By Ankita Sharma

(Photos © Benefit Publishing Pvt Ltd)

Is it possible to eat healthy at a fast food outlet? Ankita Sharma masticates through the query

Hardly anyone serves Coke anymore—not in middle class India—where sodas are now being called “toilet cleaners”. Soda loyalists are shamed into dropping their cans with the embarrassing refrain at parties and other gatherings. Whereas two decades ago, Coke and its soda cousins were perceived as emblems of middle class prosperity, proudly served up with ice as soon as guests arrived, now health-aware India has started distancing itself from the drink. So drastically has the beverage plummeted in public opinion that in 2014, Coca Cola India posted its lowest sales in three years at its largest bottling plant. The recent Maggi-lead scandal and subsequent public uproar further highlights the revised attitude of food safety authorities and the public at large on food health. The restriction on the sale of junk food in schools through a recent High Court ruling further discourages unhealthy eating.

Indeed, more Indians are paying attention to their fitness, health and nutrition now than ever before. Taking note of people’s changing attitude towards food, as well as, their awakened consciousness of what is healthy and unhealthy, quick service restaurants (QSRs) such as Pita Pit and Subway are offering consumers ‘Healthy Fast Food’. Notching up the health factor, Salad Chef, Delhi; Bowls To You, Mumbai; and Nuts Over Salad in Bengaluru, are serving customers salad options to cater for a new niche.

Acknowledging the trend, mainstream fast food providers, too, have incorporated healthier options in their menus. McDonald’s India has reduced its calorie and salt content as it fights to hold on to customers in a rapidly growing developing market where newer, healthier fast food options are beginning to catch on. Dominos now offers a wheat thin crust to consumers as a lighter alternative to their regular thick and greasy. Dunkin Donuts offers a wrap lubricated with yoghurt instead of oily mayonnaise, while US Pizza boasts a salad bar and a menu dotted with a green logo that says, “Slimming” to point out options for the calorie shy. In fact, ‘grilled’, ‘steamed’, ‘whole wheat’, ‘sugar on the side’ are all available options now at most QSR outlets. Furthermore, most fast food chains nowadays are uploading detailed Nutrition Fact charts of their menus on their websites to appease authorities and consumers alike.

macdonald-chartMcDonalds’ Nutrition Fact chart; sourced from

So, with all the menu improvement, publicly shared nutrition charts and conscious food ordering on the part of patrons, what could a ‘healthy’ or ‘relatively healthy’ or ‘least unhealthy meal’ at a conventional junk food outlet be? Your correspondent ordered 7 fast food meals over 7 days to find out. Here’s the journey in pictures……..



mc d 1

  • 1 Steamed McEgg Burger

What it contained: Steamed egg, mayonnaise and toasted bun.

Ordering Tip: Request server to skip the mayonnaise.

  • 1 Freshly Brewed Coffee

What it contained: 100 percent Arabica beans, brewed every 30 minutes



dominos 2

  • 1 Small Golden Chicken Delight Pizza in Wheat Thin Crust

What it contained: Barbeque shredded chicken with sweet corn on thin crust pizza.

  • 1 Small Water Bottle (as opposed to artificially sweetened beverages)



kfc 1


  • 1 Small Bucket Grilled Chicken

What it contained: Marinated chicken; slowly grilled.

  • 1 OMG Wrap

What it contained: Oven baked omelette with onions and bell peppers, golden hash brown, cheddar cheese, jalapeños, paprika, chilli, tortilla and spicy chilli mayonnaise.

Ordering Tip: Request server to skip the hash brown and mayonnaise.

  • 1 Small Water Bottle (as opposed to artificially sweetened beverages)



dunkin 1

  • 1 Not So Wicked Non Veg Wrap

What it contained: Chicken in a soft tortilla base with spices, yoghurt, and Mexican nachos.

  • 1 Fruit Berry Smoothie

What it contained: Strawberries, raspberries, black currants and blackberries blended in yoghurt.

Ordering Tip: Request server to skip sugar or additives, if being used.



US Pizza

  • Crispy Chicken Salad

What it contained: Vegetables with chicken and potato doused in Thousand Island dressing.

Ordering Tip: Request server to replace Thousand Island dressing with yoghurt based dressing or simply, olive oil.

  • Greek Salad

What it contained: Green vegetables dressed in vinaigrette.



burger king 1

  • 1 Grilled Chicken Burger

What it contained: Chicken patty, mint mayonnaise and onion.

Ordering Tip: Request server to skip the mayonnaise.

  • 1 Black coffee

What it contained: Nescafe Alegria® Pure Coffee blend.



pizza hut

  • 1 Small Margherita pizza

What it contained: Mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce on pizza crust.


By Dr Shalini Singhal, MSc, PhD (Nutrition & Diabetics)

  • Stick to the right ratio—50% vegetables, 25% protein and 25% carbohydrates. Order a salad as your first course with plenty of vegetables, fruit, and no fat or low fat dressing
  • Order mustard or yoghurt instead of mayonnaise, and pepper or lemon juice instead of salt
  • If you order an all-protein dish like a chicken stir fry, also order an all-vegetable dish to balance it out
  • Avoid restaurants that use oils high in saturated fat, such as coconut and palm oil, and choose ones that use sunflower, canola, olive or rice bran oil
  • Opt for whole grain ingredients like brown rice and brown bread wherever possible
  • Choose steamed or grilled dishes over fried food.
  • Keep portions medium sized
  • Order black or green tea/black coffee instead of milk based beverages; order a fruit salad instead of ice cream for dessert, order freshly squeezed fruit juice instead of a saccharine mocktail


This article appeared in the July 2015 issue of Pure & Eco India






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