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No-Guilt Fast Food

In days B.C. (Before Child), you cooked. You prepared balanced dinners. Your meals may not have been Martha-caliber, but hey, they were always edible and usually healthy. These days, you're lucky if you remember to eat, let alone sit down to do it. But recently you realized that familiar figures like Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders are out there making the kinds of offers that, on the craziest of days, you just cannot refuse: "We cook (and serve you quickly enough that your kid won't turn cranky before you get your food); you eat. Just kindly dump your tray on the way out."

Easy, speedy eating: Fabulous. Feeling guilty about consuming fast food when you're trying to shed a few postpartum pounds: Not so great. The solution? Relax. You're indulging in an occasional burger, not engaging in an illicit love affair with the Fry Guy. Besides, "fast food has come a long way," says Beth Casey Gold, a clinical coordinator for the Behavioral Weight Management Program at the University of Vermont in Burlington. "You can choose healthier, low-cal options like a salad, yogurt, or fruit."

Of course, no one is going to face a menu full of fried food and choose the fruit salad every time. If on a rare day you're having a strong hankering for fries, get 'em. One splurge will not break the calorie bank, says Elisa Zied, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association: "Just eat lighter at dinner  -- and get back on track the next day."

We rounded up some of the best choices at your favorite fast-food chains, based not just on calories and fat but also on nutritional value. (So while a cheeseburger may be only 40 calories less than the french fries at McDonald's, its protein and calcium content make it a much healthier choice than the empty-carb fries.) Keep this chart.

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