Recently it came to my attention that my almost 5 year old twins have been eating fast food, specifically McDonalds, far more frequently than their dietitian mother would like. When their father was questioned about this, his nonchalant reply was but I choose the healthy options. Which begs an interesting question, Can fast food ever be healthy?
While fast food outlets have spent much time, creative energy and money on visual campaigns that signify light, fresh food options at the end of the day, the majority of menu items sold are far from healthy.
In fact the majority of heavily marketed menu items including the burger ranges, fries, meal deals, jumbo wraps and sandwiches, fried chicken and frozen soft drinks are packed full of calories, fats and sugars.
Take a Big Mac Meal Deal that it not upsized. With just the burger and medium fries you are looking at 900 calories and almost 50g of fat or the equivalent number of calories of more than 2 meals. And that is without even considering the drink.
It is the calorie density of processed fast foods that make them so bad for us. They are easily over consumed, made using processed vegetable oils and lack the dietary fibre and bulk of fresh whole foods that would usually keep us full and satisfied for several hours.
While there may be some ‘healthier’ choices, these are not necessarily nutrient dense, low calorie or particularly filling. Rather they are simply better than most of the items on the menu. And let’s get real, compared to the best known menu items, how frequently are they ordered? Or if they are ordered, are they accompanied by other high fat, high calorie or high sugar items such as fries, nuggets or $1 mega soft drinks?
So where does this leave fast food? Put most simply it leaves it as a very occasional food – on a long road trip when there are few other options; something you may occasionally crave and eaten at most once a month. But to think of it as healthy, you are kidding yourself.