Most fast food is unhealthy, but with deals like "The Double Down," "The $5 Box," and "The Dollar Menu," plaguing the air waves, our ability to avoid the appeal of fast food is getting harder.
Globally, fast food industry franchises bring in billions of dollars each year, while bringing a fair share of calories to all those who consume it.
“With the convenience of fast food, people appreciate the value of not having to cook, and eating a full meal without paying a steep price,” says Tessa Prior-Pullins, one of the lead dietitians for BistroMD. “The problem with fast food restaurants is the lack of nutritional quality available in their meals. This, on top of the frequent advertisements that promote exclusive ‘meal deals’ can be hard for many people to resist.”
Fast food is unhealthy, but the deals that dominate the airwaves make the urge to indulge in a juicy hamburger or a hearty helping of greasy French fries difficult to ignore.
One of BistroMD’s expert dietitians, Tessa, is taking a closer look at some of the most tempting fast food deals out there today, and explains why you should avoid these meals, and how you can select healthier alternatives from a menu dominated by calories and fat.
A Double-Down Sandwich That You Don’t Need to Take Down
KFC Double Down Sandwich (with two Original recipe chicken breasts)
610 calories, 310 calories from fat
1,380 milligrams of sodium
For around $4, you can get a fast food sandwich from fried chicken powerhouse KFC that comes with half of your recommended daily caloric intake, and half of your daily recommended sodium intake.
This exclusive sandwich slaps two pieces of fried bacon, and two slices of Monterey and pepper jack cheeses between two Original recipe fried chicken breasts.
“This sandwich sounds extremely appetizing, but you won’t feel very satisfied after you eat it,” says Tessa. “This sandwich has so many bad carbohydrates, that your body won’t know what to do with them, except turn them into stored fat."
Instead of indulging in the “Double Down” there are healthier options on the Colonel's menu that aren't so bad for you.
“The one piece original recipe wing meal has 140 calories, and with healthier sides like corn on the cob and green beans, your meal will be around 230 calories. Just go easy on adding extra salt, and beware of dipping sauces, which can easily add about 150 extra calories to your meal.” says Tessa.
A $5 Box That Will Help You Pack on the Pounds
$5 Dollar Buck Box from Taco Bell
1,210 calories, 60 grams of fat
2,270 milligrams of sodium
Recently, the taco extravaganza that is Taco Bell has been promoting their “$5 Buck Box” which includes a beefy melt burrito, a taco supreme, a chalupa supreme, and a serving of cinnamon twists.
“This combination of unhealthy fast food from Taco Bell is not the best choice if you have a craving for Mexican food,” says Tessa. “By just eating this one festive box of food, you have already surpassed your recommended daily calorie intake and sodium intake.”
Even though advertising dollars are currently being spent on this $5 box, the fast food chain does offer some lower-calorie options that won’t have a major impact on your waistline.
“If you can’t fight the urge to visit Taco Bell, the healthiest thing available on their menu is the chicken fresco tacos, which are 150 calories each,” says Tessa. “Be careful not to overindulge in these tasty tacos though, as more than two can put you well over 300 calories for just one meal. This is especially true if you are going to get a soft drink. Remember: liquid calories count too, so I suggest ordering a small diet soda (0 calories), or an unsweetened iced tea to go with your meal.”
This Steak House Can Lead You Straight to the "Big" House
Burger King’s Steakhouse Burger (Value Meal with Large Fries)
1,690 calories, 73 grams fat
2,220 milligrams of sodium
If you are craving a burger that you want “your way” be prepared to work extra hard on the treadmill the next day if you order this meal.
“This burger goes far beyond your daily recommended calorie count, and the sodium content far surpasses your daily intake of sodium," says Tessa.
If you want it your way at Burger King, it’s best to ignore the burgers altogether, and to just stick with chicken or a garden salad.
“Eating healthy at Burger King can be difficult, but if you choose to eat there, I recommend ordering the four piece chicken tenders, the regular side garden salad, or the tender grilled chicken garden salad,” says Tessa. “Each of these choices is below 250 calories, but you still need to be cautious about dipping sauces and dressing. It’s best to use these sparingly, and to avoid drinking any soda.”
The Golden Arches Are Tempting, but Be Careful What You Order
Angus Barbeque Bacon Cheeseburger (Combo Meal with Large Fries)
1300 calories, 64 grams fat
2,370 milligrams of sodium
McDonald’s is the biggest fast food chain on the planet, bringing in revenues of hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide.
Their fast food is extremely popular, especially when it comes to their vast selection of menu items.
“McDonald’s is successful because of its vast selection of menu items, but many of their choices are high in calories, fat, and sodium,” says Tessa.
By far, McDonald’s most unhealthy menu option is their Angus Barbeque Bacon Cheeseburger with large fries.
“The fat and sodium in this meal contains your daily recommended sodium and fat intake for at least two days time,” says Tessa. “The calories and the bad fat in this burger go directly to the fat stores in your abdominal area, making it very easy to gain weight if you regularly eat this meal.”
If you are going to eat under the golden arches, the fast food chain does have a few healthy menu options you can choose from.
“If you must have McDonalds on your day off from dieting, the best options on their menu are definitely their regular garden salads, and their garden salads with grilled chicken, which range between 90-300 calories. Use dressing sparingly though, as some of these toppings contain about 100 extra calories.”
For beverage options, it’s best to go with their regular iced tea, not their sweet tea, which has a whopping 150 calories on its own.
Fast food is unhealthy, but if the temptation is too hard to resist on your day off from dieting, it’s important that you make smart choices that won’t drastically hinder your progress.
“Although it’s best to avoid fast food, you can still indulge yourself every once in a while by making smart choices,” says Tessa. “