance with its protein. It will be an easy one to re-design. It was also the most expensive at $5.60.

Subway Chipotle Steak and Cheese 1 UsedThis sandwich contained 2-1/3 oz. of meat that looked like some sort of compressed meat or Salisbury steak but I think it was billed as Rib-eye – not sure, 1/4 cup of Avocado, about 2 Tablespoons Chipotle Mayonnaise, and 6″ of thick bread (with Parmesan baked into the top). It had 550 Calories, 28 g Protein, 28 g Fat, 1260 g Sodium, 52 g Carbs, 8 g Fiber and 8 g Sugar. So now let’s get busy and re-design these so they are healthier, easy to make and easy to carry along in a lunch bag with an ice pack. By the way, the three sandwiches cost $8.02 and at retail prices, I spent $9.07 getting the ingredients for my new ones (per serving), assuming I had condiments in the fridge already, and a tortilla costs about 25 cents. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

ONE – FIRST RECREATION: Beefy (Crunch) Burrito 

Our Beefy Burrito has 545 Calories… pretty similar Sandwich #1 above. However, we were able to increase the protein to 33 g (from 16 g) and reduce the fat from 21 g to 19 g. We reduced the Carbs from 71 to 47 and reduced the sugar from 7 g to 2 g. Fiber was about the same.

“Crunch” sounds good, but isn’t that practical in a sandwich with this much moisture. If you want some “crunch” add a small portion of baked tortilla chips on the side. Nothing will stay crunchy inside a sandwich when it’s mixed with mayonnaise – especially if you are carrying it along for a lunch later in the day. Also, this was the most unhealthy part of the Burrito, so we decided to leave it out.

Here’s the new recipe! (Doesn’t this look a bit tastier and more substantial? Not to mention healthier!)

Beefy Burrito - LOGO

3 ounces lean ground beef, (1/2 cup) fried without oil in a non-stick pan. (Be careful not to overcook it.)

1/2 cup wild rice, cooked with 1 Tablespoon butter. (Wild rice takes a long time to cook. You might want to make some extra to save for a future meal. Multiply the amount of rice by 2 and that’s how much water you need. Bring it to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to cook for 50 mins. Then let it stand for 10 mins.)

1/4 cup Low Fat Cheddar or Colby Cheese
1 Mex America 10″ flour tortilla, warmed
2 Tablespoons Fat Free sour cream or yogurt
Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper

Method: Put the sour cream or yogurt on the tortilla first. Top it with rice, then beef, then cheese and sprinkle with pepper. Roll up and either grill or bake just long enough to melt the cheese.

TWO – SECOND RECREATION: Crispy Chicken Caesar

Here’s the re-make on this one. Calories were reduced by 23. Protein was increased by 2.4 g. Carbs were increased by just one gram due to more dressing, which was badly needed! Protein went up 2.5 g. Fiber was the same. Fat was reduced by 5 g. Sodium was a little more, again due to more dressing, as well as sugar by 2 grams for the same reason. I do not feel these increases are significant since we added lots more minerals with much more lettuce and more cheese. I don’t think the first sandwich should really be called a Caesar when there’s 1 Tablespoon of lettuce and cheese combined! Our sandwich has much more taste and more minerals – and comes across as a real Caesar (sans croutons) – and for less Calories!

Here’s the new recipe! …………..

Chicken Caesar Taco - LOGO

3 ounces chicken breast tenders, (baked or browned in a non-stick frying pan)

1 8″ MexAmerica flour tortilla
1 cup shredded green lettuce 2 Tablespoons Fat Free Caesar Salad Dressing
1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese, reduced fat, sliced Pinch of pepper

Method: 1. Place all ingredients on the tortilla and roll it up. Enjoy your healthy Caesar Salad!

……

THREE – THIRD RECREATION: Chipotle Steak and Cheese with Avocado Sandwich

For this last sandwich, we were able to drop the Calories by 140! Protein remained the same. Fat was decreased by 6 grams. Carbs were decreased by 27 g! Fat was decreased by 6 g. Fiber was 4 g less. Sugar was 5 g less – cut to almost nothing. Sodium was decreased by 494 g. What a great improvement! Plus it sure looks a lot more appetizing. I think I would rather eat this one.

Here’s the new recipe! …………

Chipotle Steak & Cheese with Avocado Wrap - LOGO3 ounces Top Sirloin Steak, boneless, fat trimmed, sliced thin and browned in a non-stick frying pan with no oil
1/4 cup Avocado, mashed
2 Tablespoons Fat Free Mayonnaise
1 Chipotle pepper (Canned, in Adobo sauce), minced
1/4 cup Low Fat Cheddar Cheese, grated
Pinch of freshly ground pepper

Method: 1. Once your meat is cooked, mix the minced pepper with the mayonnaise. Spread a little of it on the tortilla.

2. Add the mashed avocado, then the grated cheese, then the meat. Sprinkle with a little freshly ground pepper. Then just roll it up and eat it!

I think you can see that with just a little planning ahead you can make much healthier sandwiches/wraps for you and your family. All you need is a lunch bag a couple of ice packs! No lines, no stopping, no waiting. Just pull it out when the hunger bug strikes! You also know exactly what’s in those sandwiches… so enjoy every healthy bite!

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Comments on: "Healthier Fast Food for YOU!" (1)

  1. hanickol@aol.com said:

    Very interesting analysis of the fast food sandwiches. Makes me pause. See you at golf. Warmly, Pat

    Sent from my iPhone

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