Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lunch at Burger King

Sometimes you have to experience something in order to begin to understand it. On my recent road trip to visit my Dad in Traverse City, Michigan that happened when my wife and I stopped at Burger King for lunch. We ordered a Whopper, onion rings and a soft drink. When I went and looked at the nutritional chart posted on the wall, I was horrified at what I had just eaten. The meal totaled 1330 calories and included copious amounts of fat, sugar and salt.

How bad was the meal nutritionally? Well, here’s a comparison of eating that meal as opposed to drinking your dinner:

Burger King Meal
Calories - 1330
Sugars(grams) - 73
Sodium(mg) - 1730
Saturated Fat - 15 grams
Carbs (grams) - 159
Protein (grams)- 35

Bottle of Red Wine
Calories - 711
Sugars(grams) - 0
Sodium(mg) - 0
Saturated Fat - 0
Carbs(grams) - 31
Protein(grams) - 1

6-pack of beer
Calories - 918
Sugars(grams) - 0
Sodium(mg) - 84
Saturated Fat - 0
Carbs(grams)- 76
Protein(grams)- 10

12-pack of light beer
Calories - 1224
Sugars(grams) - 0
Sodium(mg)- 156
Saturated Fat - 0
Carbs(grams)- 60
Protein(grams)- 8

I’m not trying to suggest that you ought to start drinking your meals—especially if you are going to be driving—but just to provide some kind of context of just how unhealthy fast food meals are.

First, look at calories. The generally accepted standard for weight maintenance is 13 calories per day for each pound that you weigh. So, if you weigh 102 lbs., then this one meal has used up all the calories you need for a day. It’s half the daily calorie allowance for a 200 lbs person. It also uses up more than 75% of your daily sodium (salt) intake and 75% of your intake of saturated fat.

In short, except for its protein content, the fast food meal is much less healthy, from a nutritional standpoint, than drinking a bottle of red wine, drinking a six-pack of beer, or even drinking an entire twelve-pack of light beer. Taking everything into consideration, the healthiest of these four meals is probably the six-pack of beer because it has a more appropriate carbohydrate and protein content for its number of calories than the wine or light beer and avoids the excessive fat and sodium of the fast food meal.

I suppose my surprise mainly shows how seldom I eat fast food. I know many people eat regularly at fast food places and I also know that it’s easy to put on weight and eat poorly even if you never eat out. But when fast food meals compare poorly in nutritional value even as opposed to the least healthy alternative I could think of—then it gives me pause.

And makes me want to sit down to a big plate of vegetables. It would take more than thirteen pounds of asparagus or eighteen heads of lettuce or 684 servings to make up as many calories—and you wouldn’t need to worry about the fat or sodium.

I don’t know about you, but if I ate 684 servings of salad, I wouldn’t have time to do anything else in a day.

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