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Fast Food Makeover

Dieting can be pretty rough at times.


You’re exercising more and eating less, all the while avoiding many of your favorite comfort or cheat foods too.


Truth be told, cheat foods, comfort foods, and fast food (while delicious) aren’t the most diet or macro friendly. They’re typically high in refined carbs, sodium and fat and low in protein, fiber, and micronutrients.


While no one will dispute the importance of a proper diet in the success of any weight loss program or transformation challenge, it is at the same time possible to eat many of the same foods you crave which would otherwise be considered “cheat foods.”


All it takes is a little creativity and some healthy kitchen swaps to makeover your favorite fast food into diet-friendly staples.


Let’s get started!


Better Burgers


Nothing screams fast food like the trifecta of a cheeseburger, fries, and milkshake.


We kick off our list of fast food makeovers with the foundation of this trio -- the burger.


Typical fast food burgers use fatty, low quality ground beef that is 70-80% protein and 20-30% fat.


This gives you a burger that is unquestionably delicious, but unforgivably high in fat and calories.


Now, most “healthy” burger recipes you’ll find on the internet will tell you to swap ground beef for ground turkey.


But, here’s the catch...ground turkey isn’t necessarily any lower in fat or calories than ground beef.


It all depends on the particular grind of meat you get. Ground turkey comes in the same fatty 80/20 ratio as ground beef, which means you’re not saving any calories, but you are getting an inferior tasting product (beef burgers always taste better than turkey burgers).


Plus, most turkey burger recipes have you add unnecessary fillers to the meat like oats, eggs, or breadcrumbs. All this does is increase the calorie count of the patty without adding any substantive nutrition boost.


Fortunately, you can have your burger (a real beef burger) and eat it too.


Simply make it yourself, and instead of getting the fatty 70/30 or 80/20 grind from the store, opt for a leaner 90/10 or 93/7 grind.


These deliver that unmistakable beef flavor that you’re craving but significantly slash the fat content while upping the protein content.


And, instead of a bloated burger bun burger that is made of refined flour, use a whole wheat bun, high quality whole grain bread (such as Ezekiel bread), or if you're low-carbing it, opt for a lettuce “bun” made from iceberg.


Finally, top your patty with a slice of cheese. You can opt for the reduced fat cheese, or go for the thin-sliced full fat cheese. Either way, with these swaps, you can have burgers every day of the week and still stay on track with your nutrition plan to build muscle and burn fat!


French Fries


French fries are the ultimate finger food, side dish, road trip snack, or late-night high-calorie treat.


These crunchy, crispy, salt sticks of potato are irresistible, and they’re packed with a truckload of carbs, calories and fat.


In fact, a medium order of fries at your local drive-thru can contain 320 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 43 grams of carbs!


The solution to making is an air fryer.


Now, don’t be nervous.


An air fryer isn’t the same thing as a deep fryer or fry daddy. It’s a self-contained convection over that “fries” food by circulating hot air around food at high speed, which produces crispy food in a fraction of the time.


Foods made in the air fryer taste almost identical to their deep-fried counterparts but require a fraction of the oil, saving you tons of calories and fat grams.


If you don’t have an air fryer or convection setting on your oven, you can still make crispy, fried-esque food in your regular conventional oven, but the cook time will be longer.


Here’s one of our favorite ways to make healthier fries:



  • 1 medium (~6-8oz) russet or Idaho potato, washed and dried
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • fresh cracked black pepper, to taste



  1. Preheat the air fryer or convection oven to 380°F.
  2. Cut the potato lengthwise into 1/4 inch thin slices; then cut each slice into 1/4 inch fries. (This process is much easier if you have a mandolin)
  3. In a  medium bowl, toss the potatoes and oil together, and then season the mixture with salt, garlic powder and black pepper.
  4. Place the potatoes in the basket in an even layer without overlapping or crowding, and cook for 12-15 minutes, turning the fries halfway through until they are golden brown, crisp, and delicious.


Belly-Flattening Burrito


Burritos make for the perfect meal on the go. Within one (ginormous) wrap, you’ve got everything you need for a complete meal -- protein, carbs, and fats.


However, those seemingly “healthy” wraps contain upwards of 250-300 calories, most of which is refined flour.


Moreover, the refried beans you get on your burrito are cooked in lard (which significantly adds to the fat content of the burrito). Plus, a heavy-handed burrito assembler can be a bit too generous with the guac, sour cream, and cheese, which again considerably amplifies the fat and calorie content of your meal.


The good news is that making your own burrito at home couldn’t be simpler. And, just like a sandwich or sub, the amount or ingredient ratios you use can be scaled up or down to accommodate your calorie needs and physique goals.


Here’s how to do it:



Serves 3

  • 3 large flour tortillas
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3/4 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed (a little less than a whole can)
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • cooking spray
  • 6 tablespoons Mexican cheese blend, shredded
  • 6 tablespoons salsa, plus more for garnish
  • 1 avocado, sliced (optional)



  1. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray.
  2. When heated, add chicken, onion, chili powder, and cumin and cook for 8 minutes or until chicken is done, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add black beans and cook 1 more minute to heat through while stirring.
  4. Shut off the heat and set the skillet aside.
  5. Begin burrito assembly by laying on flour tortilla flat on a clean surface or cutting board.
  6. Place 2 tablespoons cheese in the center, then add 1/3 of the chicken mixture on top.
  7. Next, add 2 tablespoon of salsa, and 3-4 slices of avocado down the middle.
  8. Roll tortilla in a jelly roll fashion, squeezing sides to ensure the filling doesn’t fall out.
  9. Place burritos seam side down on the counter and repeat with the other 2 tortillas.
  10. Heat a grill/griddle pan, clean skillet, or Comal over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray.
  11. Set tortillas onto the griddle, seam side down and cook for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown on bottom side, flip and continue cooking on the side until browned.
  12. Remove burritos from the skillet and place on a wire rack or plates to serve.


Chicken Nuggets


Another drive-thru staple is the chicken nugget. These delectable morsels of fried chicken are a staple item on every kid’s menu, and if we’re being honest, most adults eat their fair share too.


As with the vast majority of fast food fare, chicken nuggets and chicken strips are high-calorie gut bombs. And, to make matters worse, chicken nuggets can be made from an amalgamation of chicken parts...you never can be 100% certain what you’re going to get!


But, when you stop hitting the fast food restaurants and start making your own chicken nuggets or strips, you not only control the calories and fat content, you also know exactly what’s going into your nuggets. No more playing “guess the mystery meat.”


This riff on chicken nuggets uses parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumbs instead of refined white flour which helps up the flavor and crunch factor without needing a vat full of hot oil.



  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, divided in half
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs



  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and set aside.
  3. In a food processor place the chicken breasts, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, cold water, and seasonings.
  4. Pulse mixture for 1 minute or just until the chicken is minced and everything is thoroughly combined.
  5. Next, pour the panko breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup parmesan into a shallow dish. Shape the minced chicken mixture into small nuggets and coat with the breadcrumb mixture.
  6. Line nuggets on a baking sheet and spritz with cooking spray.
  7. Bake nuggets for 12-15 minutes then transfer under the broiler for 2-3 minute or until nuggets are lightly golden.
  8. Serve warm with ketchup or your favorite dipping sauce.


Note: Chicken nuggets can also be cooked in an air fryer or convection oven.


Set air fryer to 400F and pre-heat for 8-10 minutes.


Arrange nuggets in a single layer and spray with cooking spray. Cook each batch of chicken nuggets for 7 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165ºF. Do not overcook.


Protein-Packed Milkshakes


The sweet treat to end (or accompany) all fast food feasts is a thick, cold milkshake.


Typically, these milkshakes consist of nothing but full fat milk and lots of full fat ice cream.


Make no mistake that traditional milkshakes are phenomenal and good to the last drop. But they also contain an entire meal’s worth of calories (most of which is fat and carbs with a smattering of protein).


The good news is that you make a homemade protein shake that tastes just as rich and indulgent as a fast food shake, but with considerably improved macros and calories.


Option #1 (Sinfully Good Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake)

  • 6 oz milk or yogurt
  • 1 scoop 1UP Whey Cinnamon Chocolate Espresso (or Chocolate Peanut Butter Blast)
  • ½ frozen banana, cut into chunks
  • 1 serving of frozen spinach
  • 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp cacao nibs or dark cocoa powder
  • Ice (optional)


Option #2 (Chocolate Cherry Delight)

  • 6 oz milk or yogurt
  • 1 scoop 1UP ISO Chocolate Milkshake
  • 1 serving frozen cherries
  • 1 serving of frozen spinach
  • 1 tbsp walnuts
  • 1 tbsp cacao nibs or dark cocoa powder
  • Ice (optional)



  1. Combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender (VitaMix, Ninja, Magic Bullet, etc.)
  2. Blend on high for 1 minute
  3. Pour into a glass or drink straight from the blender!

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