Do you try to make healthy choices when you eat fast foods, opting for salads, grilled chicken and anything vegetable? Good for you — but do be careful, as you could be doing yourself a disservice with a “healthy” choice. It’s sad that the best intentions can backfire like this, but a little knowledge will go a long way in protecting your waistline.

To make sure you are not getting more calories and fat than you realize, check out the following comparisons — then put your newfound knowledge into practice.

01. Veggie Wrap vs. Veggie Pizza

The better of these two is the Veggie Pizza. A slice of Pizza Hut Veggie Lover’s pizza has only 200 calories and 8 grams of fat. A Fields and Feta Wrap at Au Bon Pain has 560 calories and 17 grams of fat. In this case, a slice of vegetable pizza is a much better choice. Wraps often have gobs of cheese, lots of oily dressing and a wrapper bigger than a dinner plate.

By comparison, a single slice of veggie pizza is a smaller, healthier quantity of the same types of food. Alternative choice: Order a wrap, but eat half and toss the rest. Better it goes in the waste can than on your waist! Or, look for wraps made with raw vegetable, one or two slices of cheese and mustard instead of mayonnaise or oil.

02. Hamburger vs. a Bowl of Chili

This is a tough one. Most weight conscious people avoid hamburgers, but that isn’t always necessary. You might be surprised to learn that a McDonald’s hamburger, with 280 calories and 10 grams of fat, is a much better deal than an order of Taco John’s Texas-Style Chili, with a whopping 380 calories and 22 grams of fat. But a small chili at Wendy’s has only 210 calories and 7 grams of fat, so it is the best deal of all, especially since the beans give it 5 grams of healthy fiber.

The lesson to be learned with chili is this: Do not assume all chili is low calorie. Most fast food chains have Web sites where you can check nutrition information. Of course, if you do choose chili, go easy on the cheese topping, or sour cream. They send the calorie and fat content through the roof.

03. Taco Salad vs. Taco

The taco is by far the best choice. Salad simply is not always synonymous with “skinny”. A Taco Bell Salad with salsa has a staggering 850 calories and 52 grams of fat, while an order of Taco Supreme at Taco Bell, with basically the same ingredients, is a mere 210 calories and 14 grams of fat. In this case, portion size is the main factor. Almost half of the calories in the taco salad come from the super-sized taco shell it is served in. Take a good look at the ingredients before you choose that “low calorie” salad.

04. Grilled Chicken Salad vs. Grilled Chicken Sandwich

While both choices have basically the same ingredients (lettuce, chicken, onions, tomatoes, and croutons/bread), the better of the two is the grilled chicken salad. However, many choose the salad over the sandwich thinking, mistakenly, that the bun will ruin their diet. However, bread is not the enemy. In fact, these items come out surprisingly similar in calories, though the salad wins by a nose.

A McDonald’s Chicken McGrill sandwich with mayonnaise has 450 calories and 18 grams of fat. A McDonald’s Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with one package of Caesar dressing and one package of croutons has 300 calories and 16.5 grams of fat. Beware: The theory that any salad is low calorie is totally false. The addition of croutons drenched in oil, gobs of salad dressing send calories and fat soaring.

For example, the Grilled Chicken Caesar salad with 2 ounces of dressing at Chili’s has 660 calories and 32 grams of fat. Tip: Never eat salad with the dressing mixed in. Keep dressing on the side and use the dip-spear-eat method: Dip your fork in and out of your dressing so a little bit clings to the tines. Then spear some salad and eat. By doing this, you will not eat all of your dressing, but you will enjoy the dressing’s added flavor.

05. Ice Cream vs. Frozen Yogurt

This one is easy, isn’t it! Frozen yogurt is often lower in calories than regular ice cream, but the key here is not to eat too much. Depending upon the sugar content frozen yogurt can have enough calories to put a serious dent in anybody’s weight control program. For example, two scoops of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Frozen Yogurt contain 320 calories and 4 grams of fat. By comparison, two scoops of Ben and Jerry’s Original Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream contain 460 calories and 22 grams of fat.

So, frozen yogurt saves you some calories and a lot of fat, but it still has enough calories to be a special-occasion only food. In ice cream and frozen yogurt shops, always ask what the calories are – don’t’ just assume they are all low in calories and fat. Be careful with the toppings, too. Piling on sprinkles, M & M’s and candies can add loads of fat and calories.

Healthy Fast Food Fixes

On average, people tend to be about 1 1/2 pounds heavier for every fast-food meal they eat per week!

Don’t blow your diet in a restaurant or at a drive-through. Print this out and try these dishes at some of these most popular food chains.

Popular Food Chain Dishes

Applebee’s

The choice: Steak and Portobellos (steak topped with Portobello mushroom gravy).
Nutrition information: 330 calories, 10g fat, 8g fiber

One of Applebee’s new Weight Watchers menu items, this dish is loaded with flavor. Get your vegetables with a heaping portion of antioxidant packed broccoli and a small side of potatoes.

Arby’s

The choice: Grilled Chicken Breast Fillet Sandwich
Nutrition information: 414 calories, 17g fat, 3g saturated fat, 913mg sodium

Thick and juicy, this sandwich makes a great lighter alternative to a greasy burger or Philly cheese steak.

Burger King

The choice: Tendergrill Chicken Garden Salad
Nutrition information: 240 calories, 9g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 720mg sodium (add Light Italian dressing for another 120 calories, 11g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 440mg sodium)

This light and tasty salad is full of different textures: Juicy and hot chicken, crisp lettuce and crunchy carrots.

McDonald’s

The choice: Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken
Nutrition information: 320 calories, 9g fat, 3g saturated fat, 70mg cholesterol, 970mg sodium, 7g fiber, 30g protein

The newest in McDonald’s line of premium salads, it’s protein and fiber packed with black beans and fire roasted corn, but make sure to specify grilled chicken instead of the fried crispy chicken, which adds 80 calories and 7 grams of fat.

Subway

The choice: The turkey Fresh Fit Meal: 6 inch turkey sub, apple slices, and 12 ounces of 1 percent milk.
Nutrition information: 524 calories, 8g fat, 4g saturated fat, 1,240mg sodium.

Not only does this save you 390 calories over the regular combo meal with chips and soda, but it also gives you more nutrition for your calories; like nearly 70 percent of your daily calcium needs. Cut a little sodium and add fiber by ordering it on a whole wheat bun. The new Fresh Fit Meals also include an option for kids, with a choice of apple juice or 1 percent low fat milk, plus a side of either raisins or apples.

Wendy’s

The choice: Chunky Chicken Salad Frescata
Nutrition information: 460 calories, 16g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 1,280mg sodium

This delicious bakery-style artisanal bread, plus the creamy, tangy chicken salad makes this sandwich a real treat. It tastes much richer than its 460 calories, but it’s a sodium splurge, so you may want to go light on salt the remainder of the day.

About those fries…

Choose beans, corn on the cob, or a side salad with low-calorie salad dressing instead of French fries.