Many customers love the ChipShop's signature fried Twinkies, but how does a nutrition expert feel about the deep-fried dish?

"What brilliant genius came up with that?" quipped New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics. "I'd put that up there with fried cheese."

So, fried Twinkies aren't exactly heart-stopping in a good way.

But it is possible to live life in the fast-food lane and stay relatively healthy, she said. First of all, try to keep your lunch portion below 1,500 calories. A critical suggestion is to stay away from the empty calories in soft drinks and to avoid calorie-packing meal combos or ordering too much.

"The problem is people don't get just one thing," Nestle said. "They get this and this and this, and by the time you've added it up, you've got all your calories for the day in no time at all."

If you're not happy with a little pouch of baby carrots, Nestle recommended getting a 6-inch sandwich at Subway instead of a foot-long, or trying the new McDonald's yogurt-and-fruit item.

"If you take off the heavily sweetened granola, it's actually quite good and the calories are cut quite down," she said. "Most of the calories come in the granola."

But a glance at the nutrition data on the major fast-food chains' menus prove that there's slim pickin's when it comes to healthy eating at the drive-thru.

Perhaps the best bet among McDonald's entrees is the Chicken McGrill sandwich sans mayonnaise (340 calories and 7 grams of fat); at Burger King it's the four-piece Chicken Tenders without dipping sauce (170 calories and 9 grams of fat); at Wendy's the naked grilled-chicken fillet is healthiest (110 calories and 3.5 grams of fat) but is still reasonable on the bun (add 160 calories and 2 grams of fat); at KFC an Original Recipe drumstick (140 calories and 9 grams of fat) or honey-BBQ sandwich (310 calories, 6 grams of fat) are the most healthy; and at Taco Bell, the only item with fewer than 200 calories or 10 grams of fat is the chicken soft taco (190 grams and 7 grams of fat).

There's one seemingly healthy dish Nestle said she can't recommend, for reasons of taste, not nutrition: the Burger King vegetarian sandwich.

"It's too soggy," she said. "Barely acceptable."

Source: calorie and fat information culled from the company Web sites.