Thursday, February 24, 2011

Your Health and the Drive-Thru

Last Thursday morning I went for a 4-mile run, showered, and rushed off to my dentist's appointment.  I normally grab a granola bar or something small to tide me over when I'm in a hurry, but I figured that my dentist probably didn't want to clean little rolled oat pieces out of my teeth for the next half hour.  By the time I got done with my xrays and cleaning, I was starving.

I only had a few minutes to get some grub before heading to the office, so I drove through a Wendy's.  I'm not a frequent fast food eater anymore, but from time to time, it really is a convenient option and everyone deserves a less-than-healthy treat now and then. I decided on a bowl of chili (330 calories) and a chicken sandwich (550 calories).  This is a lot more than I usually eat for lunch, but it was a treat after all, and I still had to teach a Zumba class after work, so I figured I would burn the extra calories anyway.

As I impatiently sat in the drive-thru line half-ready to start gnawing at my steering wheel, I observed the driver of the car in front of me.  While I'm certainly not trying to uphold the assumption that people who eat at fast food restaurants are typically obese, the driver's side of this beat-up old clunker was actually sagging from the weight of this enormous man.  "Ohhhhmigosh, he's going to order the whole dang menu," I grumbled, worrying about how many extra minutes that was going to put between me and my lunch.

I rolled down my window to overhear his order, and he barked out something that actually surprised me.  "I'll just have a Caesar salad," he said.  "Huh, I guess he's trying to lose weight," I thought. "Good for him."  And then, in the next instant, he failed...miserably:  "And I want 3 packets of dressing," he added.  The palm of my hand went to my forehead, and I just shook my head in disbelief.

I find it really sad when people think they are eating healthy, only to find out that they might have been better off scarfing down that bacon cheeseburger.  When I started to lose weight, I scanned the nutrition facts on the websites of some of the most popular fast food places, so that if I did need to hit a drive-thru for a quick meal, I knew what I was getting.  And frankly, even as a health-conscious person, a lot of it was surprising.

While we all have to be accountable for the choices that we make, restaurants could certainly do us a favor by helping us make more informed decisions.  For instance, if you didn't know better, you would think that Fruit and Maple Oatmeal would be a healthy choice on the menu at McDonald's, right?  Not so, said an article Tuesday in the New York Times. "Incredibly, the McDonald’s product contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin."

Early last year, a bill was signed into law in the U.S. requiring fast food chains to post the calorie contents of their items on its menus (including drive-thrus).  I'll be the first to argue that frequenting fast food restaurants is a bad choice for anyone who wants to lose weight, but since they are a modern and sometimes necessary convenience, the least they could do is tell us--right then and there--what we're eating.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Now who would go to "Tony's Tofu Take Out Shack?" With the small cost of the food at McDonalds, it is better to throw away the bread than put the blood sugar spike inducing bun in your stomach. This is especially true if you are diabetic. Hey, maybe McDonald will have a whole grain alternative soon.