Fast food calories have become front and center on the fight against obesity in America. As part of the health care reform legislation that President Obama recently signed there is guidance for both restaurant chains and vending machines. The legislation basically requires posting of nutritional data for the foods and beverages that are being sold.
Counting fast food calories
The new laws should make counting fast food calories easier but the real trick is to get consumers to read the labeling and put it into context. On average a healthy daily calorie amount is between 2000 and 3000 calories depending on your weight and activity level. An athlete can definitely get away with more calories because they burn them regularly. The normal person though needs to look at how many calories are in a fast food meal as a part of their complete goal for daily caloric intake.
Although there are many fast food restaurants that get the attention like McDonald's and Burger King it really comes down to the person's choices at any fast food restaurant. When you go into a McDonald's you will probably not be surprised that a Big Mac is high in calories or even a Whopper at Burger King. The calories in Big Mac are about 576 while for the Whopper the calorie count is 670. What can be more surprising are that certain chicken sandwiches, fish sandwiches and even salads can top the list of high fast food calories.
A favorite of mine, especially during lent are the fish sandwiches at both BK and McDonald's. The calories for a Filet-O-Fish are 380 calories and for the BK Fish Filet sandwich are 630. Could these choices be made unhealthy? If you decided not to include the tarter sauce or the cheese you would definitely shave some off the calorie count but will you? Let's face it anything with cheese, bacon or special sauces is going to be high in calories. This is for all fast food restaurants even those you might think are "healthy".
SuperSize Not Required
A pet peeve of mine is the supersize options that some of these restaurants offer. When I walk up to the counter I already know that I am making a tradeoff between healthy food and my time. Typically I try to buy sandwich only options with water. That certainly helps keep the calorie count down but even if I break down and want to buy those fries and a drink the lookout folks need to be specifically told that you want the small size. If you do not say it they will at the very least give you a regular which if you add those calories together can be as high as those of the sandwich you just ordered. I think we might be up to half the recommended calories we should have in one day.
The biggest myth about choosing better at fast food restaurants is that salads are the best choice. Fast food calories can easily be found in the choices you make when buying the salad. I know I can be pretty guilty when it comes to salad dressing choices. A creamy dressing like Ranch can easily up the fast food calories in your meal. The problem with the dressings and some of the crispy chicken type options is that although the overall calorie count may be low the types of calories can be killer. The fat calories are much higher in these types of dressings so you need to choose better, lighter dressings.
Yes, I know the reality of making choices when you are in a hurry. Try to study up on the calories when you actually have time to sit and review them. Many resources are coming online to help you count calories. One that I looked at for this article is one that appears to be run by About.com at http://caloriecount.about.com/ but I am sure more will keep coming online that will help you keep track of your fast food calories .