Just when you thought it was healthy to eat a salad from McDonald’s (uh oh!), there’s two unsuspecting culprits by the names of calorie and sodium lurking behind the crotons and salad dressing. Turns out the burger you avoided could potentially have less calories and sodium than the salad. Yikes! Sure, items on the fast-food menu appear healthy, but are they really legit? Or are fast-food restaurants pulling our leg?

Ok let’s face it.

The majority of us love fast-food. It’s convenient and best of all its cheap, which is stellar in this economy. And with the addition of healthier choices, due to increased awareness of obesity and heart-related disease, fast-food can be quite enticing to health-conscious customers.

This week I decided to treat myself by going out to lunch with a friend (a far cry from my usual bag lunch). Both, unsure of our destination, we decided to explore fast-food restaurants online. While exploring, I was intrigued by the amount of healthy food choices made available, so I began to focus my efforts on finding a healthy fast-food meal, if possible.

As I explored some of the fast-food menus, I was shocked by the amount of fat, sodium, and calories that were included in the so-called healthy choice meals. Take McDonald’s, for example, while searching the salad menu I came across the Premium Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken. The salad looked pretty appetizing, but as I explored the nutritional value, the salad had 450 calories, 150 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of fat, and 42 grams of carbohydrates. I was shocked. Turns out, the only salads that were low in fat, calories, and sodium were the Premium Caesar Salad — which had 90 calories, 180 mg of sodium, 4 grams of fat, and 9 grams of carbohydrates — and the Side Salad — which had 20 calories, 10 mg of sodium, 0 grams of fat, and 4 grams of carbohydrates. Not to mention, the calories in the salad dressings.

McDonald’s Newman’s OWN Ranch dressing consisted of 170 calories, 530 mg of sodium, 15 grams of fat, and 9 grams of carbohydrates, almost the equivalent of eating a McDonald’s hamburger.

Certainly, McDonald’s isn’t the only one. At Wendy’s, the Baja Salad consisted of 730 calories, 1,920 mg of sodium, 47 grams of fat, and 46 grams of carbohydrates. In fact, the Cobb Salad composed of 660 calories, 1,840 mg of sodium, 46 grams of fat, and 14 grams of carbohydrates. The Double Stack Burger fared better than both of the salads with only 400 calories, 1080 mg of sodium, 21 grams of fat, and 26 grams of carbohydrates.

So, clearly one can’t rely solely on advertisement to make the right food choices.

As Meredith Melnick, producer and reporter for the Time Healthland points out, “It’s a reminder that you must do the research yourself: even at “healthier” restaurants, you can’t just rely on advertising to tell you what is most nutritious.”

Even so, expect the unexpected. Heather K. Jones, a registered dietitian, weight loss counselor, and contributor to Fitness magazine, points out 24 items surprisingly healthy items at McDonalds. “Out of the 24 items listed five items were taken from the McDonald’s menu: McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets with Sweet ‘N Sour Sauce (4 pieces, 220 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 2 grams of saturated fat). McDonald’s Hamburger (260 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 3.5 grams of saturated fat), McDonald’s Egg McMuffin (300 calories, 12 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat), McDonald’s McChicken (370 calories, 16 grams of fat, and 3.5 grams of saturated fat).”

By the time I’d finished surfing fast-food menus, I was still hungry, and at that point I didn’t care what I ate. Instead of opting for a salad, I went with the McDonald’s cheeseburger. The next time, maybe, I’ll cut the healthy fast-food hunt and just opt for the burger from the start; chances are, I’ll probably be better off. But, if I prefer to stick to my diet, it would probably be best to avoid fast-food together.

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One Comment

  1. What exactly is the problem with packing some healthy food for later?

    Making your own sandwich and pack it for later is as fast as waiting for a burger at Mc D´s and far more healthier.

    Even packing up some whole meal crackers together with a trail mix is better than eating at Mc D´s.

    Eating at McD´s doesn´t even count as a warm meal if you ask me..not really..sure they heat it up..but than also a salad with grilled chicken would be a warm meal.

    If I had to choose I would prefer subway or a similiar fast food chain, no cookies and no chips and skip the fatty choices and dressing because of the chemicals that are in those dressings.

    People who often eat at McD´s expect the taste of fat and salt, so to sell their salad they also dump fat and salt on it..it is a burger place..something not fat and salty or extremly sweet will not sell there as well as the caloric high option.

    Or how about a pizza fast food joint?

    Half the cheese, more vegetables on the pizza, less or no meat and you have the original italian sandwich…pizza is the italian sandwich, warm..and it can be healthy when you can choose what goes on it.

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