Friday, August 13, 2010

Responsible Fast Food Consumption?

It would be nice to have a healthy, sit-down meal loaded with fruits, vegetables, and lean protein 3 times a day.

It would also be unrealistic.

Sometimes the drive-thru happens.

However, if you play your cards right, there are ways to avoid dropping a 1,200 calorie bomb on your attempts to maintain your weight. And I’m only going to mention things that leave me satisfied enough to avoid raiding the vending machine at 2:30.

General rule: Stay away from fatty sauces (regular salad dressings, and anything cheese- or mayo-based). Also, there’s only so much you can do if you order something with a shitton of rice or fried potatoes.

Taco Bell:
It might surprise you to know that a regular taco contains only 170 calories. Three of these makes a reasonably-sized meal. You can even shave 20 calories apiece by ordering “Fresco style”, which replaces the cheese with pico de gallo. I don’t do this, but you can. Also good choices: the new cantina tacos, which have the traditional corn tortilla/meat/onion/cilantro/lime construction. They’re not bad, especially for drive-thru food. Steak (the tastiest of the three) = 160 calories, Chicken = 170, Carnitas = 200 calories.

Panda Express:
There are plenty of good choices here, and they make it easy by displaying the “Wok Smart” logo next to any entrée with 250 calories or less. Get a two-entrée plate, avoid Orange Chicken and Beijing Beef, and you’re set…as long as you choose the mixed vegetables as your side. Here's why: Chow mein noodles (400 calories), steamed rice (420), fried rice (570!)…and vegetables (35).

Lots of low-cal choices, but that doesn’t matter when I am famished two hours later. Plus, it’s just not tasty. I rarely eat at Subway. If you must, do one of the lean 6-inch subs (they're marked as such) with double meat.

They finally published their nutritional info after refusing to do so for many years. It’s probably because a standard burrito there with cheese and sour cream weighs in at 970 calories. Even now, they have a very defensive disclaimer on their info insisting that their calories are far better for you.

To the numbers: the tortilla itself has 290 calories. With that in mind, order a Burrito Bol, or better yet, a salad (if you do the latter, use salsa instead of the 260-calorie dressing).

A Bol with rice, beans, meat, salsa, and cheese will come in under 600 calories. Sub fajita vegetables for beans and it’s under 500. A salad (again, use salsa for the dressing) removes the rice and about 100 calories.

Note: All the meats have roughly the same calories; if you feel like steak or pork, they’re no worse than the chicken.

It’s tough to stay under 600 calories and still get enough to eat here. A McDouble is 390 calories. A six piece McNuggets with one small sauce is 330. Get one of those with a small fry (230), I guess. When I have to resort to this I’m usually hungry again sooner than I’d like. I guess you could do a fruit and yogurt parfait (160) instead of the fries. I mean, if you're into that.

The grilled chicken salads are a reasonable option at 220-320 calories before adding dressing. The balsamic (80 calories/packet) and Italian (120) are the best dressing choices. I just don’t care for the salads I’ve had there.

This is kinda fun. I’ll do a few more when time permits.


Chimpotle said...

I just posted a bit about this. It's insane you can get veggies, pepper chicken and beef/brocoli at Panda and still be 300 calories below a serving of Beijing Beef.

I was looking at Chipotle this morning as well and was amazed that the chicken is close to twice the cholesterol as steak. Also didn't imagine that the chunky salsas had so much sodium in them.

kcmeesha said...

Out of all mentioned places I only eat at Chipolte maybe 3 times a year. When I eat I never look at nutritional information, you might as well assume it's too much/bad for you. I despise diets; when several years ago I wanted to lose weight,I just started splitting portions at work and at home.Few times a month we buy Chinese food at Hy-Vee next door and a "two-entrée meal" is more than enough for me and my kid. I used to stuff the whole thing into myself.

JJSKCK said...

Chimpo - I was shocked at the Beijing Beef. I thought that had to be a typo for sure, because it was literally twice as bad as anything else on there.
As far as cholesterol content of food, I'm dubious as to whether it makes much of a difference on your body's cholesterol level. I mean, they've long since given up telling people to avoid eggs. As unsustainable as the Atkins diet was, they were stunned to find that people's cholesterol numbers improved dramatically when they ate all that cheese and beef.

m.v. - I hear you, and by no means am I a poster child for healthy eating. I do know that saving a few hundred calories on a quick lunch that I'm not going to enjoy a whole lot anyway helps me to at least not gain weight when I do gorge on ribs and beer.

KC Wort Hog said...

Yeah, excess dietary sugar & refined carbohydrates have way more influence on LDL & triglyceride levels than dietary cholesterol does. Go figure.

I loooove the food at Chipotle, but I've only ever had a salad or bol. I almost ALWAYS get a salad there and skip the cheese, sour cream, and dressing. Mild & medium salsas are my "dressing" and I find that when I *have* gotten cheese on my salad, it doesn't really make any difference in flavor - so the extra 100 calories it adds are pretty much a waste. with just lettuce, beans, meat, and salsa, the salad comes to just over 300 calories. Not bad for a really filling and actually quite healthy meal.

Man, I love Chipotle. ;)

Corey said...

In Seattle, they have some law or city ordinance that requires places to post calorie info on the menu boards in plain sight. So Chipotle, Starbucks, McD' name it, its right there.

That said, I love Chipotle regardless of the nutritional values. I can't order a "bol" because a) what's the point; b) that a stupid way to spell it. they don't call the things wrapped in tortillas "burreetos" or whatever; and c) spelling it that way only makes me think of Manute Bol, and then I'm sad.

KCNapkins Guy said...

I love all the testimonials about how we each eat our Chipotle. Funny how we've all figured out our own systems for keeping the calories down.

Here's my routine: I get a veggie burrito (sometimes splurging for barbacoa) but I only eat half. Rice, black beans, corn salsa plus either the green tomatillo or hot, cheese and lettuce. Guac on the side.

It's so filling, I'm perfectly full and can eat the other half for lunch the next day. It's a lot of calories but at 6'3" and 165, I not trying to LOSE any weight. Just trying to be reasonable.

I don't think it's a total cop-out, either, that 'otle references their ingredients are healthier than others because they're higher quality. I'd much rather eat Chipotle than 200 fewer calories of Taco Bell.