by Steven Doyle
I got into a discussion today on fast food. This after the airing of the Canadian McDonald’s commercial which defended their chicken nuggets and made an attempt to debunk the pink slime rumors. The most interesting part of the conversation was what fast food would you (or I) actually eat. Although I dine pretty well and have few opportunities or desire for fast food, I contend most people have their favorites when presented a choice. I made a list of my favorites.
Popeye’s Red Beans and Rice
This side dish sold at Popeye’s sells for a $1.99 and contains 230 calories, 14 grams of fat and 580 mg of sodium. That said, the red beans are a near soupy consistency of stewed beans with a scoop of white rice that is served piping hot. There is a smoky sausage flavor in the beans, but no meat can be actually be found.I skip the main dishes and grab this on the go for a quickie meal all by itself.
McDonald’s Filet O’ Fish
The fish sandwich came about in 1962 when a franchisee in a mostly Catholic neighborhood was seeking out a non-meat option. What he came up with was this battered pollock filet that rests upon a standard McDonald’s bun, served with half a slice of American cheese and an ounce of dill relish tartar sauce. It tastes healthier than the burgers, and you can see flecks of real fish throughout the sandwich. The reality of the fish sandwich is that it has 380 calories, 18 grams of fat and 640 mg of sodium. A regular cheeseburger has 300 calories, 12 grams of fat and 680 mg of sodium.
Taco Cabana’s Potato and Egg Taco
This is a fast drive through early mornings and late nights. The taco is made simply with scrambled eggs and tiny chunks of potatoes. One is not enough, but two can be overwhelming. The breakfast taco does best when served with a side of the house-made green salsa. Not a bad fast food option in the world of fake food, and it slides in at an easy 210 calories and 10 grams of fat.
Jack in the Box Breakfast Jack
Another early morning or late night guilty pleasure which actually is the healthiest option of all. Personally, I ask for the shady ham to be removed as it doesn’t offer much along the lines of flavor, and I am not a huge ham fan. the egg is real and shells are broken. The sandwich is merely a slice of American cheese and a bunned egg. With the ham it is 280 calories and 11 grams of fat. I am sure the omission of the ham cuts the stats exponentially.
Chipotle Steak Bowl
Chipotle is now known for the local ingredients, including humanely raised and hormone free meats, and fresh veggies from surrounding farms. Although there is no drive through, the format is a level just below fast casual. the food is actually quite good and tastes extremely fresh as touted. If you go to the Chipotle website you will find a calculator that will customize your order’s nutrition facts. I chose a bowl with steak, white rice, black beans, cheese, lettuce, corn salsa and guacamole. the calorie count seemed befitting such a largish meal, weighing in at 850 calories. The fat was 36 grams and the sodium topped the charts at 1885 mg.
This last one threw me for a loop. I thought it was much healthier than it actually is, so I reevaluated the bowl to see how I could make it more friendly. You have that option at Chipotle. This time I stayed with the steak and lettuce, but switched to brown rice and green tomatilla salsa. I noticed that the huge offenders in sodium were the guacamole, some of the salsas and any bean choice. The new bowl has better stats at 415 calories, 13 grams of fat and 735 mg of sodium. This looks almost as satisfying. The FDA recommends no more than 2,300 grams of sodium per day, and certain groups (you know who you are) limited to 1,500.
Start Breakfast Burrito
For those in Dallas, we have a restaurant which makes their fast food much healthier in most respects. Start has two locations, Greenville Ave and Lemmon in Dallas, and offers alternatives to fast food, all made from scratch in-house. They do really well with buying local and using hormone and guilt free meats, but not much better on the sodium front. This can make a difference for some. Let’s look at a few options at Start that are truly delicious.
The very plump and happy breakfast burrito, which happens to be fantastic, has Organic Cage-Free Eggs and Applewood Smoked Bacon, Cheddar and Salsa in a Whole Wheat Tortilla. You may sub out the bacon for a turkey version and save on the calories. For that matter you could easily leave off the cheese. But as it stands look for 640 calories, 35 grams of fat and 1,190 mg of sodium.
The best offering that tastes absolutely wonderful would be the baked sweet potato stuffed with chicken, blue cheese and from scratch buttermilk dressing. This large plate of a meal has 610 calories, 31 grams of fat and 680 mg of sodium. Many of the other items are high on sodium, so you should check out the nutrition guide before selecting your meal.
There are some decent fast food alternatives to be found, certainly salads with very little in the way of dressings will help. Locally we are suggesting both Start and Chipotle.