Fast Food…For The Record

I find myself coming to the defense of fast food quite often.

It’s not because I think it’s high in nutrients nor do I think it should comprise the majority of someone’s diet.

Fast food (I’ll define it as food that you purchase and receive through a drive-thru window) comprises maybe 5% of my total diet.

As a nutrition coach, I like the fact that you can get a reasonably accurate estimation of how many calories are in a fast food meal.

Also, as a parent, I understand that sometimes convenience is the best option and once you make it to the drive thru menu, it’s about ordering what makes sense and is sensible for you and your family.

I think dietary elitism is a joke at best and harmful at worst.

Some downsides to fast food as compared to a home cooked meal might be:

-low(er) in fiber

-not well balanced for micronutrients

-high(er) in saturated fat

-high(er) in sodium

There is also the chance that psychologically when someone purchases fast food, they feel guilty about that purchase and ultimately sabotage other areas of their diet because of these feelings.

Of course, when I make my defense known on social media, it brings the crazies out. Some might be led to believe I’m advocating for the consumption of these foods in place of something more nutritious.

I’m not.

If I’ve learned nothing else over these years it’s to do my very best at meeting people where they’re at. If someone eats fast food frequently, I find the path of least resistance to be: how can we reduce the calories in your meal(s) to get you closer to your goals as opposed to: I know you really like McDonald’s but have you tried making a salad at home with fresh cut veggies, organic grilled chicken and homemade dressing?

Some changes need a bit more nurturing…

In one of these posts recently, someone asked me if 3000 calories of donuts were the same as 3000 calories of chicken and broccoli. My response: from a calorie standpoint, basically the same. From a micronutrient, macronutrient and general-feeling-of-satiety standpoint, very different. (I failed to mention: thermic effect of food…)

And, as to be expected, someone wanted to take me to task on that by saying that it’s completely different because of the insulin response. Well, they’re not wrong buuuuuuuutttt…

The insulin response means very little if A) you’re not diabetic and B) you’re in a calorie deficit.

In other words, LOTS of things spike insulin. Not just carbzzzzzzzzzzzz and sugarzzzzzzzzzz…

For the record, I would love if you would eat a diet of “mostly” whole, minimally processed foods that have few ingredients listed to make them.

But I fully accept and advocate for people who can learn how to make things like “fast food” work for them in the context of a mostly balanced diet: foods for function, foods for longevity, foods to optimize health, foods for hedonic pleasure, and foods that have little to no nutritious value. Everything has a place.

Or in the words of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke: Everything in its right place.

(Photo courtesy of Jonathan Borba)