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I don’t eat fast food, but I do stop at Starbucks regularly. Is that still bad for my health?
The world of fast food includes a typical fast food drive through, McDonald’s and Burger King. But then you got Starbucks, you got mini marts, you have super markets where you can grab and go. It doesn’t necessarily have to be from a traditional fast food establishment.
How bad are the grab-and-go places and my Starbucks run?
Most of the grab and go’s tend to be higher in calories, high in fat, not really healthy, low in vitamins, compared to healthier food. Let’s say I go to Starbucks in the morning and I get myself a grande latte and a muffin, I may walk out with 800 to 1000 calories in my hand. And I just had a drink and a muffin. So, that’s a lot.
Roughly how many calories should I have throughout the day?
Just in a quick way to figure it. Just add a zero to your weight. So, if I’m a 120-pound woman. I need to eat 1,200 calories to maintain that weight. If I walk out with an 800-calorie breakfast from Starbucks, I’m not going to stay 120 pounds a long time if I’m eating during the rest of the day.
What’s the biggest problem with eating fast food?
I think fried foods are a tremendous problem. You double and triple calories if you fry things. And then there’s what’s in that fryer, what kind of oil is in that fryer. We’re starting to see people get rid of trans fat, we’ve heard about those, how horrible they are, they raise heart disease risk. My other concern for fat and fast food fryers is that the fat is staying in there, it’s exposed to really high temperatures, in there for a protracted period of time, which tends to make the fat rancid. And rancid fat can actually increase cancer risk. So, I’m worried about just people eating fat in general from fast food establishments.
A lot of restaurants seem to be using healthier fats and oils now. Isn’t that a good thing?
Some of the fats are being replaced by healthful oils, not all of them are. There’s another fat called interesterified fat that’s coming in the restaurant chain, and those fats do raise bad cholesterol in the blood.
But some fast-food places are now posting nutritional information. Can’t I use this to help me order?
There’s no labels on fast food; usually there’s a chart in some remote place in a fast-food joint that will tell you the food and how many calories are in it. Unfortunately, it has all these other nutrients that most people aren’t concerned about. So it’s a confusing chart for a nonprofessional to read. If you are going to go out to a fast food frequently, you can go to fast-food website and check out calories of your favorite thing. It’s almost like you have to look for a basic hamburger, which is pretty low in calories or basic cheeseburger, and get out of the higher end.
What about salad bars as a healthier alternative?
Some of them are offering salads, but I would definitely pick a lower-calorie salad dressing, because that little packet, it it’s regular dressing, will have 300 calories sitting in it, so that’s where we make the mistake of getting the salad.
What other healthier options should I look for when ordering off a fast-food menu?
I would look for things that aren’t fried, I would get rid of a fried fish sandwich and opt for a hamburger instead. If I were going to Subway, I would look for the Jared specials, I suppose, to get the ones that are lowest in fat.
What about at Mexican fast-food chains?
The Mexican choices are all over the place. I could go in and get a 2-pound burrito and walk out with a 3,200-calorie burrito in my hand, like a nice carne asada burrito. Some of the tortillas they use to make those burritos are about the size of a little bathroom rug. They’re huge! So you have to be discreet going Mexican, you know, get the tacos with the soft tortillas avoid the huge things. Avoid the fried things.
I also like to frequent Asian fast-food restaurants. What should I stay away from on these menus?
Asian choices, typically, can be good. You have to be careful of things like sweet-and-sour, kung pao or other things like orange chicken, which are little shredded, fried chicken bits. So, Asian food can be very deceiving, because we think that Chinese food is really slenderizing and non-fattening, but a lot depends upon what we’re selecting. So I would always try to pick one that had chicken with vegetables, or shrimp with vegetables, even beef with vegetables, and try to avoid things that have nuts, or fried food in them, like a sweet-and-sour or crispy chicken.
We’re a fast-food nation, so how can we avoid it?
We can break our fast food habits by simplifying meals at home. Sometimes the easiest thing, if you’re working, is to get reacquainted with the crock-pot. Finding things that are simple and fast to make. If I need fast food, I could go get a chicken and salad from the market and share that with my family. I can make a simple dinner rather quickly by doing those kinds of things.
For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's nutrition services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about nutrition, read the Nutrition News archive.