Fast food had been a regular part of my diet for most of my teenage years. However, when I stopped eating it, I lost 25 pounds. When I kept it out of my diet and made a few other changes, I lost another 25.
In recent years, I’ve heard many stories similar to mine. Meanwhile, hits like Super Size Me have advised us that eating a steady diet of fast food might cause maladies from sluggishness to liver failure.
Best-sellers like Fast Food Nation warned us that feces may be found in our meat supply. So we Americans slowly but surely started to wonder more and more about the hazards of eating fast food.
More from Prevention: Rescue Your Fast Food Meal
But just as we were starting to realize that it might be a good idea to steer our cars a bit more frequently to grocery stores instead of drive-thrus, the fast food chains responded. (But just how healthy are, say, McDonald’s 400-Calorie meals? Find out here.)
But one major problem remains: cravings. When plagued with visions of a Big Mac, will a McSalad do the trick? When you’re dying for a Cinnabon, will an apple hit the spot? Probably not. When we’re told we “can’t” or “shouldn’t,” we want something even more—after all, it’s human nature.
That’s where Fast Food Fixes comes in. It offers options. It gives you “Go ahead, have it your way—really” recipes, each one a solution to satisfy the most common fast food cravings.
I’m hoping that we as a nation will be able to turn our backs on supersizing, but will still get our Fast Food Fix with ingredients we select ourselves in the portions that our bodies need.
Fast Food Fix Promises
The serving size of every recipe contained in the book is at least as big as the original version, but it will contain considerably fewer grams of fat, calories, and chemicals.
1. I did my best in every case to buy three of each item from different locations of each chain. I broke down the recipes by first weighing and measuring each item and then its component parts on two scales. I re-created them by looking at the weights provided by the nutritional data sheets in conjunction with the serving sizes that were in front of me. Then, after I tested my versions, I purchased a final sample (when at all possible) to make sure my versions looked as large and weighed as much as the originals (in many cases, mine are significantly larger).
2. The recipes will use only common ingredients and employ basic cooking techniques with instructions as to how to cook the food properly to yield optimum results.
Though I can’t promise that every item called for will be available wherever you shop, I did make sure key ingredients were available nationwide. In a few cases, it makes sense that it was harder to find ingredients for regional recipes outside the local area—grocery stores tend to stock popular regional items.
More from Prevention: 12 Fruits and Veggies to Buy Organic
In the end, I was happy to learn that though 96% lean ground beef isn’t sold everywhere, I found it in at least one major grocery store in each city I visited, and it was in all Trader Joe’s stores and even in Wal-Mart Supercenters.
3. If the inspiring fast food item contains beef, the Fast Food Fix version will also contain beef—no substituting “girly veggies” for “manly beef.” There isn’t even the slightest hint of a disclaimer here. I feel strongly about this promise and stuck to it throughout. I don’t even believe in substituting turkey bacon for bacon, so I didn’t do it.
I do not purport or intend to trick anyone into believing he or she is eating “the real thing.” The Fast Food Fix versions model the same basic ingredients, flavors, textures, and feel as the favorites they re-create, but they’re guilt-free.
It’s also worth pointing out that in most cases, I’ve written recipes for single servings. My logic for this is pretty simple: These are recipes to help you satisfy real fast food cravings, so if you are the only one in the house hankering for a chili burger, you can easily fix it for yourself.
This strategy also let me re-create the most exact flavors possible. However, in the interest of convenience, I’ve also made sure that all sauces yield enough for four servings (most of them store very well). By all means, if you are cooking for more than one person, feel free to multiply the recipes as necessary.
More from Prevention: How Nutritionists Eat Fast Food
Reprinted from Fast Food Fix: 75+ Amazing Recipe Makeovers of Your Fast Food Restaurant Favorites by Devin Alexander © 2006. Permission granted by Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.
[header = Lighter Big Mac]
McDonald’s: Big Mac
Save: 174 calories, 19 g fat, 7 g sat. fat
The key to re-creating the Big Mac is obviously perfecting the sauce. Some say it’s simply Thousand Island, but the clever folks at McDonald’s deserve much more credit for this masterpiece we crave.
In order to re-create the sauce, I had to ensure that I had a supply that I could taste on its own—away from the other great flavors this burger stacks. So I requested “extra on the side.” The friendly woman behind the counter didn’t flinch. She quickly produced a sundae cup half-filled with the neon, salmon-colored sauce. When I took a big sniff, all I could smell was a chemicalesque aroma. Tasting, on the other hand, yielded that wonderful flavor.
Several tastings and I was convinced. The secret ingredient? Mustard. Simple yellow mustard. Add that and a pinch of sugar to a Thousand Island-style sauce, and you’ll be surprised how closely it resembles the real deal.
3 ounces 96% lean ground beef (about 1/3 c)
1. Divide the beef in half. On a sheet of waxed paper, shape each half into a 4″ patty. Season both sides with salt. Transfer the waxed paper to a plate. Place, uncovered, in the freezer for 5 minutes.
2. Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until drops of water sizzle when splashed on the pan. Place the patties in the pan. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until no longer pink. Meanwhile, place the bun top and bottoms, cut-sides down, in the pan. Cook for about 1 minute, or until toasted. (If the pan is not large enough to hold the patties and the buns, first cook 1 patty with the bottom bun and then start assembling the sandwich while the others cook.) Just before the patties are cooked, place the cheese on 1 patty.
3. Place 1 bun bottom on a plate. Spread on 1 tablespoon of sauce. Place the cheeseburger, cheese-side down, on the bun. Spread 1 teaspoon of sauce on the second bun bottom and place, sauce-side down, on the cheeseburger. Top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sauce, the onion, lettuce, pickles, the remaining burger, and the bun top.
Makes 1 Serving
Nutritional Info: 386 cal, 26 g pro, 44 g carb, 11 g fat, 3 g sat. fat, 2 g fiber
McDonald’s Big Mac Sauce
1/3 c low-fat mayonnaise
1. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, relish, ketchup, sugar, and mustard. Stir to blend well. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month.
2. Stir in the onion just before serving.
3. Makes about 2/3 c, enough for 4 servings
Nutritional Info (single serving):49 cal, trace protein, 6 g carbs, 3 g fat, trace sat. fat, trace fiber
Drive-Thru: It’s easy to throw together a Big Mac-like burger in minutes once you have the sauce made. So to save time, make a big batch of the sauce, omitting the onions (they are the only ingredient that will spoil quickly).
Refrigerate the sauce in a plastic container for up to 1 month. When you’re ready to enjoy a burger, simply add the correct quantity of onion to the amount of sauce you’re using.
Even Better: Save time and calories by omitting the second bun bottom and simply making 1 patty instead of 2 with the 3 ounces of beef. This way, you’ll need only 1 1/2 T of sauce. You’ll be left with a more nutritionally balanced burger.
Plus, you’ll still have room for some fries (may we suggest one of our 5 favorite fry recipes?) or a side salad, all the while still enjoying that great Big Mac flavor…in minutes.
Original McDonald’s Big Mac: 560 cal, 25 g prot, 47 g carbs, 30 g fat, 10 g sat. fat, 3 g fiber
The Revised Version: 310 cal, 24 g prot, 31 g carbs, 9 g fat, 1 g sat. fat, and 1 g fiber.
You’ll save 250 calories, 21 g fat, and 9 g sat fat over the original.
[header = Healthy Tater Tots]
Sonic: Tater Tots
Save: 115 calories, 14 g fat, 3 g sat. fat
Green potatoes and ham, anyone? Oh, no, that was green eggs and ham. Green potatoes don’t have the same ring. And that was the challenge with this recipe.
When I first attempted to remake these delicious nuggets, I shredded fresh potatoes. Not only was it a process because I had to be careful to squeeze out as much water from the shreds as possible or they wouldn’t stay together, but I also had to chop the potatoes after shredding them because the shreds were too long. The long shreds wanted to poke from the sides of the nuggets.
Next, I tried using a food processor. Oddly, the finished nuggets had a bit of a green tone to them. Very strange. I considered that maybe the potatoes weren’t as fresh as I’d thought? So I made them again with the freshest potatoes I could find, only to see the slightest hint of green.
Then all of a sudden, it hit me. Preshredded potatoes! They’re already parboiled so they won’t turn green, and they won’t take long to prepare. Chop them a bit more, leisurely and you’re all set for the perfect tots.
Olive oil sprayegg substitute
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly mist a large nonstick baking sheet with oil spray.
2. Place the potatoes on a cutting board. With a knife, chop them finely. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the egg substitute and salt. Stir to mix well.
3. Using a measuring spoon, scoop out a level T of the mixture. Shape into a nugget and place on the reserved baking sheet. Continue until all of the mixture is scooped, shaped, and placed, not touching, in a single layer on the baking sheet. There should be about 13 nuggets.
4. Lightly mist with oil spray. Bake for about 20 minutes, flipping the nuggets a quarter turn every 5 minutes, or until crisp and lightly colored.
Makes 1 Serving (13 nuggets)
Nutritional Info:144 cal, 4 g prot, 30 g carbs, 2 g fat, 0 g sat. fat, 1 g fiber
Original Sonic Regular Tater Tots (13 nuggets): 259 cal, 0 g prot, 27 g carbs, 16 g fat, 3 g sat. fat, 3 g fiber
Before You Start Preshredded potatoes can be found in the produce or refrigerated sections of most major supermarkets. They are prepared from fresh potatoes and have no added fat. If you cannot locate them, check the freezer section for preshredded potatoes. Just be sure they don’t have any added fat.
If you use the frozen ones (a second choice), thaw them and then squeeze out as much moisture as possible. This is very important. If you don’t get the excess liquid out, the potato mixture will not stay together.
More from Prevention: 10 Healthy Comfort Food Swaps
[header = Low-Cal Cinnamon Rolls]
Cinnabon: Classic Cinnamon Roll
Save: 371 calories, 26 g fat, 5 g sat. fat
Truth be told, this recipe is probably the most time-consuming fast food fix recipe I’ve devised. But after the first bite, every person who’s made it swears that they’d make it again. Even my friend Heather, who later revealed that she had never before made anything requiring yeast, swore it was much easier than she suspected it would be and worth the effort (we’re close enough that she would have told me the truth).
Plus, it’s the only recipe that I’ll probably never admit how much I’ve actually eaten. They’re just so good. Oops.
My version of the Cinnabon has also become the recipe in the book that I’ve used to prove to skeptics that, in fact, these recipes can be duplicated to satisfy cravings with a fraction of the fat and calories of their original counterparts.
Though I believe many of the recipes truly duel the originals, this one happens to travel much better than many since it doesn’t need to be hot. The rolls are just fine if they sit at room temperature for several hours.
Imagine what a star you’ll be if you show up at a brunch with a batch of these Cinnamon Rolls as your offering. I’d recommend following the “Even Better” suggestions so they’re more user-friendly and can be shared more easily. (Or consider making these flat belly maple-pecan cinnamon rolls!)
Butter-flavored cooking spray
1. Lightly mist a large bowl with cooking spray. Set aside 1 T butter to soften.
2. In a large microwavable measuring cup or a medium microwavable bowl, combine the milk, granulated sugar, and the remaining 1 T butter.
3. Microwave on high power for 2 minutes, or until the milk is hot (130°F). Add the yogurt. Whisk until the sugar dissolves (some small lumps of yogurt may be visible). Add the egg and egg white. Whisk to beat well. Add the yeast. Whisk until dissolved.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook(s) or in a large mixing bowl, combine 2 c flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, and the salt. Mix or stir by hand with a wooden spoon to blend.
5. Add the milk mixture. Mix on medium power or stir vigorously to blend. The mixture will be very sticky. Add the remaining 2 c flour, mixing or stirring until absorbed.
6. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface. (A plastic dough scraper or brittle plastic spatula is helpful for getting out all of the dough and starting the kneading.)
7. Knead for about 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Add scant amounts of flour as needed. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Place in the reserved bowl. Lightly mist with cooking spray. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
8. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the corn syrup, brown sugar, the remaining 1 T cinnamon, and the vanilla. Stir to blend well. Set aside.
9. When the dough has doubled, gently punch it down and place it on the lightly floured surface. Knead for about 1 minute. Dust lightly with flour. Cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
10. Lightly mist an 11″ x 7″ nonstick baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
11. Using your hands or a floured rolling pin, press or roll the dough into an 18″ x 12″ rectangle. With a butter knife, evenly spread the softened butter over the dough. Drizzle on the filling. With a knife or spatula, evenly spread it to the edges. Starting at one shorter side, roll the dough, jelly-roll fashion, into a tube, ending seam-side down. Cut into 8 equal pieces. Place, spiral-side up, in the reserved dish.
12. Cover the dish with a damp kitchen towel and place in a warm spot. Let the rolls rise another 30 minutes.
13. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake for 22 to 28 minutes, or until very lightly browned but slightly doughy in the center.
14. With a spatula, transfer one roll to a plate. Using a butter knife, spread 1 1/2 T of frosting over the top and 1/2″ down the sides. Repeat with the other 7 rolls.
Nutritional Info (1 roll):442 cal, 10 g prot, 88 g carbs, 6 g fat, 3 g sat. fat, 3 g fiber
Original Cinnabon Classic Roll: 813 cal, 15 g prot, 117 g carbs, 32 g fat, 8 g sat. fat, 4 g fiber
1 1/2 c confectioners’ sugar
1. Ina mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cream cheese, butter, milk, and vanilla. Mix on low speed with an electric mixer fitted with beaters or stir with a spoon for about 1 minute, or until combined.
2. If using a mixer, increase the speed to high. Beat or stir vigorously for about 30 seconds or until smooth. Allow the frosting to set for at least 10 minutes.
3. Place in an airtight plastic container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Just before using, stir well with a spoon
Makes about 3/4 cup, enough for 8 restaurant-size rolls or 15 standard-size rolls
Nutritional Info (1 serving):119 cal, 1 g prot, 23 g carbs, 3 g fat, 2 g sat. fat, trace fiber
Drive-Thru: To enjoy fresh rolls first thing in the morning, assemble the rolls the night before and then cover them loosely with plastic wrap instead of a damp towel. Refrigerate overnight and the rolls will rise while you sleep, so you can bake as soon as the oven is warm.
Or if you’d like to have the luxury of eating them whenever the mood strikes, consider making a batch or two and freezing them after baking and cooling. (Freeze the frosting separately.) Pack in an airtight plastic container.
When you crave one, wrap it in aluminum foil and bake it in a preheated 250°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until it is warmed through.
Even Better: Make the dough following the recipe directions, but roll the dough out into a larger rectangle about 22 1/2″ x 11″. Roll the dough starting with one of the longer ends. You’ll end up with a roll that is 22 1/2″ long.
Cut into 15 equal pieces. Place the rolls in a 13″ x 9″ nonstick baking dish. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes. You’ll have 15 standard-size cinnamon rolls. Spoon 2 tsp of the frosting on top of each.
Each roll will have 235 cal, 6 g prot, 47 g carbs, 3 g fat, 2 g sat. fat, 1 g fiber.
You’ll save 578 calories, 29 g fat, 6 g sat. fat.
Before You Start: Though this recipe requires a time span of several hours, only part of that is hands-on. They’re the perfect lazy-weekend project, especially with kids in the kitchen.
Each time you make the recipe, you’ll develop more of a “feel” for the yeast dough. Or if you have a bread machine that can handle 2-pound loaves with a sweet-dough setting, prepare the dough in it by adding the ingredients in the manufacturer’s suggested order.
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