Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Burger and Fries, PLEASE!

Sometimes, you just want a burger and fries. You have to have them. Really. I know! So, where does this fit into a healthy lifestyle? Or, do we have to give up the fast food trips for the rest of our lives?

I am going to encourage you to approach this with moderation instead of with a "never, no way, bad-stuff" attitude. Fast food eating can be part of a healthy lifestyle once in awhile, it just should be looked at with a yellow light: caution.

When McDonald's started the fast food industry, they only served small burgers and small fries, as did all of the restaurants that jumped on board. Over the years, portion sizes have grown enormously, and so has the body size of the average American. Coincidence? Hmmm...Most people don't even think of ordering the small burger and fries anymore. It's the big burger, or double, tripled patties with all the stuff on it. Wendy's Baconator Triple is 2660 calories of which 1560 calories are from fat with 76 grams of saturated fat. After eating one of those, you could just imagine your arteries clogging shut... a heart attack is served on the side!

So, how do we manage to stay healthy and survive the fast food fest now and then?
  • Think kid-size! Those are what used to be normal portions, so go back and be a kid again. If you are craving the taste of a burger and some fries, a kid's meal is just the ticket. Really. I've ordered these for myself for years. No one checks ID's, you get all the taste, portion control, and you get a toy!
  • Burger Bites: Order single, regular burgers. Lettuce, mustard, ketchup, and tomato you can add to your heart's content. If you decide on cheese, use one slice. That will add about 50 calories. Very occasionally, if you are really craving a specialty burger, try to monitor the amount you eat. Portion control it. Take a friend with you to split your indulgence. Take care of your heart!
  • Small Fries. You want fries with that? Remember, the first bite tastes the same as the last, so why do you need twice as much to enjoy the flavor? At McDonalds, the big fries = 500 calories, small fries = 230 calories.
  • Hold the mayo. Burger King has a great choice for us in the Whopper, Jr. at 260, hold the mayo. This saves us 9 grams of fat and 80 calories. With all burgers, hold the mayo needs to be a phrase we use over and over again to protect our hearts from fat overload.
  • Bacon? If you absolutely need to have the bacon, think 1 or 2 slices--no more. Stick with the small burger patty at Wendy's on this. Remember no one, not even a major athlete in training needs that much saturated fat to support good health.
  • Shake it Small. A 32 ounce shake can rock 1110 calories at McDonald's, a small 12 ounce still has 420 calories. Yes, you will be getting some calcium and protein in this, but lots of sugar comes with it. Shakes are a sometimes treat. Another possibility would be to get the kid's size shake which would deliver around 200 calories. Much nicer!
  • Add some Nutrient Dense bargains. 100% fruit juice, fat-free milk, fresh fruit, tossed salads without all the extras (like cheese, croutons, bacon, creamy dressings, bacon.)
  • Drink Calorie Free Beverages. Water, coffee, tea, diet sodas.
Don't be afraid to enjoy an occasional fast food run. Just remember to stay in control of what you choose, and to keep your heart and body first and foremost in your mind. Calories and grams of saturated (evil) fats add up so quickly at these restaurants. Take a look online at the menus and nutritional info before you go may be a great way to plan for good choices.

Remember, just be a kid again!
Small portion sizes create a healthy, happy heart and well portioned you.


  1. Do you think once a week fast food is okay? After a late double session of Tae Kwon Do I usually take the kids for something fast since dinner got all messed up with the timing. I know some parents who say never, others say once a month, but I seem to be the only once a week parent.

  2. I'm a bit bummed too. My husband was working (and succeeding) with the kids to stop ordering those little kids meals and step up to the big kids meals. What have we done?

  3. I do think fast food once a week can be made to fit into a healthy lifestyle. You just have to make sure you plan the rest of the day to fill it extra full of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. I checked out the big kids meals. I honestly forgot they had them! Out of the "big 3," it looks like only McDonald's have those as an option. Happy Meals run between 380 - 700 calories and the Mighty kids meals between 480 - 840, depending on your choice of fruit, milk, juice, fries, etc. The only difference is a bigger burger: 2 patties instead of one, 2 slices of cheese instead of 1, or 6 nuggets instead of 4. Some active, older children kids will be able to handle those extra calories and grams of fat in one meal, but many won't. Those meals may be for the days the kids have the heavy Tae Kwon Do work outs. Otherwise, extra calories would be better spent on fruits, veggies and whole grains, and leaner choices for the rest of that day. It's all about balance. One thing is for sure, the marketing of those Mighty kids meals really worked, didn't it?

  4. I'm so glad you wrote this. As a college student, it's hard to avoid the temptation of easy, cheap meals every once in a while. Now I don't feel guilty eating a small burger every week :)

  5. I know it's hard being a college student, so glad to be of help!


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