Some people who are told they have high blood pressure may feel as though their days of eating delicious food are over—especially if they love fast food.
Because there is such a close connection between diet and blood pressure, it’s a good idea to limit your levels of sodium, processed foods, and saturated fat, while incorporating more fiber, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit into your daily diet if you have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.
But this doesn’t mean you have to completely restrict yourself from the foods you love. It may just mean you need to be a bit creative, including the moments you find yourself at your favorite fast-food restaurant.
To learn more about healthier fast-food alternatives, we talked with Medical Expert Board member Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, author of The First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility about the best fast-food orders for those with high blood pressure.
Read on, and for more healthy eating tips check out 4 Major Fast-Food Chains Making Drastic Changes.
You may not think of baked potatoes when you think of fast food, but Manaker suggests swapping out your french fries for this lighter, less sodium-dense version of a potato.
“Baked potatoes are a source of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. And unlike many other fast-food joints that only serve their potatoes fried, Wendy’s thankfully offers a baked version. Top your baked potato with a tiny dollop of sour cream and some chives for flavor, and you have a low-sodium and highly nutritious veggie to enjoy,” says Manaker.
Sodium is one of the leading diet-related factors in high blood pressure, and fast food is unfortunately covered in it. However, Manaker notes that McDonald’s oatmeal is a safer choice for those watching their blood pressure.
“This oatmeal is relatively low in sodium and it contains nutrients that support healthy blood pressure, including magnesium and calcium. Don’t add too much of the brown sugar and enjoy it with a protein source and black coffee, and you should be good to go,” says Manaker.
It’s understandable that most people would assume they need to always skip the fast-food hamburger if they’re watching their blood pressure. And while it’s still a good idea to limit your consumption of these types of foods when you can, Manaker says that treating yourself to a regular McDonald’s hamburger from time to time should be totally safe.
“McDonald’s has some impressive burger options to choose from that are large and loaded with sauces and a variety of toppings. But a simple hamburger can satisfy a burger craving in a better-for-you way. One burger isn’t loaded with sodium, has a reasonable amount of fat, and has a balance of satisfying protein and carbs to keep you full. A side of apples can give you a satisfying crunch without indulging in fried classics,” says Manaker.
Although many common fast-food items are loaded with sodium and saturated fat, which can contribute to high blood pressure, many fast-food places like Chick-fil-A are offering alternatives for those who want something healthier in a quick and easy way. One great option, in particular, is their yogurt parfait.
“Chick-fil-A is known for their chicken, but at breakfast time, they have an impressive yogurt parfait that is creamy and delicious. Since yogurt contains nutrients emphasized on the DASH diet, including calcium and magnesium, opting for this for breakfast can be a great choice if you have high blood pressure,” says Manaker.