Are Healthy Choices Possible at Fast Food Outlets?

Hey there Guys,

Today I came across a recent news post that talks about the significant health issues of a young woman whose sole diet consisted of McDonald’s “chicken” nuggets.

Shocked doctors learned of her habit when the factory worker, from Birmingham, north of London, collapsed and was taken to hospital after struggling to breathe.

Ms Irvine, who has never eaten fruit or vegetables, had swollen veins in her tongue and was found to have anaemia.

The craving is taking a toll on her health. A lack of vitamins and other nutrients combined with a dangerous amount of salt can raise blood pressure and weaken the immune system and lead to an increased risk of heart attacks or strokes, particularly as Ms Irvine ages.

I think it’s fairly well understood that a diet of chicken nuggets is unlikely to be good for health. My point for sharing this story was more to prompt a conversation about fast food and its current role in our culture.

Whether it be McDonald’s, Burger King or any of the huge variety of chicken outlets, fast food has become a strong competitor in the food market. Like it or not, it supplies a need for fast, easy food supply for time poor people. I think we all know that if we base a diet on the salt, fat and starchy carbohydrate laden foods served at these places we have potential for health problems. As a “sometimes food”, a meal every now and then, it’s unlikely to cause much harm. Today I wanted to share some suggestions that can make a fast food stop even healthier.

Current healthy eating guidelines recommend plenty of fruit, fresh vegetables and lean protein sources while avoiding high salt,  sugar, unhealthy fats and starchy carbohydrates…

Can you guess which side of the equation a Burger King “Whopper with cheese” value meal sits?

Let’s see if we can make this meal a little more healthy…

Top tip: if you are offered an upsize to a larger “value” meal, say no. This is a simple way for the fast food companies to add more money and does nothing for your waistline. When they say “value” in the menu they fail to mention that the value is for the company, not for you.

French fries are high in fat, salt and starchy carbs, while low in vitamins. This combination is bad for the waist and heart, sending insulin into overdrive, increasing fat deposition in the body. An alternative to fries is to ask for a salad if it’s available. Good news is that most fast food outlets are starting to offer salads as an alternative to fries. If the salad comes with dressing it’s better to have it without or just a tiny amount to add flavour.

Part of the biggest source of sugar in a hamburger is the bread roll. As with all white breads, less is better. If there is an option for a pita bread or wrap rather than a roll, go for that choice.

Soft drink is well known to contain high volumes of sugar. A healthy option would be to have water, however if you do have a craving for a fizzy drink choose a diet soft drink.

Please don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a bad meal every now and then, however I go into it understanding that this is probably not a good choice. One of the advantages of living in a city like Melbourne is that there are local restaurants or snack bars where I can get a great Asian stir-fry, wrap or even a healthy curry for less than the cost of a Burger King meal, and I feel a lot better for it.

It’s all about healthy choices, don’t you think?

Yours in good health.

Dr George


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