Let’s face it. Fast food chains are not known for healthy weight loss options. As two thirds of the United State’s population is now overweight, we are starting to take a closer look at their dining habits. Fast food chains are responding to the demand with menus that include more fruit and vegetables, smaller portions and even vegetarian options. Their marketing campaigns are well funded and designed to keep your business but where does fast food really fit into your weight loss plan?
Let’s look at some top industry players and what they’re up to these days.
Subway: Possibly the first fast food chain to jump on the weight-loss wagon was Subway. In 1999 Jared Fogle, an unknown college student, became known as “The Subway Guy,” when he told us that eating Subway sandwiches helped him lose 245 pounds in a year- dropping from a whopping 425 pounds to a healthy 190 pounds. He tells the story of how his diet consisted of two meals per day: a turkey sub for lunch and a veggie sub for dinner. Subway’s menu continues to focus a number of its choices on low fat, low carbohydrate and other ‘healthier’ choices.
McDonald’s has been modifying their menu ever since Wayne Spurlock created the Super Size Me documentary in 2004. In addition to a wider choice in salads and grilled chicken they added apple dippers and a fruit and yogurt parfait. They are even test-marketing a smaller version of the Big Mac in some areas. Their website has a “Nutrition and Fitness” section for customizing healthy options to your needs.
Burger King has dished up some creative food, and is one of the first fast-food giants to offer a vegetarian option with their BK Veggie Burger. They recently added scaled-down items called BK Burger Shots and BK Breakfast Shots. Essentially they are smaller versions of Burger King’s standard burgers and breakfast sandwiches.
Jack In The Box is on the healthy bandwagon with their Healthy Dining Menu. Eight in ten of these menu items have less than 500 calories and 10 grams of fat per serving, in addition to mango smoothies and fruit cups. I see in the news that they have joined the movement and are testing Mini Sirloin burgers in San Diego.
You can see at a glance that the fast food industry provides options with lower calories and less fat and saturated fat. That’s a great start, but while calories and fat matter a great deal when trying to lose weight it’s also important to note that maintaining a healthy body requires adequate nutrition.
Unfortunately fast food menus lack much of the nutrition that is required for a healthy body. Fast food salads usually use iceberg lettuce, not the darker lettuces. Organic steamed or raw vegetables are non-existent. Most proteins come in the form of greasy burgers and fried chicken, rather than legumes, nuts, and fresh fish. Stripped down white bread replaces whole grains.
Our bodies are starved for nutrition, which causes our brain to tell us we’re hungry. If we fill up on empty, nutrition-lacking calories we aren’t feeding our body and our brain will continue to tell us we’re hungry. This is partly why you can eat a whole bag of potato chips and still be hungry.
Can you lose weight in fast-food restaurants? Absolutely. Jared proved it to us and now I see that a man in Virginia has lost 80 lbs. by eating nearly every meal at McDonald’s. Our bodies are designed to survive and are highly adaptable at doing so. Whether we are dieting or not, my biggest concern is that we have become too dependent on fast food and by doing so have lost our connection to our food. I suggest that if you want to lose weight and keep it off in the long run, keep your fast food meals to a minimum. I recommend that you focus on preparing fresh meals as often as you can and really feed your body. This will help you lose weight and keep it off!
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