We all do it. We all eat fast food. Whether it’s a quick Lebanese meal or a full-on combo lard-fest, modern life is fast and our eating habits have followed suit. But is it possible to eat ‘healthy’ fast food? Derrick Branford, a record-breaking Olympic weightlifter, is now taking it upon himself to train the Middle East population on nutrition and healthy eating through his company, American Fitness. ‘When I was an Olympic weightlifter, we would travel a lot,’ he explains. ‘It’s not like we took a packed lunch. We often had to eat on the road; we just made smart choices.’ Here are Derrick’s top picks from a typical Bahrain food court.

Grilled salmon bento (hold the rice)
‘Salmon is packed with Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, which are super-healthy. Go for grilled – stay away from anything breaded and fried. The sauce may have a little sugar, but it’ll be counteracted by the protein.’

Chicken yakitori bento (hold the rice)
‘It’s grilled and comes skinless with a seaweed salad, as well as fruit, both of which are healthy. The salmon is a better choice and this is a little high in sodium, but it’s OK if you’re sweating it out. With all bento boxes, hold the rice and replace it with lower-glycaemic carbs such as veggies.’

Tofu, wakame and cucumber salad
‘Tofu is a soy protein, so this is a complete, well-rounded meal because you get the combination of protein and low-glycaemic carbs. The seaweed is a superfood that’s packed with iodine, which raises your metabolism by maximising your thyroid output.’

Any sashimi dish
‘Sashimi is pure protein – this is the best option if you’re trying to lose fat. It’s high in protein and essential fatty acids: your body can use those acids in place of carbs. This is what an elite athlete would choose.’

Miso soup
‘This contains a pro-digestive enzyme that’s great for digestion. It also falls under the volumetrics plan, which runs on the premise that you eat what fills you up on the least calories – these are high-water and high-fibre foods.’

‘Anything breaded and fried, such as tempura and fried rice.’

Campo Di Fiori salad (go easy on the olive oil dressing, as it’s high in calories)
‘This is the best salad choice of any restaurant tested. The chicken is roasted and healthy; you get superfoods with tomatoes, mixed leaves and asparagus; and it has the healthiest dressing on the menu: vinegar and olive oil. Eating this meal a few times a week will have your skin glowing!’

Thin Romana pizza (choose any toppings, but hold the cheese)
‘These pizzas are stretched thin, helping to reduce the amount of carbs in each slice, but do still use portion control. Cut out the cheese to remove the major caloric contributor of the meal and to avoid combining fats and carbs, which is diet sabotage [carbs and fat combined boost your insulin levels and drive fat cells into storage].’

Pizze Integrale (any toppings, but hold the cheese)
‘Again, cheese is a no-no [it’s very high in fat], but the dough is wholemeal, which is a lower glycemic option than regular crust. Use portion control.’

Minestrone soup
‘Great for a volumetric style of eating. Eat this as a meal in itself, or before a meal to control appetite.’

‘Pasta; calzone (it’s pizza with twice the carbs); and risotto (essentially just rice drenched in fat).’

McDonalds Egg McMuffin (hold the cheese, lose half the bun and add a portion of Fruit Bites)
‘By ditching the cheese and half the bun, we lose about 150 empty calories that can be replaced with low glycemic carbs and fibre from Fruit Bites. The egg is the highest-quality protein you can get, and the yolk is nothing to fear, but rather something to cherish! Outside of the protein, it’s where all the health-beneficial nutrition is. The cholesterol in eggs will not raise your overall cholesterol levels.’

Chicken Caesar salad (replace the dressing with ketchup)
‘This basic chicken and lettuce salad keeps the calories low. The Caesar dressing contains more calories than the salad itself, so skip it and choose ketchup instead.’

McArabia Chicken (hold the garlic sauce, add ketchup if needed)
‘The least healthy choice here, but still good enough to make the list. The chicken is grilled, the wrap isn’t too carb-heavy and it’s filled with some veg.’

Fruit Bites and a black coffee
‘This seems to be what gymnasts choose on the go. It’s low in calories, has energy to keep you moving and is quick to digest, so you don’t feel weighed down.’

‘All value meals (fries, burgers and a drink): most total 800 calories or more. Also swerve away from the veggieburger meal – it’s fried and it comes with fries. Always order non-calorific drinks (there are 140 calories in a can of ‘fat’ Coke).’

Lentil soup
‘You can find soup like this at most Lebanese restaurants. Lentils are high in protein, fibre, folate, iron, copper, phosphorus, tryptophan, manganese… shall I continue? If you’re missing something in your diet, lentils will help to fill the gaps.’

Turkey sandwich (hold the cheese)
‘The perfect blend of carbs and protein: just remove the cheese and hold the dressing for the ideal meal. Add some calorie-free mustard as a healthier dressing.’

Shish taouk (hold the bread and fries and add steamed veg)
‘The chicken is grilled and comes dry, which is a good thing. Skip the bread and double up on the veggies and you have a meal to burn fat via protein and fibre. Use mustard as a healthy dipping sauce.’

Grilled hammour fillet (replace the baked potato with steamed vegetables)
‘The fish is prepared healthily – it’s grilled, you get your quality protein and Omegas, and of course there’s the double dose of veggies. Any elite athlete would favour this option.’

‘Anything involving the word ‘pastry’; shwarmas (the meat is loaded with fat and a small serving contains around 270 calories); and hummus with butter and pine nuts – that’s a lot of fats piled on top of each other.’

Kheere ka raita
‘Yoghurt is always a great option, even here where it’s slightly higher in fat (due to oils). It’s probiotic for boosted immune function and digestive health, and is also a good source of quality protein.’

Dum methi murg
‘The chicken breast is chargrilled. Most Indian cuisine tends to use extra fat when cooking everything, so this is a jewel of a find. Just be sure to pick out the chicken and leave the gravy.’

Subzi jalfrezi
‘You can’t go wrong with garden veggies and lemon juice. If I was eating here, this would be my order.’

Roti tandoori
‘This is the best bread choice to eat with the meats as it’s made with wholewheat flour.’

‘Paneer shalimar, a cottage cheese pastry that’s deep fried; and tandoori aloo: potato, seeds, raisins and cream cheese – a bad combination.’
For more info or to contact Derrick, see www.americanfitness.me

Derrick’s portion control guide
‘The average human stomach, when empty, is only the size of your fist. So in general you could eat anything on any menu, as long as the meat portion stays the size of a deck of playing cards and the carb portion is the size of your fist. Never eat a meal larger than your two fists put together.’