Fast Food publication...

Fast Food
The Balancing Act


We live in a swift moving society. The challenge to keep up with the demands of our busy schedules can be exhausting. Many people complain about low energy and so often we struggle to pause during the day, relax and eat a healthy meal. It is very important to eat food that will properly fuel our bodies so our energy level stays strong throughout the day.

In the interview process of designing an individual nutrition program for clients, I often find that most people do not think about what they are going to eat for the day. Conveniently, there is a fast food restaurant on just about every street corner, which makes it easy to stop and grab a bite to eat. Yet, are these modern day fast food places really equipped to give us the nutrition we need?

Let’s do a comparison: 


The top menu items that are low in fat or low in calories are:

• Grilled Chicken Caesar with fat free vinaigrette, 135 calories (fat grams 2); with Caesar dressing, 270 calories (fat grams 15)

• Garden salad with dressing, 170 calories (fat grams 5)

• Hamburger plain, 280 calories (fat grams 100...WOW! Low in calories, but very high in fat.)

Kentucky Fried Chicken:

A few of the healthier choices are:

• Tender roast sandwich, 270 calories

• Corn on the cob, 150 calories

• Macaroni and cheese, 130 calories

• One piece of original recipe chicken breast (5 oz.), 400 calories! (A regular 6 oz. chicken breast is about 170 calories without added seasonings or sauces.)

Pizza at most pizza parlors:

Three pieces of a 14-inch large cheese pizza with thick crust, 515 calories and 15 grams of fat; with thin crust, 180 calories

• Deep Dish, 675 calories and 30 grams of fat 

• Pepperoni personal pan pizza, 640

calories and 28 grams of fat.

There are many fast food restaurants to choose from and most of them compare to the menus above. This gives us an idea of what we might be choosing to put in our body to get us through the day. Is it enough? Is it healthy? Does it meet the requirements of the RDA, (recommended daily allowances)? More importantly, how do you feel when you are finished with a meal such as the above?

I can tell you that most fast food choices DO NOT meet the daily requirements to properly feed your body. I can guess that unless your choices have been on the lower fat and calorie side of the menu, your energy level may not be very high after you have eaten at one of them. So what are you supposed to eat when you are in a hurry?  What are some of the healthier choices?

Let’s remember that according to our RDA food pyramid, the nutrient requirements for the day are 4-8 servings of whole grain carbohydrates, 3-5 servings of vegetables, 1-2 servings of fruit per day, 2-4 servings of protein per day and to use fat sparingly. 

Here is a sample menu of a healthy meal plan:

Breakfast: Two pieces of whole grain toast with a tablespoon of real peanut butter. Sprinkle ground-up flaxseeds on top, add one piece of fruit of choice and a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice. A healthy snack that can be a great “pick me up” for the late morning is low fat organic yogurt or a deviled egg. 

Lunch: Big green salad with lots of colorful veggies with added tuna or chicken and low fat dressing. Add one piece of sourdough bread or whole grain crackers. A great choice for a late afternoon snack would be one piece of mozzarella string cheese with a handful of raw almonds and an apple. 

Dinner: Should be on the lighter side - such as fresh wild fish, or organic chicken, or about 6-8 oz.’s of beef or turkey and fresh steamed veggies of choice. Dessert: (if you have a sweet tooth), something under 100 calories such as a handful of chocolate covered raisins, 3 oz. of chocolate-covered espresso beans, 20 Reese’s Pieces or one non fat cappuccino blast.

How does your diet compare? Are you close to eating like this each day? If so, then an occasional stop at a fast food restaurant will not ruin your diet. However, choosing foods on the menu that are low in fat and calories will help keep the extra pounds in check. Just remember to balance the rest of your day with a good sound diet. If you eat a healthy breakfast and dinner and your lunch was at a drive through, your body would definitely adjust and there is no harm done.

Keep in mind that the body can only absorb so many calories per meal, so no matter what you eat, if you over eat, your chances of gaining weight and adding extra fat to your middle has increased! Try to stay within these guidelines:

Women:  No more than 500 calories per meal. Active women, no more than 600 calories per meal.

Men: No more than 700 calories per meal. Active men, no more than 1,000 calories per meal.

Your best bet would be to eat more frequent meals with smaller portions and a wide variety of foods. Be sure to add foods that are high in fiber. Eating this way will ensure proper nutrition and an even supply of energy all day to meet the demands of your busy schedule.

The best strategy to eating better and to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is TO HAVE A PLAN! Think about your day, plan your meals according to your schedule, and prepare your food the night before your day starts. You will be amazed at your higher energy levels and possibly body fat loss, because the body is getting what it needs to stay healthy, strong and disease-free. 

Which food choices are quick and easy and can save us time in preparation and still be healthy? A few ideas are: Whole grain bagels, Zone, Luna, Balance, Dr. Soy, Think or All Goode bars with a glass of juice or non fat milk. A banana and a low fat organic yogurt are a great on-the-road food or a small mixture of raw nuts and raisins, fresh veggies, with a low fat, low calorie Jamba juice with added protein. Other choices are whole grain crackers (no hydrogenated oils) with low fat cheese, and a piece of fruit. Grab and go GUILT FREE with any of the listed foods for breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

Choosing these types of foods on a day when you are too busy to stop will boost your energy, keep your mind active and encourage good health. Remember to read labels on everything you purchase. Avoid high sugar content, preservatives, hydrogenated oils and trans fat. Try to eat a protein, carbohydrate and a healthy fat at each meal and stay within the guidelines of calorie consumption per meal. 

Varying foods each day will provide better nutrition, and help us to meet our recommended servings for proper body weight and health. A good rule of thumb is: Eat 30 – 35 different foods a day, keep each portion to a “serving” (the palm of your hand is one serving), and avoid processed foods. Take a Sunday or a day when the kids are home and package “grab” food bags that can be taken from the refrigerator or the cupboard quickly and easily. The lifestyle we have today is “right now” and can be very demanding, so plan and prepare to match your lifestyle. Don’t let your health get away from you!

— Linda Moeller-Brown

Linda, of Completely Fit For Life, is a nutrition and fitness consultant and
a certified Pilates instructor.
She can be reached online at

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