Fast Food - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
By David Meinz, MS, RD, FADA, CSP

Americans are eating more fast food than ever.

In 1985 we spent $65 billion on the stuff, but by 1993 that amount rose to more than a whopping $94 billion! Millions of people eat it every day - so why not choose the best? The choices at the top fast food restaurants are better than ever ­ and they are simultaneously worse than ever. Today's fast foods can add too much sodium, fat, and cholesterol or they can actually be a part of a nutritious diet. Read on to learn how to improve your intake at the Basic 4: McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, and Dominos.

There are some outright great foods available today at your fast food restaurant. But for the most part, many of the choices leave a lot to be desired from a nutritional standpoint. So rather than waiting for McDonald's to come out with a tasty McSoyBurger your best bet is to improve on the items that are on the menu now.

Remember, a good, healthy conservative daily intake of fat for adults is 50 grams or less. If you order a Filet-O-Fish sandwich you get an incredible 26 grams of fat! But tell the person behind the counter to leave the tartar sauce off and the total goes down to just 10g! Now don't try for perfection. Leave the cheese on ­ it will still taste good and you've dramatically cut the fat. If you're at Burger King, try the B-K Broiler Grilled Chicken Sandwich. Now at 18 grams of fat it's not bad to begin with. But if you'll have them leave their sauce off you save 10 grams of fat, and what does that leave you with? Right ­ a pretty dry sandwich! Here's what you do: Tell the person behind the counter to leave their sauce off and to give you two containers of barbecue sauce. Now barbecue sauce is sugar-based and has no fat. The barbecue sauce will nicely compliment the grilled chicken, you put some flavor back, and you get a good sized, good tasting, fast food sandwich for only 8 grams of fat. That's hard to beat.

Have you tried McDonald's McLean Deluxe Hamburger? Yes, that's what I think ­ incredibly dry and no taste. Now the McLean at 10 grams of fat replaced the discontinued McDLT which had an awesome 42 grams of fat. But the McDLT tasted "better" ­ more "juicy." You know what? That wasn't juice ­ it was grease! The reason the McLean Deluxe isn't as flavorful is because they've reduced a lot of the fat. But you're not obligated to eat it that way. You can dress it up without adding fat and make it go down a lot easier. Just as we dressed up the B-K Broiler, here again we're looking for a topping that improves the taste but not at the expense of fat. The answer in a word is ketchup. No fat, and yet a flavor that turns an otherwise rather plain choice into fast food that's good and good for you.

Here's more good news at some of the more popular fast food places:

EAT FAST & EAT WELL
 Domino's 12" Cheese Pizza ­2 slices (6g)  instead of  Pizza Hut Pepperoni Pan Pizza ­2 slices (24 g)
KFC Mashed Potatoes with Gravy (1g)   instead of  Arby's Deluxe Super Stuffed Baked Potato (36g)
Taco Bell Regular Taco (11g)   instead of  Taco Bell Taco Salad (61g)
 McDonald's Red French Reduced Dressing (8g)  instead of McDonald's Thousand Island Dressing (39g) 
 Wendy's Jr. Hamburger (9g)  instead of  Wendy's Big Classic (23g)
 McDonald's Chocolate Shake (6g)  instead of  Dairy Queen Blizzard (36g)

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