Pass Fast Food On Your Commute? You May Have A Higher BMI, Study Finds

Fast Food Restaurants Along Your Work Commute Are Sabotaging Your Health

Image by Megan Doty x iStock / mbg Creative

You know that nine times out of 10 you should try to avoid fast food at all costs—but sometimes our environment makes that a little tricky. Especially if you're walking or driving by one or more fast food joints on a daily basis. Despite your best efforts, the power of suggestion is strong, and you're probably going to say, "Eh, why not?" now and then. 

And now, just in case you needed scientific confirmation of what you may have suspected, you have it—and some. A new study has found that people who pass more fast food chains along their work commute are actually significantly more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI) than those who do not pass these restaurants. Researchers reached this conclusion after analyzing data from 710 elementary school employees in New Orleans and after adjusting for socio-demographic factors. 

"The availability and variety of fast food restaurants along our commute create endless opportunities for a quick, cheap, and unhealthy meal, which results, on average, in higher body mass index," said study author and statistician Adriana Dornelles, Sc.D., in a news release.

But what's the solution? The fact is, you probably can't change your commute, and you're bound to be in a situation where you're cranky and hungry on your way to or from work. Our advice: Instead of vowing never to pop into one of these places for a quick bite again, just make the healthiest choice possible when you're there. 

To help you do just that, we compiled nutritionists' top healthy-ish picks at some of the most popular fast-food chains in the country:

1. Subway

Skip the heavy meatball sub, and opt for one of these lighter, but still satisfying picks:

  • Rotisserie-Style or Oven Grilled Chicken Salad
  • Custom Veggie-Loaded Sub
  • Classic Tuna Sub on Wheat
  • Fresh Fit Rotisserie-Style Chicken Sub
  • Veggie Delite Wrap

For more details on each of these healthier Subway picks (and why nutritionists chose them), check out this article.

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2. Starbucks

Starbucks has its fair share of low-sugar, protein- and fiber-packed breakfast options for your morning commute:

  • Classic Oatmeal With Blueberries
  • Spinach, Feta & Cage-Free Egg-White Breakfast Wrap
  • Sprouted Grain Vegan Bagel
  • Sous Vide Egg Bites With Bacon & Gruyere
  • Almond Butter + Banana

For more details on each of these healthier Starbucks picks (and why nutritionists chose them), check out this article.

3. Dunkin'

Skip the doughnuts and sugared coffee drinks, and go for one of these:

  • Veggie Egg White Sandwich 
  • Dunkin' Scramble Bowl
  • Egg & Cheese Wake Up Wrap
  • Multigrain Bagel 
  • Full-Fat Cappuccino
  • Cold Brew Coffee

For more details on each of these healthier Dunkin' picks (and why nutritionists chose them), check out this article.

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4. Panera

This is actually one of the best fast-casual spots for healthy fare, and these picks pack the most nutrition:

  • Steel-Cut Oatmeal
  • Avocado, Egg White & Spinach Sandwich
  • Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken
  • Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich
  • Ten Vegetable Soup
  • Modern Greek Salad with Quinoa
  • Lentil Quinoa Bowls

For more details on each of these healthier Panera picks (and why nutritionists chose them), check out this article.

5. McDonald's

Sure, it may be slim pickings for healthy fare at McDonald's, but there are still some better-for-you options:

  • Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich
  • Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad
  • Egg McMuffin
  • Apple Slices
  • Kiddie Cone (for when you can't resist something sweet!)

For more details on each of these healthier McDonald's picks (and why nutritionists chose them), check out this article.

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6. Burger King

Pass on the Whopper, and try one of these:

  • MorningStar Veggie Burger
  • Grilled Chicken Garden Salad
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich
  • Garden Side Salad

For more details on each of these healthier Burger King picks (and why nutritionists chose them), check out this article.

7. Wendy's

Fun fact: Wendy's is the only fast food chain we know of where you can get a side of fresh strawberries and blueberries!

  • Berry Burst Chicken Salad
  • Chili & Baked Potato
  • Grilled Chicken Wrap
  • Garden Side Salad
  • Strawberries & Blueberries

For more details on each of these healthier Wendy's picks (and why nutritionists chose them), check out this article.

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8. Taco Bell

Thanks to Taco Bell's "Power Menu" and your ability to order tacos "fresco style," there's no shortage of healthier picks:

  • Power Menu Bowl
  • Power Menu Veggie Burrito
  • Spicy Tostada
  • Chicken or Steak Tacos "Fresco Style"

For more details on each of these healthier Taco Bell picks (and why nutritionists chose them), check out this article.

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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