Fast food doesn't have to be fat food

March 31, 2004|EMILY TOADVINE

You pull up the speaker at the fast-food drive-through. A quick glance at the menu and you select a Big Mac and fries. They ask if you would like to super-size that meal for just a little more money. "Sure," you say.

It may seem like an irresistible deal, but not where calories are concerned. The Big Mac weighs in at 560 calories, according to a pamphlet, "Nutrition in the Fast Lane." Sticking with the regular fries' 210 calories would have helped some, but the irresistible urge to super size means the fries now contain 540 calories.

"Super-size meals seem like a bargain, but you're getting so many more calories," says Donna Clore, Boyle County extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She was leading a workshop discussion on healthy options for eating out.

The booklet she passed out, "Nutrition in the Fast Lane," covered choices at many restaurants including those in this area, such as Arby's Baskin-Robbins, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Domino's Pizza, Fazoli's, Hardee's, KFC, McDonald's, Papa John's, Pizza Hut. Popeye's, Sonic, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy's.


A couple of women attending a program on eating out compared calories in foods at some of their favorite restaurants. Arby's junior roast beef, at 324 calories, was one of the top choices for lower calorie choices.

Pam Halcomb immediately looked up one of her favorite items, Burger King's fish sandwich, and was disappointed by its 720 calories. Even the Whopper was less with 660 calories.

"It's one of the worst," she says.

Watch those condiments

Clore explained that the tarter sauce probably is the reason for the extra calories. Condiments often are the culprits.

"You can save a lot of calories by not getting tarter sauce. That's true of any sandwich," Clore says.

Halcomb agreed.

"Now when I go out to eat, I'll at least try to compromise and leave the sauces off."

Clore says many people are fooled by sauces.

"People are so worried about the bread. They don't even think the sauce could have twice as many calories as the bread."

In choosing sandwiches, Clore says it is important to consider the breads.

"Biscuits and croissants have more fat," she says. "A bagel or an English muffin are better choices."

For those times when only french fries will do, Clore suggested a plain cheeseburger and small fries.

"If you want to satisfy that craving, that's better than super-size," she says.

Dressings can be a downfall

Many people think that are saving calories by ordering salads, but Clore warns that the dressings can be a downfall.

"Ranch dressing is a favorite for the majority of people and it's high in calories," she says. Two ounces of ranch dressing has 230 calories.

Barbecue sauce is one of the best choices at only 45 calories.

For pizza lovers, the type of crust can shave off some calories. Thin 'n' crispy crust has fewer calories and fat.

"It's the best choice for crusts no matter what place you order from," Clore says.

For toppings, avoid sausage. It has the highest calorie count. Ham is the lowest-calorie meat to add and veggie lovers pizza has the fewest calories.

There are good fast food choices

Despite the pitfalls awaiting at drive-thrus, Clore says it is possible to make good choices.

"Every restaurant has healthy choices. That's a myth that all fast-food is bad."

For example, a McDonald's plain hamburger with a small side salad and vinaigrette dressing is a good choice. These items are on the dollar menu, making them a good economical choice.

"You can order from the dollar menu and you get smaller portions that way," Clore says, pointing out that drinking water with the meal also saves calories.

The women attending the workshop on eating out were surprised about smart choices in eating chicken. At Popeye's one wing has 160 calories and most people eat more than one. A chicken breast contained 270 calories.

"The meat from the breast is better, and take the coating off," Clore says.

For those with a sweet tooth, Clore pointed out that soft serve ice cream has fewer calories than hard. A soft serve cone at Dairy Queen has 150 calories.

When going through a buffet line, Clore advises walking the line first to see what the choices are.

"If you walk the whole line first and make a decision, just put those items on your plate."

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