Choosing wisely at the drivethrough

The greatest problem with fast food is very big servings. More food means more calories — and more you. Several people recently have filed lawsuits charging the fast-food restaurants made them overeat, which, in turn, made them overweight. At least one such suit was tossed out of court, but that doesn't mean another won't be filed down the road. So the question of the day becomes, does a smart cookie like you check your brains at the door when you enter a fast-food restaurant — or do you have the intelligence to choose wisely regardless of where you plunk yourself down for a meal?

Eating smart is a skill you can exercise in any location. For example, Table 18-1 compares the nutrient values of three basic McDonald's meals. All three meals derive about 30 percent of their calories from fat (although all three dish up about one-third the percent Daily Value for artery-clogging saturated fat). They're relatively low in cholesterol and provide plenty of vitamin A, vitamin C, and bone-building calcium. And the servings are reasonable:

1 The burger is the basic, small, no-frills hamburger.

1 The salad is a Caesar salad (no chicken) with one packet of Newman's Own low-fat balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

i The parfait is the Fruit 'n Yogurt without granola.

i The milk is an 8-ounce container of low-fat (l percent) milk.

1 The cola is a 16-ounce cup (small).

The initials DV stand for Daily Value, a nutritional guideline suggesting how much of each nutrient you need each day on a 2,000-calorie diet. For the complete skinny on the DV and how it's used on food labels, check out Chapter 17.

Stop! Before you bite into that burger, remember that the following chart is only a guide. Menus and ingredients may change, so check the nutrition brochure at your local burger haven, and do it every single time. You never know when something new will pop up on your plate.

Table 18-1 Nutritious Fast-Food Meals? Yes!

Nutrient (% Daily Value)

Burger, Salad, Milk (490 Calories)

Burger, Salad,


(520 Calories)

Burger, Salad, Small Cola (540 Calories)

Calories from fat




Saturated fat








Dietary fiber




Vitamin A




Vitamin C








McDonald's Corporation, as of November 21,2005

244 Part III: Healthy Eating ®-

Trans fat: The Boooo! factor

Once upon a time, fast-food restaurants — indeed, most restaurants — fried up their foods in butter, which is loaded with the saturated fat and cholesterol that gum up your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease. Then, prodded by the Food Police, restaurants switched to vegetable fats, which are lower in saturated fat and have no cholesterol. Hooray? Well, not exactly. Instead of using heart-healthy vegetable oils, fast-food restaurants sometimes use solid vegetable shortenings, and that's a crucial difference. The shortenings are solid because they contain hydrogenated vegetable oils. Chapter 7 explains the chemistry of hydrogenation (adding hydrogen atoms to fats).

Hydrogenated vegetable oils are high in trans fatty acids, a form of fat that may clog your arteries as badly as saturated fats and cholesterol. With trans fats in the mix, an order of fries may have as much artery-hostile fat as a 4-ounce burger. Boooo!

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