Ask the experts: Fast food nutrition information
Q: "Being a fit person who has a healthy diet, I have for many years now avoided with contempt fast food outlets, thinking their food fatty and unhealthy. However, when catching up with a friend and coming up against her strong aversion to paying a surcharge at the local cafes, I was forced rather against my will to have lunch at the local McDonald's instead. She put up with my noises of complaint and told me to try one of their Deli rolls. I tried one and was really impressed – it actually tasted fresh and quite yummy! When I went home I checked the McDonald's website for the nutritional information and found that the calorie content was a lot lower than I would have expected, especially from McDonald's!
What I would like to know is: can I trust the information they provide?"
A: Dietitian Kristen Corselius White responds:
"Yes Laura, you can trust the nutrition information fast food companies provide. With obesity on everyone's mind, healthy food choices are on the rise. Seeking the nutrition facts about your choices is the best way to make informed decisions. However, smaller chain or independently owned restaurants may not have that information readily available (but ask anyway). In these cases, let common sense be your guide.
While on the subject, this is a good opportunity to go over how to avoid common pitfalls of all fast food (not just McDonald's). Fatty toppings and/or added fizzy drink and chips can easily thwart even the best choices. Here are a few tips:
- Choose the grilled or baked options instead of deep-fried fare.
- Ask for low-fat or vinaigrette dressings on the side. Avoid mayo or creamy dressings (including Caesar salad).
- Limit fatty toppings like bacon, cheese and avocado. Choose none or one instead of all three.
- 'Up-size' the vegetables. Ask for more vegetables in your sandwich or ask for a side salad instead of chips.
- Watch the portions. When it comes to fast food, small is better.
- Enjoy fast food to no more than once a week. Make these foods the exception rather than the rule."