Saturday, December 1, 2007

If I Had to Eat at McDonald's...

The following is the first in a series of blogs that will describe what I would order if I was FORCED to eat at various fast food restaurants. The blogs will offer a dietitian's point of view concerning fast food choices. All options will be less than 35% calories from fat and a reasonable number of total Calories (200-500)

Due to the time demands of daily living, it's difficult to spend limited free time preparing healthy food. Fast food restaurants are a source of quick and tasty calories; however, they pose several nutritional complications-- most fast food menu items are high in fat, calories, and refined carbohydrates. Fast foods are also generally low in vitamins, minerals and fiber. But with a little nutritional strategizing, you can eat quickly without sacrificing all of your nutritional goals!

Food producers and chefs often load fast and processed foods with fat and strip the food of vitamins and minerals. Therefore, it is best to limit food prepared in restaurants and prepare the bulk of the food in the home. Many foods, like brown rice and unbreaded chicken tenders, are easy to cook in bulk and carry in plastic ware. Easy and portable sources of the major nutrients are as follows:

- Fruits: Bananas, Oranges, Apples, and Pears

- Starch: Whole Grain Bread, Rye Crispbread Crackers, Whole Wheat Bagels, Brown Rice, Low-Fat Microwave Popcorn, Whole Grain Cold Cereal

- Vegetables: Carrots, Celery, Broccoli, Cauliflower, String Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, Bell Peppers

- Dairy: Shelf Stable (Organic) Carton Milk, Low-Fat Plain and Light Yogurt, Cottage cheese, Whey Powder

- Flesh: Chicken Tenders, Extra Lean Deli Meat, Beef Jerky, Tuna Can/Packets

- Other: Soy Milk, Soy Nuts, Hard Boiled Eggs, Dry Protein Powders (Egg and Soy), Edamame

- Nuts: Peanut Butter, Almonds, Pistachios, Cashews, Pecans, Walnuts

- Other: Cheese, Mayonnaise, Salad Dressings

Though grocery shopping and bringing healthy foods exclusively from home is the optimal way to eat, it is highly delusional to believe that the majority of people will follow that advise. As such, best breakfast, lunch and dinner fast food choices are offered below:

Breakfast: A sausage biscuit breakfast sandwich from a fast food joint contains 60% of its calories from fat and 600-800 Calories! Eww! Pick something better! In general, avoid added butter, cheese, and mixed dishes, like omelets. All of the following have less than 35% Calories from fat:

McDonald’s: Hotcakes, Plain Bagel, English Muffin, Canadian Bacon, Ham N’ Egg Bagel, Ham N’ Cheese Bagel, Fruit and Yogurt Parfait with Granola, Apple Dippers, Fruit and Walnut Salad

Lunch/Dinner: The average fast food burger contains between 40-50% of total calories from fat! In general, avoid added mayonnaise (and other oil-based condiments), cheese, and high-fat meats. Generally speaking, the best option is to order a non-breaded chicken or cold-cut sandwich with no cheese, mayonnaise or dressing. If the restaurant is a chain with a low-fat menu, items not included in that section are unlikely to be suitable. All of the following have less than 35% calories from fat:

McDonald’s: Grilled chicken Classic Sandwich, Plain Hamburger, Honey Mustard with Grilled Chicken Wrap, Premium Chicken Breast Sandwich, Chipotle Chicken Wrap, Chicken Fajita Sandwich, McVeggie Sandwich, Any Grilled Chicken Salads (without dressing/croutons), Small Vanilla Cone

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