here’s a story.
once upon a time, i ate fast food every day. in fact, i would often times eat fast food twice a day. this was back before i knew what a calorie was, my metabolism knew no boundaries, i preferred lifting a can of beer instead of a weight and the documentary “food, inc” was yet to be made. read: i didn’t care about (nor was i aware of) the physical or ethical consequences of fast food. i loved it. i ate it. lots of it.
calorie? what is a calorie?
fine print: before i really get going on this post, i want to say i am not judging anyone who eats fast food. the food other people choose to eat has nothing to do with me nor do i base my opinion on them by looking at what they eat. i have to say this, because i am about to talk a whole lotta crap on a particular fast food establishment. this is my opinion. i just don’t want anyone thinking i think less of people if they choose to eat fast food. i don’t. eat whatever you want. but that doesn’t mean i think it’s good for anyone.
among the many fast food meals i consumed, there was always one particular meal from KFC that was my favorite. i couldn’t get enough of it.
that, my friends, is the KFC three piece chicken strip meal. i would eat it multiple times a week.. it wasn’t rare that i ate this four times a week, i liked it that much.
in my go-to KFC meal:
- 3 chicken strips
- side of macaroni & cheese
- side of potato wedges
- buttermilk biscuit
- two honey packets (for biscuit—not pictured)
- one “buttery spread” (for biscuit)
- three containers of honey mustard (dippage for chicken strips & wedges)
up close & personal:
looking at that list, it sure seems like a lot of food. it even LOOKS like a lot of food. it is quite a bit of food. in addition to the food, i usually had a large (32 oz) dr. pepper to wash it down.
sometimes i would have this for lunch, sometimes for dinner.. but like i said, i would have this meal regularly. i ate the whole thing. and i would be hungry when the next meal time rolled around, about 3-4 hours later. in fact, i would usually eat some sort of candy immediately after the meal.. i was all about the chewy jolly ranchers.
these days, i don’t eat at KFC. eventually, that pesky metabolism caught up with me and i found myself 25 lbs overweight. so, i stopped fast food and i started doing body for life. i gave up fast food except for on my “free day”. when my free day came around, i did have fast food a few times, but it literally made me sick (on both ends!—sorry for the TMI) and i decided there was a reason i shouldn’t be putting that kind of food into my body. this was before i knew about the ethical side of eating fast food. i just knew it made my body feel like crud.
body for life taught me a lot about nutrition and macros.. the more i learned the more i wanted to know. the better i felt after not eating it the more i wanted to NOT eat it. it was like a wildfire. so i stopped eating KFC (and all other fast food) and never looked back.
now i want to pass my experience on to my readers, because i feel like shouting this lesson from the rooftops. give up fast food for a month. then eat it. see how you feel. you probably won’t go back, either.
anyway, my dinner from last night (more on that in a moment) had me reminiscing about my old favorite fast food meal. i was curious just what exactly i was eating, and how it all added up.
enter: fun with numbers!
i made a chart of the nutritional information for my entire meal. i took the information straight off the KFC website.
|Calories||From Fat||Fat Grams||Saturated||Sodium||Carbs||Fiber||Sugar||Protein|
|Mac & Cheese||180||80||9||3||880||20||2||4||6|
holy balls! talk about a wake up call!
1810 calories in one meal.. and it didn’t keep me full for longer than 3 hours? talk about empty calories. the calories for one meal add up to about the same number of calories i eat in a whole day. (i don’t count calories, but i am mindful of them and probably consume 1600-1800 calories daily.)
let’s talk sauce. i never had any idea that one of those dinky honey mustard containers was 120 calories. each! combine those 3 containers with my honey & butter for my biscuit and i was up to 450 calories in sauce packets alone. that number made me queasy. i can eat a whole big, nutritious meal that contains 450 calories and be full for 6 hours (hello, oatmeal and peanut butter).
how about the other numbers? the fat grams are double what i take in daily nowadays, and none of the KFC fat grams can be referred to as “healthy fat”, like the majority of the fat i eat now. the carb grams are off the charts and 139 of those grams come from sugar. all of the carbs are quick digesting, empty carbs: white, refined noodles, deep fried potatoes, buttermilk biscuit, sugary soda. and the sodium? well, the sodium total makes my whole body puff up just looking at it. the only upside i can see is the amount of protein the meal contains.
that little math lesson was an eye opener for me. sure, i quit eating fast food because it made me feel gross.. but after seeing what i was eating and knowing what i know now about nutrition, i cringe.
ANYWAY, onto last night’s dinner!
in the october issue of oxygen magazine, there was a healthy version of mac & cheese. i bookmarked it and have been meaning to make it for awhile now. yesterday, i finally did. i paired it with some healthy baked chicken strips and steamed veggies. i prepared my own honey mustard and also used an all natural barbecue sauce for dipping. my meal was very reminiscent of the KFC meal. granted, it took longer to make than a quick zip through the drive through.. but it was so much better. better on the taste buds, better on the belly, better on the waist line and better on the soul.
for the mac & cheese (recipe from oxygen magazine: october 2010 issue):
- 8 oz whole wheat elbow macaroni
- 2 cups low fat cottage cheese
- 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
- 3/4 cup sharp cheddar
- bread crumbs (enough to sprinkle)
- salt & pepper, to taste
once the two ingredients are mixed smoothly, add to the noodles.
mix well, add salt & pepper.
add shredded cheddar.
mix well and put into a 9 x 9 baking dish.
top with bread crumbs, cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until warmed through. remove the foil for the last 3-4 minutes in the oven.
healthy mac & cheese!
this makes 4 HUGE servings. i only ate 1/5 of the pan rather than 1/4.. and even then, i couldn’t finish it.
for the chicken strips:
slice two 6 oz chicken breasts into strips. (12 oz total) season with salt & pepper.
coat each strip in panko breadcrumbs.
bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until done, flipping halfway through.
serve dipping sauces alongside chicken.
add some steamed veggies to make it a meal!
my plate was 1/3 of the chicken strips (4 ounces total), 1/5 of the mac & cheese recipe and 1 cup veggies. i also used 2 TB honey mustard and 2 TB barbecue sauce. i washed it down with water.
up close & personal:
this entire meal? including dipping sauces, this meal was 525 calories, 8 grams fat, 48 grams protein, 68 grams carbs, 9 grams fiber. and the best part: it’s nutritious. carbs from whole wheat noodles. baked, not fried, chicken. steamed, colorful veggies instead of deep fried potato wedges. low calorie dipping sauces instead of funky ingredient, calorie laden mystery packets of sauce. oh, and the biscuit? not needed. i couldn’t even finish this plate of food as it was. and i was full for the rest of the night.
i guess my point is i am so glad i know what i know now. and i wanted to talk about it. i wanted to tell you how happy i am to be informed about my food. because when i was eating this crap every day, multiple times a day, i had NO IDEA how bad it was for me. calories aside, i had no clue what the difference between white pasta and wheat pasta was.. and i rationalize that the potatoes were healthy because they were in wedge form. um.. right. i didn’t know and i didn’t care to know. i was skinny as a noodle, i could eat anything whenever i wanted, what did i care if it had nutritional value or not?
i am lucky that i stopped eating crappy fast food two years ago. for me, it wasn’t a hard habit to break, because i was bound and determined to stay committed to my BFL challenge. i know it’s tough for many to stop the habit of eating fast food. i am sure they lace it with some sore of addictive drug to keep you coming back ;) but if you are into eating it, at least inform yourself.
what i want people to take away from this post is motivation. i want to encourage everyone to inform yourself.
no, fast food isn’t going to kill you today. and probably not tomorrow. but it really could hurt you in the long run. and no, it probably won’t be too bad if you eat it sparingly.
but please—whether you eat it a little or eat it a lot, learn about the food you are putting into your body. learn about nutritious carbohydrates vs. empty carbohydrates. learn how much sodium your body can tolerate. don’t just blindly drive through the fast food line and eat whatever looks good—it could really hurt your health in the long run.
you may be saying “well stop preaching about learning and start informing us.” but i am not the person to inform you, i didn’t go to school for this sort of thing. but i did teach myself. there are endless resources out there and you can learn a lot about nutrition just by talking to trained specialists, reading books and articles (credible ones, of course).
i am no expert, but i am learning more every day. that’s important to me.
i know my words don’t mean much to several of you because you don’t eat fast food, but — i know a lot of people who want to stop eating fast food, who want to learn more about their health and nutrition, who want, want, want. so this is my encouragement to tell you to do something about it. :)
i won’t even dive into the ethical issues i have with KFC. i think that you can read up on that yourself. i don’t usually get into that sort of thing on my blog, though i do feel strongly about the issues and it is another reason i won’t eat their food.
although.. i did buy the meal photographed above. i have been scouring google images for “the meal” and had no luck. i wanted to give you all a visual of my old go-to meal, so i bit the bullet and bought the meal. yep, for the photos. yep, call me names. it probably was not the best choice, but sometimes i do odd things “for the blog”. you can throw stones at me, that would be fair.
although… i had a feeling it was a bad sign when i saw the total of the meal…
talk about irony.
1. what fast food / restaurant meals do you make healthier versions of at home? any recipes/links you’d like to share?
2. what have you learned lately about health and nutrition? do you try to stay informed about what you eat?
xo. janetha g.