Fast food. It's not healthy but it's quick and convenient. Not to mention cheap and filling – ask any hungry young man! We all eat it when we're in a tearing hurry (or want a night off cooking). So as you're walking around that food count checking out the options, check out my handy guide to the nutrition profile of fast food. My guide to the best and worst of fast food ...
Generally nutritious and one of the better fast-food choices, especially if served with lettuce, tomato, beetroot and onion. Things that are missing from the chain burgers shown above. Large hamburgers (Big Mac, Whopper, Eggburger) provide too many kilojoules and too much fat for inactive people. Same comments for hamburgers with cheese and egg.
It's very easy to eat too much pizza, so opt for the small or 'regular' size (personal pizzas) or a thin crispy base. My fave. Wood-fired pizzas offer a lower-oil chewy base and a greater choice of less cheesy interesting toppings, which makes them lower in fat than ordinary pizzas. Say No to pepperoni, salami, bacon and mince toppings, as they pack on the fat and salt.
Chicken might sound a healthy white-meat choice, but deep-fried battered or crumbed chicken is no diet dinner, as it adds a hefty pile of fat and salt, especially when eaten with chips. Select barbecued or rotisserie and scale down to smaller serves. Don't overlook the corn, coleslaw, bean salad or potato and gravy as accompaniments. They'll satisfy your appetite without overloading you.
Chose a fillet burger or flame-grilled skinless burger, as it's is a delicious and sensible choice. To cut the fat even more, ask for it to be made up without the heavy ranch dressing or mayo-like sauce.
Turkish/Lebanese donor kebabs
The combination of flatbread, hot lamb pieces, tabbouli and hummous makes quite a good choice nutritionally, and the only drawback is that sometimes the meat (or chicken) can be pieced together with layers of fat which melt during cooking to keep the meat moist.
Fish and chips
Fish is normally a healthy choice. But when you dip it in batter, deep-fry it and slather it with tartar sauce, it becomes a sponge that soaks up oil. Serve it with a bucket of hot salted chips and you're in cholesterol country! Better to swap that deep-fried greasy fish for a grilled fish with a salad and share a small chips with a friend.
Chiko rolls, dim sims, spring rolls, battered saveloys and potato scallops are definitely a no-no as they are loaded with saturated fat and kilojoules.
Double salting (once during manufacture and again when being served) gives them one of the highest salt contents. Buy thick chips or wedges as they have less fat than fries or straws.
Many Asian takeaways tend to be less greasy and fried, but not always! The most popular combos – like sweet and sour pork or crispy skin chicken with lemon sauce - like can rack up as much fat and kilojoules as a large hamburger or a couple of slices of pizza. Try the following ttips to cut the kilojoules:
- Choose stir-fry dishes with lean meat or skinless poultry and vegetables (chow mein, chop suey) or combination with seafood or chicken.
- Order a serve of seasonable mixed vegetables to dilute the meal.
- Order clear noodle or vegetable soups are light and filling.
- Opt for steamed rice instead of fried rice (a dish in its own right).
- Try not to order dishes with coconut cream or deep-fried items.
- Don't add extra soy sauce – most Chinese dishes are already loaded with sodium.
Tacos, tostadas and burritos similar to hamburgers nutritionally, and beans and salad improve the fibre content and keep kilojoules low. Say No to sour cream, have only a modest amount of melted cheese, add a dollop of guacamole - and Mexican fare can be a good choice.
Meat pies, sausage rolls and pasties are a nutritional disaster, with around half your daily allowance of fat and sodium crammed in to one sausage roll with tomato sauce. The traditional meat pie is the best bet of these three, simply because it contains more meat pieces and less fatty sausage meat.
Best and worst choices
Better healthier choice
Big Mac and large fries
Grilled chicken burger with small fries or salad box OR
Filled Deli Roll
Pizza Hut, Pizza Haven, Dominos, Eagle Boys
Super supreme pan pizza with cheesey crust
Ham and cheese or Vegetarian on thin ‘n’ crispy crust
KFC fried battered chicken pieces, potato wedges
Roast chicken breast (skin removed), mashed potato and gravy, corn cob
Double whopper burger with cheese
Aussie burger with beetroot and onion
Meatball Sub or Italian pepperoni Sub
Turkey breast, ham, roast beef or any of the 7 Subs with under 6 g of fat (ask for lots of salad)
Sweet and sour chicken or pork with fried noodles
Stir-fried vegetables and beef or chicken with steamed noodles or rice
Noodle broth with vegetables
Nachos with melted cheese, guacamole and sour cream
Soft wheat tortillas filled with beef mince, beans, lettuce and tomato. Topped with guacamole.
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About the Author
Catherine Saxelby's Complete Food and Nutrition Companion
Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! From fast food to fat loss, she has written, researched and talked about virtually every aspect of healthy eating. Catherine is an award-winning nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and the author of 10 books.
Her book Nutrition for Life has clocked up sales of almost 500,000, making it one of the most enduring and popular general nutrition books. Her latest book - Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion - sums up all you need to know to eat well.