Given our fast-paced, stressed-to-the-max lifestyle, it is no wonder that 25 percent of Americans eat at fast-food restaurants every day! That’s one in four people opting for low nutrition, high calorie, bad tasting, done-in-a-jiffy food. And it’s killing us.
Diseases like obesity, high blood pressure, fatty liver and high cholesterol are more prevalent in today’s high-tech health-conscience society than in the past, when we were ignorant about such things. And there’s truly no excuse for it!
One look at Eric Schlosser’s documentary, Fast Food Nation, tells the tale in all its devastating morbidity. Forget about E.coli and sub-standard working conditions and the tumors cut off the sides of beef before processing it for burgers done “your way.” Forget about the cheap toys restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King use to attract the kids, and by extension the family, in for a potentially life-shortening meal.
Let’s talk good health and stick to the facts. In terms of food, that means keeping a tight leash on calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium. And if we Americans are too tied to our fatty burgers and deep fried chicken, or we’re just too pressed for time and money to make the necessary change… then at least we can face the enemy armed with the truth about our fast-food indulgence.
I was in the process of researching the nutritional facts from 12 of the more popular chains when a copy of Aramark Corporation’s “Guide to Fast Food” came across my desk. In this little gem I found the “tale of the tape” on 20 of the country’s most popular fast food chains. Starbucks, too! And if you think eating at Subway is good for you because of that guy from the commercial… think again. And if you think chicken served in these restaurants is a better choice than beef… you’ve been misled.
Of the 20 fast food restaurants listed in the guide I’ve culled information from 12, and I call them “The Dirty Dozen.” Below are some tables based on the information published by Aramark, as provided by the franchises themselves, or found on their websites. I call these tables, “The Worst of the Worst” (i.e., things never to eat), and “The Best of the Worst” (i.e., things almost never to eat). I then list the worst and best from the selected Dirty Dozen, in terms of overall numbers of calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium.
The Worst of the Worst
|Baskin-Robbins Chocolate Shake|
|Boston Market 1/4 Dark Meat w/ Skin|
|Burger King BK Big Fish Sandwich|
|Dairy Queen Grilled Chicken Filet Sandwich|
|Domino’s Pepperoni Hand Tossed (2 SL)|
|Dunkin’ Donuts Blueberry Muffin|
|KFC Hot & Spicy Chicken Breast|
|Krispy Kreme Glazed Devil’s Food Donut|
|McDonald’s Biscuit w/ Bacon, Egg, Cheese|
6" Subway Club, Cold
|Taco Bell |
Taco Salad w/ Salsa
|Wendy’s Big Bacon Classic|
The Best of the Worst
|Baskin-Robbins Ice Daiquiri Scoop|
|Boston Market Steamed Vegetables|
|Burger King Small Hash Browns|
|Dairy Queen Fudge Bar (No Sugar Added)|
|Domino’s Cheese hand Tossed (2 SL)|
|Dunkin’ Donuts Low-Fat Bran Muffin|
|KFC Mashed Potatoes w/ Gravy|
|Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Donut|
|McDonald’s Hash Browns|
|Subway Veggie Delight|
|Taco Bell |
|Wendy’s Small French Fries|
The Worst and Best of the Worst
|Highest Calories 890||Pizza Hut—Medium Stuffed Crust Cheese Pizza (2 slices)|
|Lowest Calories 35||Boston Market—Steamed Veggies|
|Highest Carbohydrates (g) 0||Pizza Hut—Medium Cheese Stuffed-Crust Pizza (2 slices)|
|Lowest Carbohydrates (g) 0||Boston Market—1/4 White Meat, No skin, Without Wing|
|Highest Fat (g) 52||Taco Bell—Taco Salad w/ Salsa|
|Lowest Fat (g) 0||Baskin Robbins—Ice Daiquiri, Regular Scoup|
|Highest Cholesterol (mg) 250||Burger King—Croissan’wich w/ Sausage, Egg, Cheese|
|Highest Cholesterol (mg) 250||McDonald’s—Biscuit w/ Bacon, Egg, Cheese|
|Lowest Cholesterol (mg) 0||Plenty of items with no Cholesterol, such as plain baked potato, steamed veggies, salads without dressing, water|
|Highest Sodium (mg) 2,180||Pizza Hut—Medium Stuffed Crust Cheese Pizza (2 slices)|
|Lowest Sodium (mg) 10||Baskin Robbins—Ice Daiquiri, Regular Scoop|
And the big looser is… Pizza Hut. It ranked No. 1 on three of the Worst of the Worst lists. And that’s no great achievement!
Ok, so now you know that what seemed “good” (e.g., chicken, turkey, fish) is actually bad when prepared the fast food way, in terms of calories, fat, carbohydrates, cholesterol and sodium content. And you also know that what these chains serve up as “good for you” food is as boring as a collection of ballpoint pen tops. But you’ve just got to eat fast food because time and money are rooting for the dark side. So where does that leave us…
Well, here are some tips, if you absolutely MUST eat fast food:
- Go for the salads, veggies, potatoes (no sour cream or bacon)
- Broiled is better than fried
- Never eat anything breaded
- Deep fried is out of the question
- Water is the only drink for you
- Hold the salt, there’s plenty already in there
- No desert, thank you.
But the real issue here is being responsible and taking control of your own health and wellness… and by extension, your longevity. How about working on time management and money allocation? How about preparing your lunch the night before and brown bagging it a couple days a week? Then, with the money you’ve saved on food, and the time you’ve saved going to the death chain, you can treat yourself to a better-for-you meal at a nicer restaurant with more choices.
In the end, the fast food restaurants and the doctors you’ll see for your cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and cancer don’t give a damn about you. It’s only you and the ones that love you who care. And if you don’t care enough about yourself, then how about taking care of No. 1 for the people who love you?
So it’s time again to eat and a decision is eminent. You can easily choose the fast food road to death. Or you can make the lifestyle change necessary to extend yourself a healthy and happy life. It’s your choice.
—Dr. Mark Wiley