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I Lost 160 Pounds by Making These 10 Fast Food Swaps

You will be shocked by how many calories you can cut from your fast food order by making a few swaps.
FACT CHECKED BY Christopher Roback

Yes, you can lose weight while eating fast food – and it's easier than you think. Amber Clemens (@amber_c_fitness) is a weight loss warrior and influencer on TikTok who lost a whopping 160 pounds by changing her approach to diet and fitness. In one of her viral video series, she reveals a few simple tweaks she made to fast food orders that helped her drop so much weight. "I'm gonna show you how incredibly easy it is to make a couple simple swaps at fast food restaurants and save major calories," she says in one of the clips. She reveals her before-and-after orders from popular places, including McDonald's, Subway, Cold Stone, Taco Bell, and Panera, sometimes shaving thousands of calories off a single order.

Before Meal at McDonald's: 1,340 Calories

Ayutthaya,Thailand - March 7, 2018 :View in Porto Go Bangpa-in, McDonald's Restaurant in Ayutthaya,Thailand. McDonald's is an American hamburger and fast food restaurant chain

Amber starts with McDonald's. "So let's say you want a Big Mac meal. So you get the Big Mac, you get a large fry and a large Coke to drink. That comes to 1,340 calories," she says.

After Meal at McDonalds: 770 Calories


"Now let's take that same meal, make a couple of simple swaps, and save around 600 calories. So we're still gonna get the Big Mac meal, so we're gonna get the Big Mac, we're gonna get a small fry, and we're gonna swap the regular Coke for Diet Coke. Now you have a meal that is 770 calories just by making those couple simple swaps, you're saving 600 calories. And if you're ordering the Big Mac meal, chances are you're getting that because you really want the Big Mac. So this is a way that you can still have it," she points out.

Before Meal at Wendy's: 1,450 Calories

SEASIDE, CA/USA - MARCH 27, 2014: Wendy's fast food restaurant exterior and sign. Wendy's is the world's third largest hamburger fast food chain with approximately 6,650 locations.

At Wendy's Amber used to order a Four for Four meal with a Junior cheeseburger, four piece chicken nugget, a small fry, "and I would actually order an additional six piece nugget because I wanted 10 and I would get a large root beer and that one meal would be 1,450 calories," she says, noting "that's not including any dipping sauces that I would get to dip this stuff in, but I couldn't find the nutrition information for that."

After Meal at Wendy's: 545 Calories:

Los Angeles, California – June 16, 2023: Wendy's - American International Fast-Food Restaurant chain

She offers two lower calorie alternatives, the apple pecan salad "because it's so filling," she says. "You get a high volume of food for about 550 calories." Her other option is a six piece nugget and a small fry paired with a medium light lemonade. "And you can get that meal for 545 calories," she says. "It's not about cutting things out, it's about finding things that you like equally as much, making swaps in moderation," she points out.

Before Meal at Burger King: 2,250 Calories

Saraburi, Thailand - JUNE 3, 2018 - Burger King modern restaurant at PTT gasoline fuel station sunset sky

Amber was "shocked" when she tallied up her before the Burger King order. "My go-to Burger King order before I lost 160 pounds was two original chicken sandwiches for 680 calories a piece, a large fry," which alone added 440 calories, she notes, "and a large Dr. Pepper for 450 calories bringing that one meal in my day to 2,250 calories."

After Meal at Burger King: 560 Calories

Warwick, UK - December 30 2022: The Burger King Fast Food outlet at Warwick Services on the M40 Motorway

Now she gets a nine piece chicken fry for 260 calories and a small french fry "because again, I'm not giving up my french fries. I love them," she says. "300 calories for a small and a large Diet Coke for a zero calories and that comes through 560 calories for everything."

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Before Meal at Culver's: 2,200 Calories

Muncie - July 10, 2023: Culver's fast casual restaurant. Culvers is famous for their Butterburgers and Frozen Custard.

At Amber's "favorite" restaurant, Culver's, she would get a value basket with a Culver's bacon deluxe, 850 calories, a medium fry, 360, a medium root beer, 300 calories, "and with that I would also get a side of cheese curds, which is 510 calories, and obviously you have to get ranch if you get cheese curd, which is 180 calories, which brings that one meal to 2,200 calories."

After Meal at Culver's: 520 Calories


Now she orders a combo basket with a grilled chicken sandwich, "the best grilled chicken sandwich out there, I swear," she says, with extra pickles. "Obviously, it's 390 calories and 41 grams of protein." She also gets mashed potatoes and gravy as a side, which are 130 and a Diet Dr. Pepper, a total of 520 calories, "and I'll usually steal a couple of my boyfriend's cheese curds."

Before Meal at Five Guys: 2,578 Calories

Toronto, Canada - May 16, 2020: Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurant in Toronto; Five Guys is an American fast casual restaurant chain focused on hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries.

Her previous order at Five Guys consisted of a regular-sized cheeseburger with mushrooms, onions, lettuce, mayo, ketchup, mustard, and pickles, "bringing just the burger to 984 calories," she says. "I would get a large fry, which is insane because if you've been to Five Guys, you know they don't skip on the fries. A large fry is 1,314 calories. And I do a large Dr. Pepper for 280," she says. Grand total: 2,578 calories.

After Meal at Five Guys: 1,134 Calories

London- May 2023: Interior of a Five Guys burger chain restaurant in London's West End

Her after-meal is "one of the little hamburgers, and I add cheese, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, and pickles. I like a lot of stuff in my burgers. And that comes through 608 calories," she says. She also orders a small fry, only eating what comes in the cup, and  a Diet Coke, "which comes to 1,134."

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Before Meal at Panera: 1,890 Calories

Kokomo - Circa August 2021: Panera Bread Retail Location. Panera is a chain of fast casual restaurants offering Free WiFi.

"I used to think anything from Panera was automatically healthy. But let me tell you, it is very easy to add up calories very quickly there," she says at the start of the clip. Before losing the weight, she would order the mac and cheese in a bread bowl, 1,150 calories, and a half-size toasted Frontega chicken sandwich for 420 calories with the French baguette on the side for 180 calories and the passion papaya iced green tea, 140 calories, "bringing that one meal to 1,890 calories for one meal," she revealed.

After Meal at Panera: 620 Calories:

Tampa, FL USA - 02 05 2021: Panera Bread, a Chain of Fast Casual Restaurant

Now, she orders one of two meals. "I do a You Pick Two with a half Smokehouse Barbecue chicken sandwich for 380 calories paired with a cup of the broccoli cheddar soup for 230, and I get the fruit on the side for 60, and they have Bubbly on tap. So I get that. And that is 670," she says. Option two is a chicken Caesar salad and the baguette for 620 calories.

Before Meal at Buffalo Wild Wings: 1,910 Calories

Lancaster, PA, USA - March 5, 2018: Buffalo Wild Wings is an American casual dining restaurant and sports bar franchise with over 1,200 locations.

Her Buffalo Wild Wings order consisted of a 10 piece boneless chicken wings with parmesan garlic sauce. "The wings by themself are 610 and then you add 260 for the parmesan garlic sauce. I would get that with a side of fries for 420, ranch to dip those babies in for 320 and at least three Dr. Peppers," she says which brings that one meal to 1,910 calories. "I was seriously so shocked about the ranch. What?"

After Meal at Buffalo Wild Wings: 750 Calories

JACKSONVILLE, FL-APRIL 27, 2016: Buffalo Wild Wings bar and grill. Buffalo Wild Wings is growing throughout the USA.

"After losing 160 pounds, I do a five piece naked tender combo, which is 680 plus 70 calories for a side of barbecue sauce. I skip the ranch, and I just use ketchup, she says, noting that the chicken alone offers 61 grams of protein. "I get their unsweetened iced tea. All four, 750 calories."

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Before Meal at Domino's: 3,740 Calories

LONDON - FEBRUARY 5, 2018: Domino's Pizza take away pickup and delivery shop in West Hampstead, London, UK.

"Pizza is my favorite food," Amber declares, sharing her "before" Domino's order. "I would do a medium hand-tossed pizza with extra cheese, bacon, mushroom, onion, pepperoni, and sausage. And yes, most of the time, I would eat the whole thing myself. I love the stuffed cheesy bread. So I would always get that, and I would have at least five pieces in one sitting, and then I'd finish it later. Always get a thing of the ranch. And I used to be obsessed with their molten lava cake. So I'd always get those and have at least one and a bottle of Coke, all for 3,740 calories. I would do this multiple times a week y'all."

After Meal at Domino's: 630 Calories

KIEV, UKRAINE - MAY 2019: Domino's Pizza Box detail. Domino's, is an American pizza restaurant chain founded in 1960, in 2018 the chain became the largest pizza seller worldwide in terms of sales.

Now she orders a small pizza with a crunchy thin crust with ham and chicken, spinach, tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms. "The best combo," she says. "So I'll get the cheesy bread but only have two pieces. Skip the ranch or use my own. Do get a side of marinara as a dip. And now I get Diet Coke," she says. "One serving of the pizza is 200, but I usually have a serving and a half. All of that is 630 calories.

Before Meal at Pizza Hut: 5,142 Calories

Ephrata, PA - October 5, 2016: A Pizza Hut sign at the entrance at one of the chain's restaurants.

"I would always get a medium Meat Lover's pizza hand-tossed, with extra cheese just for myself. My favorite appetizer at Pizza Hut is the cheese sticks. And I always had at least three. Gotta get a ranch to dip in. And I used to be obsessed with the cinnamon sticks. I'd at least have four. Obviously, I have to get the icing dip, and I'd get a bottle of Rip to drink, which brings that one meal to 5,142 calories. And I would eat more during the day, which blows my mind," she confessed.

After Meal at Pizza Hut: 965 Calories:


Now, she gets a personal pan pizza with chicken, ham, mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes. "These are incredibly filling; don't sleep on them," she says. Still have two cheese sticks. Now I dip in marinara. And I get a Diet Pepsi. All four 965 calories."

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Before Meal at Taco Bell: 2,390 Calories


"I remember my exact Taco Bell order because I used to get it pretty much every single day. I would get two Quesartios. Yes, two," she says. "Each for 650 calories a piece. One Chalupa Supreme for 360 calories, two soft shell tacos for 370 calories, and a large Dr Pepper for 360 calories, bringing that one meal to 2,390 calories.

After Meal at Taco Bell: 460 Calories

London, UK - March 5 2022: Taco Bell Mexican takeaway branch in Fulham Broadway, West London

Now she gets two Chicken soft Taco Supremes for 370 calories and a side of chips and cheese for 220, a total of 590 calories. "Or I get the chicken power bowl for four 60," she says. "You can have fast food in moderation."

💪🔥Body Booster: Slim down your fast food orders with easy substitutions. Opt for veggie toppings, lighter dressings, and skip the high-calorie extras

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more