Fast Food Meals: How to make better choices

We have all heard the criticisms of food sold in fast food restaurants.  You know the culprit fast food places.  The food is downright dangerous to your health because of unhealthy fats, high salt content, and empty calories (that is, not much nutrition going on, just fat-building calories).

If you have not yet seen the movie “Super-Size Me” (directed by Morgan Spurlock), we strongly advise that you rent it and watch it through to the end. Here’s the link:

Morgan Spurlock eats every meal at McDonalds for a month, and, during this time, has regular doctor visits to check vital signs like blood pressure, heart rate, etc. His health spirals down with every new Big Mac he consumes. You need to see it to believe it.  Another tact he takes is to always choose the “Supersized” version if it is offered to him.  That choice further aggravates his declining health.  Is this not loud and clear enough to get through to us all?

Nutrition comes from unpolluted fresh fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains, but very little of these is sold at most fast food restaurants.

Kaiser Permanente has published a great little print and online guide suggesting how we can make better choices at these restaurants to limit how much bad food we eat there.  Of course, the best way to reduce exposure is not to go to fast food restaurants at all!

Here’s the link to the actual guide online: Fast Food: a guide to heathier choices, published by their Regional Health Education arm.  We applaud Kaiser Permanente for creating this guide and for making it available for free on the Internet.

Here are some of the tips, in brief.

  1. Hold the mayonnaise, secret sauces, and cheese. They just add fat, salt, and calories for little or no nutritional benefit.
  2. Compromise to cut out some bad stuff. Eat a burger if you must, but skip the fries. Trade the sodas for juice or iced tea.
  3. Coffee houses: use skim or low-fat milk instead of whole fat and cream products. Use cinnamon or sugar-free flavors.
  4. Bring raw fruits or vegetables from home and eat them as sides. Would anyone really do this? Great, if you can. Drink water instead of high-calorie drinks.
  5. Skip all the fried items, batter-coated, and breaded foods. Fat, fat, fat. Look for grilled or broiled choices instead.
  6. Chuck the fries and mayo-based foods (e.g., macaroni salad) and order a lettuce salad. Get salad dressings on the side and just use a little of the oil-based dressings. 1 tablespoon should do it.
  7. Skip the high-fat stuff like bacon bits, cheese, etc. for salads. A few nuts will provide better nutrition every day of the year.
  8. Avoid biscuits, croissants, hash-browns, desserts, etc. They are too big a dose of unhealthy fat and calories.
  9. Skip the salty sauces, mayo, and cheese—too much salt and fat.
  10. Skip the super-sizing, double, grande, deluxe, supreme, extra large version of items. You’re just increasing the amount of bad stuff you put in your mouth. Or share them with someone else so you each only get half the bad stuff.

Does all this sound like there’s nothing to eat or it won’t taste good?  Well, you are absolutely right!  Maybe even brilliant. Fast food is addictive because of the gross, unhealthy ingredients and flavors manufactured in a factory.

Why go there in the first place?  Pick a sandwich place like Subway instead and pile on those fresh vegetables on your sub sandwich.  It is our understanding that there are now more Subway restaurants than McDonalds, but this could be a fiction.

We’re quite sure that you can eat bad food at Subway, too—potato chips, sodas, and large cookies are readily available. So the key is to develop some will power and some knowledge of what is healthy to eat.  But at least the main food you are presented with is meat, fresh vegetables, and somewhat decent bread. You are more likely to get a healthier sandwich there.

The good news is, that if you switch to eating exclusively wholesome food, that is what begins to taste good to you. You will refine your taste buds and the unhealthy food will begin to taste too salty, too oily, etc. Whole grain seeded bread has many more interesting flavors than plain white bread, so eventually, the white bread is boring.

My daughter used to order chicken bits wherever we went. Eventually, she realized that those fried things gave her a stomach ache. When she ate healthier food, she didn’t get a stomach ache!

My friend once dated a girl who worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Raiding her refrigerator one night, he grabbed a styrofoam container of fried chicken from the back of the frig. She warned him that it had been in her frig for over a year. He opened it to find breaded, cooked chicken with not one spot of mold. Over a year! How many preservatives do you get for “free” in this fast food?

How Do the Kids Fit In?

Kids can’t bring tons of will power to a fast food chain.  They haven’t developed it yet. They probably won’t be bringing knowledge of healthy options. All that fried stuff looks and tastes so great that they will be unable to resist without some guidance!  They may even throw in a tantrum or two to lobby for their “favorite food.”

Parents, you are their “managers” until they are teenagers.  Then you are their “consultants.”  Advise them on what to eat if they are rational kids.  Or give them 3-4 choices of healthy options that you will pay for.  They choose, but from a smaller menu. You pay, with no complaints, for what they choose from the set of choices you offered.

When it came to fast food restaurants, we used to say to our kids “We don’t go there.” And then we didn’t go there!

One Response to Fast Food Meals: How to make better choices

  1. Nancy says:

    Much appreciated for the information and share!

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