Archive for the tag - fast food

What’s Really In Your Food: 101 Ingredients in McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish.

20081210-filetofish-sandwichThe fast food industry is a very interesting place. Though many chains are working to improve the nutritional content and ingredients of their offerings, we have a very long way to go.

Case in point, my previous blog post about the nearly 20 ingredients in Subway’s chicken breast. No, not 20 ingredients in the entire sandwich. That’s 20 ingredients in just the chicken breast.

Today we examine another popular food item: McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish. With a piece of fried fish between two slices of bread, topped with cheese and some sauce, how bad could it be?

Pretty bad.

In fact, the entire sandwich has 101 ingredients. I don’t have that many ingredients in my entire kitchen.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 1.56.16 PMSome of the less appetizing ingredients include cellulose gum (which isn’t harmful, but can’t be digested by humans), Tertiary Butylhydroquinone (also called TBHQ, which the FDA limits to 1 gram per 5,000 grams in cooking), azodicarbonamide (the so-called yoga mat compound that the Environmental Working Group recommends removing from the food supply) and more than a teaspoon of sugar.

A few things to note. First, I don’t think anyone is under the assumption that a McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish sandwich is healthy. Second, just because the sandwich contains some pretty bizarre ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean that the level of those ingredients are toxicologically significant.

Still, there’s something to be said for eating simple foods with recognizable ingredients. It’s about making our food more like actual food. And even if a little bit of TBHQ isn’t going to poison us, it’s about honoring your body with food that it actually deserves. And in that regard, a 101 ingredient Filet-o-Fish sandwich is a fish out of water.

Is Chipotle Healthy? 6 Tips To Upgrade Your Order.

Hey Davey,

I know that you’re not a fan of fast food but I love eating at Chipotle. To me, it is a step above McDonald’s or Burger King and the food seems to be more nutritious. I was wondering if Chipotle is actually healthy?


chipotle-burritoHey Beth,

Like any restaurant, it really depends on what you order.

Last week, The New York Times did a great feature on Chipotle and how many calories most people actually consume.

As it turns out, many burritos and burrito bowls end up being calorie bombs that are loaded with sodium. After reviewing data from 3,000 Chipotle orders, researchers determined that the typical Chipotle order has about 1,070 calories, nearly 2,400 mg of sodium and 15 grams of saturated fat. For many adults, that’s more than half a day’s worth of calories, a full day’s worth of sodium and about 75% of your daily recommended saturated fat.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 10.54.04 AMSo how can you upgrade your order at Chipotle? Use these tips:

  1. Ditch the tortilla. Eliminating the tortilla (and opting for a burrito bowl) cuts 300 calories.
  2. No sour cream. By cutting sour cream, you eliminate 115 calories and 7 grams of saturated fat.
  3. Light on the cheese. Cheese adds another 100 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat to your meal. Go light.
  4. Pass on the chips and guacamole. Be strong! Chips and guacamole add a staggering 770 calories to your meal. While guacamole is nutrient dense and may be worth the calorie splurge, the chips have no redemptive qualities.
  5. Get brown rice. While switching from white rice to brown rice won’t cut calories, it will add fiber to your meal and slow down digestion. You won’t get the same spike in blood sugar that you might otherwise get from white rice.
  6. Drink water. A 20-ounce can of coke adds 240 calories to your meal – and heaps of sugar. Ask for a cup of water. It’s also free.

Do you have any tips for eating healthy at Chipotle? Share them in the comments below!

P.S. If you want to burn off your burrito, give my professionally-filmed bootcamp workout a try.

Fast Food Chains Cut Calories From Menu Items.

surgeons-general-warning-for-fast-foodI’m not a fan of fast food. I’m a fan of good, nourishing food. And the two are rarely one in the same.

However, fast food chains could be taking a step in the direction of better nutrition. According to a new study that examined the menu items in 66 of the 100 largest U.S. restaurant chains, new menu items added in 2013 had, on average, 12% fewer calories than the previous year. It amounted to a difference of about 60 calories per food item.

Of course, whether consumers actually opt for these new options over a Big Mac is yet to be determined.

Moreover, it’s unclear whether calorie reductions were achieved through smaller portions, more nutritional ingredients or some combination of both.

Researchers speculate that restaurants are making the changes ahead of impending federal regulations that will require chains to post calorie information on the menu. Whatever the motivation, the researchers believe that reducing calories in fast food menu options may have a significant impact on calorie reduction.

P.S. If you want to dramatically improve the way you look and feel through the foods you eat, download Davey Wavey Insanely Easy Guide to Eating Smarter.

What’s Really In Chicken Nuggets?

Hey Davey,

I’m actually a bit afraid to ask… but what’s really in a chicken nugget? I’m afraid to ask because I really like them, but maybe it’s time for me to learn the truth.


6a00d834520b4b69e20147e203ea64970bHey Ben,

While it sometimes seems better not knowing what’s in the food we eat, ignorance isn’t bliss. Once we know the truth, we can make smarter and better informed decisions about our consumption habits.

As it turns out, the University of Mississippi Medical Center did a study on fast food chicken nuggets to find out what’s really inside. By essentially performing a chicken nugget autopsy on two different brands, researchers discovered that less than half of a chicken nugget is actually meat. The remainder being a mixture of fat, connective tissue, skin, blood vessels and even bone. In fact, one of the chicken nuggets was 40% skeletal muscle.

While it’s all technically edible, it’s still pretty gross – and it’s not a healthy food choice.

According to one researcher:

Some companies have chosen to use an artificial mixture of chicken parts rather than low-fat chicken white meat, batter it up and fry it, and still call it chicken. It is really a chicken by-product high in calories, salt, sugar and fat that is a very unhealthy choice.

But wait, there’s more.

McDonald’s, in particular, has stirred up controversy for including Tert-Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) as one of their chicken McNugget ingredients. Although TBHQ is found in some other foods like Girl Scout Cookies and Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, it’s also petroleum-based and a lot like lighter fluid. The FDA limits its use to 1 gram per 5,000 grams in cooking.

For a full list of ingredients in your favorite brand of chicken nuggets, I recommend a quick Google search. Each company has the full ingredients listed on their website. While you may not recognize many of the ingredients by name, you’ll quickly realize that most chicken nuggets have a lot more in them than just chicken.


The Worst Fast Food Salad…

One of the big advantages to cooking at home is that you know exactly what goes into your food. There’s no guesswork or clever marketing involved. And the same is true for our salads.

Though grabbing a salad sounds healthy, the reality is that many fast food salads are actually less healthy than the obviously unhealthy alternatives – like a Big Mac. With 550 calories and 30 grams of fat, there’s no question that the Big Mac is a gut-busting and unhealthy choice. But even the Big Mac doesn’t have anything on these salads.

Drum roll please… Some of the worst fast food salads include:

Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad

While the name sounds both innocent and slightly offensive (didn’t we stop using the term “Oriental” a long time ago?), this massive calorie bomb of a salad is no laughing matter. With 1,390 calories and 98 grams of total fat, you are not doing your body any favors with this meal choice. This salad contains 15 grams of unhealthy saturated fat. For most people, that’s an entire day’s worth.

Crispy_Chicken_SaladBut wait, things get worse…

IHOP’s Crispy Chicken Salad

As soon as you see the word “crispy,” run the other way! It’s code for fried. With a mind-blowing 1,400 calories, 88 grams of total fat and 26 grams of saturated fat, this is a terrible salad choice.  Bizarrely, with 28 grams of sugar, it has almost as much sugar as a can of coke. Yikes.

And then for the worst salad of them all…

Chili’s Quesadilla Explosion Salad

With 1430 calories, 96 grams of total fat and 28 grams of saturated fat, this salad is truly an explosion of everything your body doesn’t need. It’s about the equivalent of two and half Big Macs. Don’t do it. Just don’t.

The bottom line: Salad isn’t synonymous with healthy. Play it safe and smart by preparing your salad at home. If you must grab a salad on the go, make sure you Google the nutrition information – even if the salad sounds like a healthy choice. Opt for grilled over fried, ask for no cheese and no bacon and select a dressing that isn’t creamy.

Dear Subway: I Want Chicken In My Chicken Sandwich!

subway chicken fake

Caution: If you like eating Subway’s oven roasted chicken sandwich, you might not want to read this post! Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about building a healthier sandwich – and mentioned that wheat bread isn’t the same thing as whole wheat bread. And that, according to its ingredients, Subway’s wheat bread is really just unhealthy white bread in disguise. It’s a deceptively unhealthy choice for health-conscious consumers.

But it doesn’t stop there.

When I’ve gone to Subway, I’ve ordered the oven roasted chicken sandwich. It seems like a smart choice.

But I was surprised to see the chicken breast patty listed on Subway’s ingredients page. After all, what’s in a chicken breast patty other than chicken? Maybe a little salt and pepper? It should be a pretty short list.

No such luck. According to Subway’s ingredients for their actual website, here’s what’s in their chicken breast patty:

Chicken breast with rib meat, water, seasoning (corn syrup solids, vinegar powder [maltodextrin, modified corn starch and tapioca
starch, dried vinegar], brown sugar, salt, dextrose, garlic powder, onion powder, chicken type flavor [hydrolyzed corn gluten, autolyzed yeast extract, thiamine hydrochloride, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate]), sodium phosphates.

That’s nearly 20 ingredients. In a chicken breast patty. Excuse me while I vomit.

It’s bizarre that the second ingredient is water. And that the there are three different types of sugar in the patty including corn syrup solids, brown sugar and dextrose. Also, why does a chicken sandwich need “chicken type” flavor? Clearly it’s because this chicken sandwich is packed with non-chicken filler. Autolyzed yeast extract, by the way, is an inexpensive substitute for MSG.

While the nutrition information for Subway’s oven roasted chicken is fairly healthy, it doesn’t tell the full story. For those of us that (at least try, most of the time) to honor our bodies with whole, real foods, this oven roasted chicken patty dosen’t make the cut.

I’m happy to say that I’ve had my last Subway sandwich. My body deserves better.

27 Fast Food Items with 1,000 Calories or More.

War-on-fast-food-006The thing about calories is that they tend to add up.

We know that a calorie deficit is required for losing weight – which means that you take in fewer calories than you burn. For those of us looking to maintain our current weight, we need to be in a calorie neutral state where we’re consuming the same number of calories that we burn.

Regardless, counting calories means being very mindful of the foods we consume and avoiding the calorie bombs on many fast food menus. Case in point, the below infographic shows 27 different fast food items with more than 1,000 calories – including a nearly 10,000 calorie burger and a 2,140 calorie order of cheese fries.

Are any of your favorites on this list? Any surprises?


Does Fast Food Make You Fat? [Study]

ronaldfcdonaldsmallA few weeks ago, I posted about Subway – and how their menu is deceptively unhealthy. Today, I’m kicking up the rhetoric by sharing a fast food study that was published by the science journal The Lancet.

Following 3,000 young adults for a period of 15 years, researchers found that those participants who ate fast food more than twice per week gained an extra 10 pounds of body weight and were twice as likely to be insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for Type II diabetes. In other words, there’s a strong correlation between fast food and both obesity and diabetes.

Of course, this isn’t to say that you can’t make sensible selections at fast food restaurants. Indeed, McDonald’s has apples on the menu. But this is to say that most of the people who eat fast food aren’t opting for apples – and that healthy selections are difficult to find or far and few between.

I don’t share this study because I’m against fast food. I’m not. I share this study because I’m for nourishing food – and most fast food isn’t that. If your health is a priority (and I hope it is – after all, we only get one body), then focus on eating well instead of eating fast.

Eat well. Feel well. Be well.

Is Subway Really Healthy?

webmd_rf_photo_of_subway_meatball_subThere are more subway restaurants around the world than McDonalds (37,000+ and counting!) – and the chain has done a great job of positioning their menu as the healthy alternative to fast food. With a slogan of “eat fresh” and advertising campaigns built around losing weight and eating smarter (remember Jared?), it begs the question: Is Subway really that healthy?

I once heard someone compare eating at Subway versus McDonalds to jumping off the 30th floor instead of the 40th. It’s an apt analogy. Either way, the outcome is still going to be the same. In this instance, a larger waistline is the likely result.

Of course, some Subway sandwiches are healthy. For instance, I’ve opted for a six inch Veggie Sandwich on whole wheat topped with grilled chicken and no condiments. It’s low in unhealthy fats, high in good carbs and protein and loaded up with essential nutrients.

But then there are sandwiches like the foot long Big Philly Cheese Steak, Chicken and Bacon Ranch, Meatball Marinara or Tuna Sandwich – all of which clock in with nearly a thousand calories. It’s also worth distinguishing between low fat and healthy. With a respectable 9 grams of fat, Subway’s Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich is positioned as low fat. But it still has a whooping 760 calories. And then there’s all the sodium found in deli meats.

For anyone trying to eat smarter, these sandwiches can do some real damage.

If you do want to eat at Subway, be mindful of portions, calories, sodium and fat. Steer clear of cheese, mayo, creamy dressings or any other unhealthy toppings. Order your sandwich on whole wheat bread and go for six inches rather than the foot long.

The bottom line: Regardless of the restaurant, the lesson here is to look past the marketing hype. Just because a food is positioned, advertised or labeled with alleged health benefits doesn’t make it a smart choice.



The Thousand Dollar Menu: Why Fast Food Isn’t Really Cheap.

Though it’s possible to shop for and consume healthy foods on a budget, it’s certainly something of a challenge. When I purchase nourishing ingredients and make my own meals, for example, the price tag is generally much higher than if I had stopped at McDonald’s for a Big Mac. Or some crispy strips at KFC. Or some Chinese food take-out.

Fast food is cheap. And when faced with budgetary constraints, it might seem like a financially sound option for individuals and families alike. But not so fast. It turns out that fast food has a secret hidden cost that can total thousands of dollars per individual per year.

The problem is that there is a clear link between fast food and obesity. Multiple studies have been done on the subject, including one from the University of Michigan that concluded:

Participants who consumed fast food two or more times a week gained approximately 10 more pounds and had twice as great increase in insulin resistance in the 15-year period than participants who consumed fast food less than once per week.

There is a clear and strong link between fast food and obesity. In a separate 2009 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the authors found that even the proximity to a fast food restaurant “significantly increased the risk of obesity.”

Since eating fast food contributes in a very real way to obesity, the financial impact of the extra weight must be taken into account. Researchers at George Washington University used a series of measures including indirect costs, lost productivity, and direct costs, such as obesity-related medical expenditures, to estimate the price tag of obesity for men and women. The results were shocking:

The authors concluded that the individual cost of being obese is $4,879 and $2,646 for women and men respectively, and adding the value of lost life to these annual costs produces even more dramatic results: $8,365 and $6,518 annually for women and men, respectively.

If eating fast food contributes to obesity (we know it does), then maybe the dollar menu isn’t so cheap after all. Fast food prices don’t reflect the secret hidden cost that you’ll undoubtedly pay through the impact on your health.