Eating healthy while dining at fast food restaurants like Cook Out can seem challenging, but it is possible! With a bit of planning and smart choices, you can enjoy your favorite Cook Out meals without derailing your healthy eating goals. Here are some tips and strategies for eating well at Cook Out.
Understand the Menu
The first step is to familiarize yourself with the Cook Out menu and nutritional information. This allows you to identify healthier options and make informed choices. Some good options at Cook Out include:
- Grilled chicken sandwiches and wraps
- Salads with grilled or crispy chicken
- Baked potatoes or corn as side dishes
- Low-calorie beverage options like water, unsweetened tea, diet soda
Be mindful of high calorie, salty foods like burgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings, milkshakes and ask for modifications when possible.
Choose Grilled Chicken
Grilled chicken is one of the healthiest proteins you can get at a fast food place. At Cook Out, you can order a grilled chicken sandwich or wrap in place of a burger or hot dog to slash calories, fat and sodium. Opt for grilled chicken on your salads too.
Load up on Veggies
Pile on the veggies! Add tomato, lettuce, onion and pickles to sandwiches and wraps. Get side salads or choose corn or baked potatoes over fries. This increases fiber, vitamins, minerals and fills you up on fewer calories. Ask for extra veggies at no additional cost.
Skip Sugary Drinks
Cook Out is known for its 40+ flavor milkshake menu, but these pack a caloric punch. A small Cook Out shake has around 1,000 calories. Opt for unsweetened tea, water or diet soda instead. Getting a “cheerwine float” is another better option for satisfying your sweet tooth.
Share or Downsize Portions
Cook Out portions are extremely generous. Consider sharing a tray or meal with a friend or downsizing your side dishes and shakes to a small or junior size. Getting individual orders of bites or slaws can also help reduce portions.
Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications to make a menu item healthier. Some options:
- Get sandwiches “lettuce wrapped” without the bun
- Substitute fries for corn or a side salad
- Ask for grilled chicken on any sandwich
- Request sandwiches without mayo or other heavy condiments
- Ask for light sauce or sauce on the side
Most Cook Out locations will accommodate reasonable requests.
Healthier Meal Options at Cook Out
Here are some specific healthy meal options you can request at Cook Out:
Grilled Chicken Sandwich or Wrap
Order a grilled chicken sandwich or wrap with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. Ask for mustard instead of mayo and get it lettuce wrapped or on a whole wheat bun to make it even healthier. Pair it with a side salad, corn or baked potato.
Crispy Chicken Salad
Build a salad with crispy chicken, lots of veggies, reduced fat shredded cheese and light dressing on the side. This gives you protein and nutrients without the heavy bun or fries.
Make your own veggie plate with a couple healthy side dishes like corn, baked potato, coleslaw and side salad. Add a small grilled chicken sandwich for some lean protein.
Baked Potato and Chili
Order a baked potato loaded up with chili, shredded cheese, onions, jalapenos and other toppings. This makes a filling, protein-rich meal.
Grilled Chicken Wrap and Fruit Cup
Choose a grilled chicken wrap filled with fresh vegetables. Pair it with a fruit cup for a balanced meal with fiber, produce and lean protein.
Corn Dog and Side Salad
Opt for a corn dog as a lower calorie entree option. Pair it with a side salad dressed with light balsamic vinaigrette rather than fries for a healthier accompaniment.
Order a chicken quesadilla with grilled chicken, reduced fat cheese, onions, peppers, tomatoes and jalapenos. This gives you a dose of cheesy, Tex-Mex flavor for fewer calories than a burger and fries.
Healthy Eating Tips for Sides and Snacks
Cook Out offers a variety of sides that can make your meal healthier:
The side salad with light balsamic dressing is just 60 calories, providing nutrients from fresh greens. Caesar side salads are 90 calories and pack a protein punch from cheese and croutons.
Fruit cups make for a refreshing 70 calorie side. They provide fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.
Corn on the Cob
Opt for grilled corn on the cob as a filling side. It has about 100 calories per ear and gives you antioxidants.
A plain baked potato makes a hearty side with just around 160 calories. Load it up with chili or broccoli cheese for added flavor.
While drenched in creamy dressing, the coleslaw is just 180 calories for a small side order. It packs in vegetables like cabbage, carrots and onion.
The black beans offer protein and fiber for a mere 130 calories in a small side. Enjoy them atop salads or baked potatoes.
For snacks, try sharing a corn dog or chicken quesadilla. You can also make snack boxes from sides like baked potatoes, slaw, beans and corn. Fruit cups also make a refreshing sweet treat.
Healthier Drink Options
When it comes to drinks, steer clear of milkshakes and aim for the following lower calorie options:
- Water – Water has 0 calories and hydrates without adding sugar.
- Unsweetened Iced Tea – Enjoy the refreshing flavor of tea without the 45+ grams of sugar in sweet tea.
- Diet Soda – Opt for diet versions of your favorite fizzy drinks like Diet Coke.
- Unsweetened Coffee – Get your caffeine fix without the added cream and sugar.
- Low-fat Milk – Milk provides key nutrients like calcium and vitamin D with less fat than whole milk.
Avoid sweet teas, lemonades, fruit juices and shakes with excessive sugar. Getting beverages unsweetened or sugar-free slashes calories.
Portion Control Tips
Practice these tips to keep portions in check:
- Share large combo meals or split items with a friend.
- Downsize shakes, fries and sides to small or junior sizes.
- Order kid-size portions like the Jr. burger or corn dog.
- Get single-serve items like slaws, bites and sandwiches.
- Use a bunless sandwich or lettuce wrap for less bread.
- Save part of your meal for leftovers.
Avoid supersizing items or getting extra value meals that feature larger portions. Stop eating when you feel full rather than forcing yourself to clean your plate.
Watch Your Condiments
Condiments like mayo, heavy sauces and dressings quickly drive up calories, fat and sodium. Opt for lighter options like mustard, oil & vinegar, barbecue sauce and hot sauce. Get sauces and dressings on the side to control how much you use.
Sample Meal Plan for Eating Healthy at Cook Out
Here is a one day sample meal plan with healthy Cook Out options:
- At home – Overnight oats made with oats, chia seeds, milk and berries. Cup of coffee.
- Grilled chicken sandwich lettuce wrapped with tomato, onion and mustard. Side salad with light balsamic dressing.
- Unsweetened iced tea.
- Small fruit cup.
- Crispy chicken salad with lettuce, cheddar, tomato, cucumbers, onion and light ranch dressing.
- Corn on the cob.
- Diet soda.
- Dip pineapples and strawberries into a small side of chocolate sauce.
This provides balanced nutrition all day with lean protein, produce, whole grains and healthy fats, while keeping calories, sugar, salt and bad fats in check.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some common questions about healthy eating at Cook Out:
What are the healthiest sandwich options at Cook Out?
Some of the healthiest sandwich choices are grilled chicken sandwiches, turkey wraps, and veggie burgers without mayo or cheese. Getting sandwiches lettuce wrapped instead of on a bun also makes them healthier.
What can I get instead of fries?
Good lower-calorie sides to substitute for fries include corn on the cob, side salads, fresh fruit cups, baked potatoes, and black beans. Grilled items like chicken bites or corn dogs are also lighter than fries.
How can I get sauce without a ton of calories?
Ask for sauces and dressings on the side so you control how much you use. Opt for lighter sauces like mustard, oil & vinegar, plain barbecue and hot sauce over creamy, sugary sauces.
Are the milkshakes really that unhealthy?
Yes, the milkshakes range from 900-1300 calories each! Opt for unsweetened drinks, fruit cups or share a junior shake instead. Or find ways to work off those milkshake calories with activity.
What are the best snacks from the menu?
Healthy, portion-controlled snacks include corn dogs, chicken quesadillas, bites, slaws, baked potatoes, fruit cups and snack boxes you make with sides.
Can I order grilled chicken on anything?
You can sub grilled chicken in place of burgers or chicken tenders in sandwiches, salads and wraps for a healthier option. Let the cashier know you want grilled chicken on a given item.
While Cook Out is known for its indulgent shakes and barbecue favorites, you can definitely eat healthy there with some simple tricks. Focus on grilled chicken sandwiches, salads, sides like fruit and corn over fries, and lighter beverage options. Feel free to customize orders by swapping in grilled chicken, ditching the bun or heavy sauces, and choosing lighter sides. With sensible portions and smart choices, you can still enjoy Cook Out without sabotaging your diet.