By Dr. Janet Brill

Q: Are the “healthy” menus at fast-food places really healthy?

A: In our society, everything is fast, fast, fast, including our food. The problem is, how does one follow government-advocated healthy eating guidelines recommending that we consume lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nonfat (or 1%) dairy products, lean protein and healthy fats (like olive oil, avocado and nuts) when we’re on the go?
Let’s face it, finding healthy food is tough outside of your own kitchen.

In answer to your question, surprisingly some of the “healthy” menu choices now offered at fast-food restaurants are actually much healthier than their classical menu choices, though clearly not what I would call “health food.” The best advice for navigating the fast-food maze and for a fast food to be truly healthy is that it has to be low in saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fat free. It also cannot be swimming in sodium or sugar and should not provide a ridiculous amount of calories (a good goal is to keep under 500 calories for a full meal).

I decided to check out the McDonald’s Web site (http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/bagamcmeal/nutrition_facts.html ) to see if I could concoct a “healthy lunch.” I found the following nutrition information for their Premium Asian Salad with Grilled Chicken: 320 calories, 9 grams fat (3 grams of those are saturated) and 960 mg sodium. Add in a packet of Newman’s Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette (40 calories, 3 grams fat and 730 mg sodium), a sugar-free iced tea and a fruit ’n’ yogurt parfait (160 calories, 2 grams fat and 85 mg sodium) and you can squeak out a somewhat healthy lunch for a grand total of 520 calories, 14 grams fat and a whopping 1,775 mg sodium (you should keep your total daily sodium intake under 2,300 mg/day). Not ideal, but in a pinch . . .

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