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Ditch the Drive-Thru & Make Healthy Versions at Home

By , Melissa Rudy, Health & Fitness Journalist
When you're racing against the clock, the convenience of the drive-thru can be tough to ignore, especially when you've got a hankering for your greasiest guilty pleasure. But go ahead and put that fry down: There is a better way. You can cater to that craving without getting crushed by calories, fat and sodium. A little planning can pay off: By preparing these fast-food copycats at home, you can also save more than a few bucks.
KFC Fried Chicken
No picnic at the park seems quite complete without a bucket of crispy fried chicken—but when you get it from the local drive-through, it also comes with a bucket of unwanted grease, fat, cholesterol and calories. As a healthier, oven-baked alternative, this Crunchy Spiced Chicken is made with low-fat ingredients, but is still finger lickin' good. (For an even healthier version of this recipe, SparkPeople's nutritionist, Becky Hand, recommends cutting back the salt to 1/2 teaspoon and halving the amount of the panko and flour coating.)
Nutritional Info (per serving) FAST FOOD VERSION: 
KFC Extra-Crispy Drumstick
Crunchy Spiced Chicken Drumstick
Calories 290 241
Fat (grams) 17 8.3
Sodium (milligrams) 760 869
Carbohydrates (grams) 10 21.4
Cholesterol (milligrams) 90 47.8
Fiber (grams) <1 1.1
Protein (grams) 24 17.2
PRICE (approx. per serving) $6.99 $3.37

Next time the kiddos are clamoring for chicken nuggets, skip the drive-thru and make your own. These Crispy Baked Chicken Nuggets are healthier than fried chicken or frozen nuggets, yet still  offer a spicy crunch and filling protein that will have even the grown-ups coming back for seconds.
Nutritional Info (per serving) FAST FOOD VERSION:
McDonald's 6-Piece Chicken Nuggets
Crispy Baked Chicken Nuggets
Calories 280 197.5
Fat (grams) 18 7.7
Sodium (milligrams) 540 149.5
Carbohydrates (grams) 18 11.3
Cholesterol (milligrams) 40 46.8
Fiber (grams) 1 1.6
Protein (grams) 13 21.2
PRICE (approx. per serving) $3.99 0.44 cents

Burger King Sweet Potato Fries
Traditional French fries don't typically have a place in a healthy diet, but when you’ve just got to have that crisp, spicy flavor, our healthier version—made with just a sweet potato and seasonings of your choice—leaves fast-food fries in the dust. Plus, it's just as easy to make these as it is to hit the drive-thru!
Nutritional Info (per serving) FAST FOOD VERSION:
Burger King, Sweet Potato Fries
Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Calories 390 103
Fat (grams) 21 .2
Sugar (grams) 11 10
Sodium (milligrams) 720 41
Carbohydrates (grams) 48 23.6
Cholesterol (milligrams) 0 0
Fiber (grams) 5 3.8
Protein (grams) 2 2.3
PRICE (approx. per serving) $2.99 $.85

P.F. Chang’s Sesame Chicken
It's hard to resist lunch at your favorite Chinese restaurant, but you'll pay for it—not only with your wallet, but in terms of sky-high sodium, carbs and calories. Our slimmed-down Sesame Chicken recipe delivers the same mouth-watering taste without wrecking your dietary numbers.
Nutritional Info (per serving) FAST FOOD VERSION: 
P.F. Chang’s Sesame Chicken
Sesame Chicken
Calories 730 300
Fat (grams) 24 17.6
Sugar (grams) 71 3.5
Sodium (milligrams) 2490 783.3
Carbohydrates (grams) 93 7
Cholesterol (milligrams) 70 47.8
Fiber (grams) 7 1.2
Protein (grams) 41 28.2
PRICE (approx. per serving) $10.50 $1.30

Egg McMuffin           
You already know the importance of eating breakfast, but you don't want to start off your day with an unhealthy mistake for the sake of convenience. Hitting the corner fast-food joint may seem easiest when you're pressed for time, but you can throw together your own healthier version before leaving the house—and your schedule won't suffer.
Lisa Andrews, registered dietitian with Sound Bites Nutrition, recommends making your own egg sandwich with spinach and cheese on a whole-wheat English muffin. Not only will you save calories, fat, sodium and cash, you'll also infuse your diet with a healthy dose of iron, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C.

Nutritional Info (per serving) FAST FOOD VERSION:
McDonald's Egg McMuffin
Egg & Spinach Muffin
Calories 300 232
Fat (grams) 12 8
Sodium (milligrams) 730 441
Carbohydrates (grams) 29 28
Cholesterol (milligrams) 245 171
Fiber (grams) 1 5
Protein (grams) 17 14
PRICE (approx. per serving) $1.19 .80 cents

McDonald’s Quarter Pounder
If you're a meat eater and find yourself with a hankering for a burger, you don't have to succumb to the greasy fast-food variety. For the homemade version below, Andrews used a Laura's Lean four-ounce burger with one slice of Swiss cheese, pickles, ketchup and mustard on an Arnold's thin bun.
Nutritional Info (per serving) FAST FOOD VERSION:
McDonald's Quarter Pounder
with Cheese
Lean Cheeseburger
Calories 540 288
Fat (grams) 28 18
Sodium (milligrams) 1110 482
Carbohydrates (grams) 42 22.5
Cholesterol (milligrams) 100 87
Fiber (grams) 3 6
Protein (grams) 31 33
PRICE (approx. per serving) $3.79 $2.50

Wendy’s Frosty
When the call of chocolate can't be denied, mix up this mouth-watering Mock Wendy's Frosty. For less than a quarter of the calories and barely a trace of fat, you can enjoy a refreshing frozen treat without the post-sugar guilt.

Nutritional Info (per serving) FAST FOOD VERSION:
Wendy's Frosty (small)
Mock Wendy's Frosty
(10 oz.)
Calories 299 65.6
Fat (grams) 6 0.4
Sodium (milligrams) 222 100
Carbohydrates (grams) 54 14.3
Cholesterol (milligrams) 36 3.1
Fiber (grams) 7 0.7
Protein (grams) 8 5.1
PRICE (approx. per serving) 0.99 cents 0.50 cents

(Lisa Mikus, RDN, CNSC of Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services and Lisa C. Andrews, MEd, RD, LD of Sound Bites Nutrition contributed to this article.)
Do you have a favorite homemade version of a fast-food menu item? Share it in the comments.

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OLDSKOOL556 10/17/2020
Great article thanks for sharing Report
RYCGIRL 9/26/2020
thx Report
ATHENA2010 7/27/2020
Great ideas to make your own instead of eating out! Now just have to get motivated to cook at home! Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Interesting article. Report
Great Advice! Thanks for sharing this one! Report
Great suggestions. Report
Great article! Report
Great article! Report
Thanks Report
I always think that this article is so interesting. To think how much we eat out too. Report
When we have french fries, I always put them in the oven to cook---much better fpor us too--no cooking in oil Report
I use some of these a lot. Report
Such a great article and info. I wish there were more comparisons but this was very helpful
Don’t forget to AirFry! Same flavor less fat and little to no oil required. Report
Thank you for these great tips! Report
The baked sweet potato fries are my favorite. Report
I haven't eaten fried chicken in years. It is always baked, or grilled. Report
Thank you for the substitution ideas. Report
Drive thrus are a killer for healthy eating Report
I make both my white and sweet potato fries in the oven. Report
Great suggestions Report
great reminder on healthy eating Report
Everything looks so delicious but with healthier choices. Report
I like the sweet potato home fries recipe. It saves a lot of calories Report
Very interesting. all foods in moderation. Report
Good article! Report
Some of these are more impressive to me than others. We've already got the McMuffin going even to the point of my learning how to make English muffins (very beginner!) - and I use egg substitute on my own. The cost is almost always better as pointed out. But in some, the carbs or cholesterol, for instance actually increased in the home recipe version. Thankfully, all the detailing in the charts is very helpful depending on what your nutritional focus or concerns are. Glad to see that sodium was reduced in almost every one. Basically, I like to cook and this is very encouraging. Report
I think the frosty looks nasty Report
I am so craving a burger, but don't want the calories! I will definitely try the burger recipe for 288 calories. Report
look healthier Report
Wow! Making these fast-foods at home saves both your health AND your wallet! Report
@ Nanalynn24, www.food.com/recipe/burger-king-chi
but bake them in your oven rather than fry to avoid all that oil...350 degrees, it's a funky shape so they may cook pretty fast, just watch them.
Does anyone have a healthy recipe for Burger King's buffalo chicken fries. Report
Back in the '80s/'90s there was a woman who would be on Phil Donahue's Show sometimes who made KFC, White Castle, D.Donuts, B King, etc. and I remember I made the Wendy's shakes and her recipe was REALLY good. She was a chef who had studied the fast food and determined what was in each of the "secret" recipes. I think you can still find them online. Report
2Good suggestions. Love to cook. Will try some. Report
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