I admit that I eat fast food. Rarely, but I do. I don’t consider it off-limits to myself, my family or even my clients. I help them find healthy options when they go to these restaurants if they frequent them often.
I am not the food police and enjoy an ice cream cone, hamburger and even fries on occasion. I can count on my fingers (admittedly I probably need both hands) how many times I made a buy at a fast food restaurant in 2010. Most of the time, it was at the airport or on our way home from a camping trip.
Sadly, it seems that with every apparently “healthy” option introduced it absurdity overshadows it. It seems sometimes that the fast food industry is competing for the most over-the-top food – consequences be damned.
This week Burger King introduced their new “stuffed” burger. The same restaurant whose current promotion includes a two-for-one offering on their original chicken sandwich (630 calories, 39 grams of fat and 1,390 mg of sodium in each one) and you can have a side of 9-piece funnel cake sticks complete with icing (300 calories and 11 grams of fat, but a mere 210 mg of sodium). The stuffed burger is not yet on the nutrition facts menu on the Burger King website; however with cheese infused into the burger, a “creamy” sauce and the obligatory lettuce in tomato, I just wonder how much more ridiculous the fast-food (aka fat food) industry can get.
Last year, to my dismay KFC introduced the “Double Down” with two pieces of fried chicken, bacon, and cheese (also available grilled with fewer calories and fat, but more sodium). As KFC’s website states: “no room for a bun.” Sadly, people have become so accustomed to these high calorie foods that when I tell people the Double Down is 540 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 1,380 mg of sodium, the response: “that’s it?”
Pizza Hut has their “Big Eat Tiny Price Menu ®” where you can order a 9” Personal PANourmous Meat Lovers® Pizza – considered a single serving – for 1,470 calories, 80 gram of fat, and 3,670 mg of sodium. Or you can just order the stuffed crust pizza – wonderful how they add cheese to the inside of the crust – which didn’t even exist 30 years ago.
I could carry on about the ridiculousness of fast food high calorie creations from Carl’s Jr. to Taco Bell; McDonald’s to Sonic; and even Baskin Robbins. There are some lower calorie, lower fat alternatives at many of these places, but you would probably be surprised to find that, usually it isn’t the chicken sandwich or salad (at one time the Taco Salad at Taco Bell was the “worst” thing on the menu).
I am not going to pick healthier options here. While one chain claims you “can have it your way” most of them will customize your sandwich or meal – for better or worse – when you ask. I suggest your educate yourself first on what you are eating.
1. Look up your favorite fast food chain’s website.
2. Find the Nutrition button/section and look up your favorite meal. (Several sites have a fun application to do this.)
3. After you “build” your meal, take a look at the total calories, fat and sodium in your usual sandwich or, even better, you meal.
4. Once you have your totals, think about the following:
- Most adult’s need an average 2,000 calories per day (depending on gender, activity level and age).
- Total fat recommendations ranges from 60 to 80 grams for the entire day (again depending on who you are).
- Sodium recommendations are now 2,300 mg a day, but 1,500 mg is really what you should aim for
5. Think about what else you are going to eat that day. If you plan on eating nothing else, have another two meals or you had breakfast already, you need to adjust accordingly.
6. If you need to cut your calories or fat look around the nutrition facts a bit more. You can probably have something similar for fewer calories. (Ex. Ice cream cone and not a shake, burger without cheese, hold the mayo, etc.). In many cases you can cut 200-500 calories by changing your order slightly.
If your total meal is say, 900 calories, you have consumed nearly half your calories for the day. For some people it is more than half.
I meet many people who are “blissfully” unaware of how many calories they consume, especially at restaurants. All of the national fast food chains have their nutrition information on their website (sometimes a nice tab, other in the links at the bottom). If you can’t find them, ask!