When it comes to losing weight, exercise is important. But calorie reduction is what really helps you win the race and drop those extra pounds that creep onto your waistline.

Complete diet makeovers can be overwhelming. Chances are, you are likely to give up before you’ve made any progress or reached your goal…

While many of us aspire to be one of the Jamie Olivers of the world, we don’t always have time to cook or entertain the time consuming event of food preparation.

Inevitably, you will find yourself driving through a fast food restaurant that’s close to the office, on the way to your kids’ soccer practice, or not so far from your house when hunger pangs strike.

Here’s a short list of three ideas that will help you trade in a high calorie fast food meal for a lighter alternative. When your life is hectic and busy, these small wins will help keep your fitness goal in reach and your weight loss progress on track.

Stick your burrito in a bowl

Forget the wrap. That tortilla that is covering your burrito at Chipotle is loaded with lard, processed flour and salt. It can add up to 300 additional calories to your burrito!

When you get rid of that tortilla and use an alternative bowl filled with lettuce you are eating a much healthier meal. When you are eating a much healthier meal, you will end up feeling much better throughout the week, more energized, and likely more apt to stick to your exercise plan that day.

Ditch that Double Meat and A Bun and Go Protein Style

Ordering double meat is no doubt a delicious treat at In-N-Out Burger, but stacking that protein can add up to a whopping 670 calories. Add fries and that’s another 395 calories and your caloric intake will be even higher if you opt for a 195-calorie fountain soda. That’s a total of 1,260 calories.

Consider ordering your burger “protein style” which is how In-N-Out Burger makes the burger of your choice wrapped in lettuce; hold the bun. Coming in at 520 calories, you just saved yourself 150 additional calories. Plus, the protein style burgers are actually pretty tasty, especially in the summer.

You can improve your In-N-Out order even more when you order unsweetened iced tea or a diet coke, so you’re almost saving 350 calories! And while it’s hard to skip the fries, you are upwards of saving 750 calories for your fast food treat if you stick to the lettuce wrapped burger and the low calorie drink.

If you only did this just for four times out of the year when you visit, you’d lose one pound.

Shelve Your Spicy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich for a Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap

As heartbreaking as it may sound, the spicy chicken deluxe sandwich may not be your best choice as a healthy meal at Chick-fil-A.

This succulent and delicious chicken burger that is filled with flavor and happiness is also loaded with 490 calories and 1600 mg of sodium, 60 mg of cholesterol. Then, when you add on your favorite sauces, you are looking at an additional 140 calories. That is a total of 630 calories!

There is a healthier alternative. That is the grilled chicken cool wrap. With only 340 calories, you are saving yourself an extra 150 calories for your meal. Plus, the grilled chicken cool wrap is loaded with 36 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber! Talk about a healthy dinner choice.

Now, we do not recommend that you go out there and eat fast food for every meal. We can only recommend that when you are pressed for time and you do have to choose one of these options, to choose the healthier alternative. It will save your health in the long run!

Are you looking for other foods that will help you be healthier? The best way to be certain about what works for you is to ask your physician.

If you’re curious as to what other foods can be beneficial for you, reach out to your primary care physician for advice. If you are local to Southern California and are in search of a primary care physician, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

By Leonard Kim and Lisa Loeffler