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Real Food vs. Fast Food, a Nutritional Comparison

June 19, 2012
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Every fast food joint these days has its “healthy options.”  Even the worst offender *cough….McDonalds….cough* has oatmeal on the menu.  (Never mind that their blueberry banana oatmeal has more calories than their hamburger. Source)  Still, because it’s not made at home and it is made to be fast, do you really know–like KNOW–what you’re getting?

Let’s do some simple side by side nutritional comparisons between Burger King’s Original Chicken Sandwich and my own Curry Chicken Salad.

According to the USDA recommendations, a women should get between 1800 and 2400 calories per day depending on her level of physical activity.  A man needs between 2200 and 3000 depending on level of physical activity.  Nutritional labels base their data on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.  If that is so, one chicken sandwich from BK is well above a quarter of the calories you need all day!  And you haven’t yet added in fries (small = 340) and a drink (small coke = 140)!  All together a meal at BK would be  1110 calories!  That’s ONE MEAL (using small sizes!) and over half your calories for the day!  However, it doesn’t count for any of your fruit and veggies needs for the day and is lacking in vital vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc.  (Nutritional information from BK.com)

The homemade chicken salad above is 232 calories per serving, leaving plenty of room for some whole grain toast or pita bread to round out the meal!  It’s full of fruits and veggies and vitamins and minerals!  It has 14.5% of your vitamin A needs, 28.5 % of your B vitamins, and 85.1% of your vitamin C needs! (Recipe analyzed by Spark Recipes.)

Consider these facts the next time you think about eating fast food:

46% of adults sugar intake comes from sugary drinks

In the 25 years between 1987 and 2010, the number of American’s diagnosed with diabetes almost tripled to 20.9 million.

The percentage of children aged 6-11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008.

Those who eat fast food two or more times per week experience an average annual weight gain of 10 pounds more than those who eat fast food less than once a week. 

40% of every dollar spent on food is spent on food eaten outside the home.

(Source: Weight Of The Nation.)

Do you know what is in your food?  Sure.  It’s a chicken sandwich.  The ingredients should be pretty straightforward, no?  Chicken, mayo, bread, lettuce, some salt and other seasoning.  What else?  Well, here’s a complete list:

Chicken: Chicken Breast with Rib Meat, Water, Salt and Monosodium Glutamate. Breaded with: Bleached Wheat Flour, Salt, Spices, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Soybean and/or Cottonseed), Dried Whey, Monosodium Glutamate, Yeast, Dehydrated Sweet Pepper, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Dextrose, Leavening (Monocalcium Phosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate). BATTERED WITH : Water, Bleached Wheat Flour, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Salt, Corn Starch, Oat Flour and Natural Flavoring. Natural flavors from plant sources.  Bun: enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour or alpha amylase from aspergillus orizae, niacin , iron , thiamine mononitrate (vitamin b1), riboflavin (vitamin b2), ascorbic acid and folic acid), water, high fructose corn syrup or granulated sucrose or liquid succrose, vegetable oil (canola and/or soy) and/or soybean and/or cottonseed oil, yeast may contain 2% or less of the following: salt, (vital) wheat gluten, sesame seeds, yeast food (may contain one or more of the following: calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate, moncalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate), dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: wheat starch, microcrystalline cellulose, sorbitol, sodium chloride, magnesium stearate, distilled monglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, [ethoxylated] mono- and diglycerides, calcium peroxide, calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate, datem, l-cysteine), enzymes, mold inhibitor (calcium propionate and/or sorbic acid), vinegar, soy flour, corn starch.

What’s in homemade chicken salad?

orange, chicken, red grapes, jicama, celery, mayonnaise, lemon yogurt, soy sauce, red curry paste, papayas, fresh chives

The truth is that nothing can really compare with making it yourself.  Nothing raises your awareness of what is in your food than bringing food from market to plate yourself.  If you need a starting place for your journey to health, step number one is to eat out less and cook at home more.  For more inspiration on taking a Fast Food Free Challenge check out our free downloadable resource

(Linked up at Frugal Days Sustainable Ways and Little Natural Cottage.)

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