We are all guilty of eating fast food from time to time. What’s your favorite? Mine is the spicy chicken sandwich. Whether it’s the savory taste or the convenience of a quick meal, the majority of us are no strangers to eating fast food. Not only does it taste amazing, it’s extremely affordable! Nowadays, I can get myself an entire meal--chicken sandwich, large fries, and a large coke for under $10. So, here is the question I am presenting to you--is your value meal really at a value?
The recommended number of calories a person should consume on a daily basis is 2,000-3,000 calories depending on your age, size, and activity level. A chicken sandwich from any of the fast food chains starts at 340 calories. And let's be honest, the chicken sandwich alone won't fill you up, so it's usually accompanied by a side of fries (roughly 350) calories. All this food usually makes us parched so we need to wash it down with a drink--let's say a large Nestea (since most of us are trying to be healthier and not drink soda) The large Nestea contains 230 calories. If I did the math correctly--your value meal adds up to 930 calories. Remember, the daily recommended number of calories per day is between 2,000-3,000--and you're nearly halfway there--and it’s only been one meal! “The typical American diet is too high in calories, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars, and does not have enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, calcium, and fiber. Such a diet contributes to some of the leading causes of death and increases the risk of numerous diseases”
Let’s break it down a step further. On the side of each package there is something called a Nutrition Facts label--most people either don’t look at this label or haven’t been educated on how to read one. This nutrition fact label was put there to give you a breakdown of all of the ingredients, sugars, carbohydrates, fats, etc. in that package. For foods that do not come in a container, you can search for their nutrition facts on Google.
Let’s take a minute or two to break down exactly what you have just put into your body during this scrumptious meal. The amount of sugar you have just consumed during this meal totals 8 grams (chicken sandwich) 59 grams (large Nestea) Large French fries (0) totaling 67 grams of sugar.
Let me take a quick detour to explain to you how much sugar we are “recommended” to consume on a daily basis. “For most American women, no more than 100 calories per day and no more than 150 calories per day for men (or about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men).”
Rule of thumb: 3 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon.
During just this one value meal, you have consumed twenty-two teaspoons of sugar--the daily recommended amount is 6 teaspoons for women, 9 teaspoons for men. Now that you are aware that you have consumed two and a half times the daily recommended amount of sugar in one meal--let's take a look at the saturated fats. There are 2.5 grams of saturated fats in the chicken sandwich and 3.5 grams in a container of large french fries. “The American Heart Association recommends aiming for a dietary pattern that achieves 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat. That means, for example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, no more than 120 of them should come from saturated fats. That’s about 13 grams of saturated fats a day.” Sodium intake is another issue with fast food consumption. The daily recommended amount of sodium is: “For optimal heart-health, the American Heart Association recommends people aim to eat no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.” Your chicken sandwich (1,020 mg) of sodium, large french fries (290mg), large Nestea (15mg) total 1,325mg. As you can see, you are almost at the daily recommended dose.
Your body is the greatest tool you will ever own. Make sure to feed it the best foods possible--foods that are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. A good rule of thumb to follow is that you should be able to identify each and every ingredient before you even consider putting that food into your body. Preparing your meals ahead of time and eating meals regularly (breakfast, lunch, dinner) with the proper amount of fruits and vegetables (6-8 servings daily) will help fuel your body and your mind. The long term benefits of eating this way will outweigh the value in your value meal. So, the next time you decide to grab some fast food, remember to ask yourself, “Is this value meal really at a value?”
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. U.S. Government Printing Office, December 2010. (https://www.cspinet.org/nutritionpolicy/nutrition_policy.html)