Food

Fast Food: the Good, the Okay, and the Worst

You + fast food = “It’s complicated.” You don’t want to break up, but you’re just about ready to cut the cord.

*sniffles*

I’m the same! I live in the UK, a place where fast food is everywhere. I have friends addicted to it (I won’t name names), and although I don’t eat it anywhere near as much as I once did, I still get those cravings now and then.

You know the type: You’re wandering around a massive, unfamiliar city, your belly gnawing away with hunger. Then, you spot a big golden “M” in the distance and you’re saved. Praise. The. Lord for Ronald McDonald and his budget food, right?

But look, here’s the health scoop: A diet heavily reliant on fast food will more than likely catch up with you at some point as your years advance. Fast food has been linked to stroke, cancer, heart disease, depression, diabetes, obesity — and even death. Yes, it’s that bad for you.

On the flip side, we’re all familiar with the quote “everything in moderation.” Alcohol, when consumed sensibly and moderately, doesn’t have to kill us or ruin relationships. It’s the same with fast food. While fast food can have horrible short-term effects, such as preventing your muscles from using glucose as energy, it’s still okay to eat it now and then if that’s what you feel like doing.

Sure, it’s not the absolute best thing for our planet. But in case you’re the kind of person who still nibbles a french fry now and then, or who hankers after a cheeseburger after a once-in-six-months hangover, we decided to separate the best from the worst while providing you with some healthier alternatives so that you can remain as healthy and ethical as possible while getting your fast food fix.

🤝 Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich (McDonald’s) - Okay

Fancy some fast food meat but don’t want to feel guilty afterwards?

Well, I’m not saying you’ll feel all clean and innocent after eating McDonald’s artisan grilled chicken sandwich, but with 380 calories, 37 grams of protein, and just 7 grams of fat, it’s pretty damn healthy for Uncle Ronald’s classic fast food chain.

Not just that, but you get a side serving of apples with it. Seriously. McDonald’s have got you.

👎 French Fries - Worst

Look, I get that French Fries are a family favorite. I get that they remind us all of our childhood. I get all that.

But the science isn’t wrong and french fries have too many health risks that shouldn’t be ignored.

If you’re a full-grown adult now, you probably should start seeking out healthier alternatives in fast food restaurants. Maybe you could enjoy a burger now and then but it’s not a good idea to then combine it with some FF’s because these hot blondes are the type that are just up to no good. They don’t want what’s best for you.

👍 A healthier alternative: Try carrot sticks (but not fried) with hummus. YUM.

🤝 The Bacon Ranch Grilled Chicken Salad (McDonald’s) - Okay

Admit it, you weren’t sure about this one. But I bet you’re doing your happy dance now that it’s on the ‘okay’ list.

“OMG, MOM, MOM!! IT’S ON THE OKAY LIST!!!”

Grilled chicken is always a healthier alternative to fried chicken. And while this salad bowl does contain bacon scraps too, it contains just 6 grams of saturated (bad) fat. That’s pretty okay.

In terms of calories, meanwhile, it delivers 320.

🤝 Grilled Chicken Nuggets - Okay

There are a few fast food chains that sell grilled chicken nuggets — including KFC and Chick-Fil-A — and they contain less than 150 calories. Moreover, they boost your system with 25 grams of protein which makes them a far healthier alternative to a bucket of fried chicken nuggets.

👎 McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin With Egg - Worst

You’re “literally starving to death” and need a breakfast in the city center. You eye a McDonald’s and images of your student days flood back to you. Front and center is the sausage McMuffin with egg. So good.

We’ve all been there. But with a whopping 28 grams of fat (10 of them saturated) and a mega 450 calories, it’s hardly a good start to the day. It’s not the breakfast of champions and it’s one of the worst fast food items around.

(Oh, and did I mention the 860 mg of sodium to boot?)

👍 A healthier alternative: Starbucks’ oatmeal bowl will get your day off to a flying start with lashings of dried fruit and nuts on top.

👍 Bonus healthier alternative: If you really wanna eat your breakfast at McDonald's (it’s inexpensive, isn’t it?), a better option than the sausage McMuffin is the Egg White Delight. It’s rich in protein and delivers only 260 calories. Plus, it’s vegetarian.

🤝 Junior Hamburger (Wendy’s) - Okay

Wendy’s is almost exclusive to the U.S. If you happen to live there and don’t fancy a huge meal but still want to fast food it, the junior hamburger is a tasty and (relatively) okay option. Along with the burger you get pickle, onions, and lettuce, and tomato, and a garden side salad. That’s what I’m talking ‘bout.

With 460 calories, it’s none too shabby and the salad really bumps up the health factor.

👎 Cinnabon Delights (Taco Bell) - Worst

Taco Bell’s cute, icing-laced Cinnabon delights are just so small that they can’t seriously be too bad for us, right?

Okay, they’re a dessert but still.

Sadly, Taco Bell doesn’t give you just one or two per serving — they give you a damn handful that’s pretty much a platter. Worse still, their combined calories comes to a staggering 930 grams while there’s also 13 grams of saturated fat swimming around in these lil' devils in disguise.

👍 A healthier alternative: Arby’s Vanilla shake is a solid dessert that contains 250 calories. However, if you’re determined to avoid as much sugar as possible, head to somewhere like Pret A Manger for some fresh fruit. This is a terrific idea if you don’t want to overdo things after you’ve just wolfed down a burger.

👎 Burger King’s Triple Whopper - Worst

This hulk of a burger is one of the biggest fast food offenders in the world. Pretty much any burger at Burger King is bad for you, but this one — with its three slices of beef — is so extravagant that it should have a starring role in The Great Gatsby.

And no, those tomatoes and lettuce won’t redeem it. Calories stand at 1,160 for this bad boy, while 27 grams saturated fat should see you heading for the exit.

👍 A healthier alternative: Burger King does sell a veggie burger these days. If you’re gagging for that meaty texture, it’s a fab-tasting alternative that’s much, much okay-er.

Conclusion

Your fast food relationship doesn’t need to be complicated, and the breakup doesn’t need to be messy. Instead, you can still get along — you’ve just gotta keep your distance. Make it long distance if you have to. Put boundaries up. Let it know who’s the boss. You wanna see other people. Carrot sticks and the like. You got this. I believe in you.


What are your thoughts on fast food? Let us know in the comments below!

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About Will Titterington

Will is a writer who's always looking for ways to live more sustainably. He’d probably like to build his own house one day but one step at a time — he’s only just learned how to change a lightbulb.