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Fast food or fasting

I was standing in a line four people deep at McDonalds, watching a fly buzz around the sweaty neck of the man in front of me, waiting to pay far too much money for a wilted Caesar salad, when I thought, “This is the stuff no one mentions when they say weight loss is hard.”

Salad

Fifteen minutes earlier I had been at my desk at work, feeling the beginnings of three o’clock hunger pangs, when I realized I hadn’t packed a snack in my lunch bag. Damn it! Why hadn’t I brought more cauliflower? There was no way I was going to make it another two hours to the end of the work day and then another 30 minutes driving home. I needed food. My easiest options were to grab a slice of yet another apple pie my coworkers had brought to work or to grab something from the vending machine, but I had vowed to stop sabotaging myself so I kept the lid on the pie and my quarters in my change purse. We don’t have one of those fancy South Beach Diet vending machines in my building, sadly enough. When I’ve forgotten to bring snacks to work before, I just ordered up a grilled chicken salad from the pub/restaurant downstairs, however they closed up shop last month. I don’t know what drove them out of business, the lousy food or the lousy service, but they’re gone now and they took their chopped lettuce with them.

So, I needed to find something healthy and nearby and hopefully cheap. Ha! I haven’t seen any roasted vegetable vendors on the street corners lately, so I was left with the three closest fast food restaurants: Hardees, White Castle, and McDonalds. Checking their web sites I found that the only salad Hardees served was a Southwest Chicken salad that didn’t look all that healthy. I’m also not fond of Hardees’ ads which are all about how manly, men must eat big, thick burgers, grrr, and they should walk up to a cow and bite it in the ass and chew its raw hind quarters to prove their manly, manliness. I clicked on White Castle’s site and found that they don’t even bother putting a half-way healthy item on their menu. No salads or wraps, just burgers and fried onion rings. I sort of admire that about them. No pandering, no bullshit. You came here for grease and cheese and we will give it to you.

So, McDonalds it was with their half dozen salad selections.After the documentary Supersize Me came out, I think they’ve made an effort to at least appear as though the have healthy options. I didn’t have any cash on me and I wasn’t sure if I could use my credit card at the drive-through, so I walked inside to discover one 4’11” cashier running one register with four people waiting in line ahead of me. Wasn’t this supposed to be fast food?

I waited in line for six minutes and was nearly toppled to the ground by a three-year-old who pushed past me to get to the drink machine. She sure was strong for a kiddo who eats McDonalds. I placed my order at the counter and started to slide my credit card through the machine, feeling ridiculous that I was putting a $4.19 charge on plastic when –

“DON’T SLIDE YOU CARD YET!!” the woman behind the counter shouted over the constant beeping of the deep fryer. I could barely see her head behind the register but I sure could hear her voice. “Wait until I’m done entering the order!” she demanded.

“Sorry!” I apologized, snatching my card away from the credit card machine that had come unbolted from the stand and was sliding onto the counter. My order came up two minutes later and I nearly ran back to the parking lot, out of horror or hunger I’m not sure. I popped the lid off in the car and gazed upon a truly uninspiring salad. The chicken breast was slimy and not even cut all the way through, leaving me to tear away at it like perforated paper. It laid in a trampled bed of lettuce and carrot slices, garnished with two little baby tomatoes. It was not fast. It was barely food. It was definitely not worth $4.19. But I ate it anyway and I stuck to my plan. And then I added cauliflower to the top of my shopping list.

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35 Comments

Dyan • October 17, 2007 at 9:13 am

I heard yesterday that Hardee’s now offers a breakfast burrito that has bacon, sausage, ham, eggs, cheese, and GRAVY. It has over 900 calories. Can’t you just feel the greasy ring forming around your mouth now?

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Mia • October 17, 2007 at 9:58 am

Eww. That’s gross. Have you seen the video on you tube of the 30 or so rats running around the kitchen counter tops at a Kentucky Fried Chicken place in Chicago (I think it was Chicago)? Some guy took a video waiting for the place to open and posted it on the web. Totally horrifying. I’ve never seen so many HUGE rats at one time.

PQ – My brother worked at a movie theatre and once he had to pull a dead rat out of the soda machine drain. I never eat at movie theaters now, and not just because of the buttered popcorn.

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Diana the Scale Junkie • October 17, 2007 at 10:37 am

I don’t chose Fast Food often anymore but I like the Asian Chicken Salad with low fat sesame at McD’s. The salad is 300 calories the dressing is 90 but I only need less than 1/2 the packet. But I agree, it never looks like the photo LOL

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Mary • October 17, 2007 at 10:41 am

Yeah, I find the Asian chicken salad quite delicious for a fast food salad. A great variety of greens, and even edamame!

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MB • October 17, 2007 at 10:59 am

Why is it so hard to find something healthy to eat? Where are all those marketing geniuses and why aren’t food companies offering grilled veggies and other healthy options alongside the hot dog vendors, greasy spoons and full of fat fast food places.

No wonder our nation has an obesity epidemic. The salads and other “healthy” foods at most of the fast food places are just nasty but what other options do you have when you’re out of cauliflower?

I guess we have to take the advice from the military (Army?) commercials that tell us to “BE PREPARED.” It is the only way to save yourself from slimy chicken and limp lettuce.

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Jim • October 17, 2007 at 11:37 am

Any time I read about fast food’s attempts at “healthy” items (because God knows I wouldn’t actually eat them), I think of an alien completely unfamiliar with our world approaching an everyday earthling concept and trying to replicate it. “Sahl-ahd?” He says in warbling tones, trying to foist a bowl of random shreds of old vegetables upon you, looking proud for making the effort. “Sahl-ahd!”

Nowadays, I just make salads if I know I’ll need one at work. A night in the fridge may wilt ’em some, but at least a dwarfish woman in a paper hat didn’t serve it to me.

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CurvyJones • October 17, 2007 at 12:08 pm

Healthy items cost more to make and people rarely buy them so restaurant owners opt for what makes them money, which is junk.

I haaaaaaaaaate fast food salads. I cannot stand iceberg lettuce, and warm lettuce at that! I am a crisp cold romaine lettuce lover and not a ton of it. I don’t want 4 cups of lettuce and 3 pieces of chicken.

I find I eat out so much less when I am trying to eat well because I can’t guarantee that what I am eating is actually good for me. I have visions of sugar being in every sauce and every sandwich spread laden with fat. I just feel better when I make it myself.

I keep a drawer in the fridge at work… if this doesn’t work I think a mini fridge is rather cheap. In it I keep some yogurt, a few pieces of fruit, and my salad fixings. All I bring to work everyday is my water bottle and my lunch. At the beginning of each week I cart my week’s worth of snacks and accompaniments and toss what went bad. It also means I can’t go out to lunch cause ‘oops, I forgot my lunch today!’

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psychsarah • October 17, 2007 at 12:15 pm

PQ-Good for you for fighting the good fight to eat healthy, despite hideous options! I hate it when I forget my lunch or snacks. Luckily at my new workplace there’s a little grocery store around the corner so at least I can something there.

I think there should be laws against food styling. It’s false advertising for pete’s sake!

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sherijung • October 17, 2007 at 12:24 pm

I keep a bag of healthy granola/energy bars at my desk for just such an emergency. I also keep some instant oatmeal packages that could work in a pinch. They’re not ideal in that they’re not fruit or veggies, but they will hold me over for a couple of hours if needed.

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dietgirl • October 17, 2007 at 12:24 pm

Arrgh disappointments are always so much greater when there’s money and queuing involved :)

can i ask a dumb question about the cauli, is this the stuff you roast on the weekends? i never thought of doing that for work snacks! do you just nibble on them cold? that sounds great…

PQ – That’s not a dumb question at all. Yes, they are the same veggies I roast on the weekends. I put them in a tupperware container and snack on them sometimes. Man, I sound like a vegetable roasting fool, don’t I? I swear I also eat fruits and yogurts and stuff too. I won’t be sprouting broccoli out of my ears any time soon.

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gin • October 17, 2007 at 12:42 pm

when in doubt i try and find a super market or even 7-11 and grab some string cheese and nuts or yogurt. (i have a lot of whole food stores around me and trader joes – so its easier to get the raw – non roasted-non salted kind) fast food stops are just not an option – they don’t want to sell healthy and i kind of get grossed out by the smell of those places – day long fry smell is icky.

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coraspartan • October 17, 2007 at 12:51 pm

Why don’t you keep some healthy snacks at work? I have a whole drawer full of snacks like instant oatmeal, almonds, whole grain cereal, granola, whole grain crackers, applesauce, peanut butter, green tea and dark chocolate.

I try to remember to bring a fruit to work every day for a snack, but I don’t always remember to do that, so it’s a good thing I always have my trusty snack drawer! Just something to consider, PQ.

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G.G. • October 17, 2007 at 12:56 pm

Canned healthy soup and a stashed box of whole wheat triscuits! Works in a pinch if a microwave’s available.

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Laura • October 17, 2007 at 1:15 pm

I keep some food in a desk drawer for those times. I make sure it’s food I won’t overdo- Campbell’s soup at hand, fruit, tins of sardines, 70% cacao dark chocolate squares, and Fiber One cereal.

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PastaQueen • October 17, 2007 at 1:28 pm

I think it’s funny that y’all think I could keep dark chocolate in my general vicinity and not eat it within a day.

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Jenny • October 17, 2007 at 1:34 pm

I need to keep the dark chocolate at the store with all the other chocolates… if it’s in my desk, it talks to me all day long.

I think your attempt at eating properly is a perfect example of why IT IS a struggle in this country to stay on the healthy path… because those paths are very small and hard to find.

And I’m impressed with your efforts.

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Erin • October 17, 2007 at 1:45 pm

Yes, eating healthy definitely is not convenient. I keep an entire drawer at my desk stocked full of oatmeal, granola bars, sunflower seeds, tuna, apple, bannanas and carrots! Most of the time when I’m eating it, I can’t tell if it’s because I’m actually hungry, bored, or stressed out, but it’s way better than the crap in the vending machine. Our vending machine doesn’t even have any good junk food in it. Snickers and twizzlers are the only two tasty things.

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Amy • October 17, 2007 at 3:21 pm

When I went vegetarian I quickly learned how few things I could eat at fast food places! I eat healthy by default most times. :) I also keep a drawer and the fridge stocked at work, mostly because I can’t always find veggie food at the cafeteria. It’s great to always have a selection of instant miso soup, PB&J makings, soy yogurt, Luna bars, Craisins, and fat-free pudding cups.

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firewings • October 17, 2007 at 3:57 pm

My lands, that “bite the cow” bit just about killed me. That is too great.

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Kyle • October 17, 2007 at 4:25 pm

You have willpower of steel, woman!

and you just gave me a huge craving for cauliflower…I’m going to go wash some up right now :)

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Cindy • October 17, 2007 at 6:10 pm

I was shooping with my mother the other day and she needed to stop at a rest room. She chose the McD’s in the mall, so I was left standing there with my brother. We were chatting, but I kept being distracted by the smell of fries and burgers. It was so overwhelming that I finally admitted to my discomfort and we went outside to wait. I don’t eat that stuff anymore, but being in there was almost too much. I was excited and nauseated and disgusted, all at the same time. Sometimes I think I’ve come so far, but at times like that, I realize how close to the edge I really am…and it scares the crap out of me! Thanks for the opportunity to think that one out—your postings often hit so close to home that its scary!!!

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TeaMouse • October 17, 2007 at 6:15 pm

I once made the mistake of taking the healthy option of their side salad. I’ve seen prettier salad that is a week past it’s expiration date sitting in the discount bin at Superstore!

It’s hard to eat healthy at those fast food outlets. I did however find that at Subway you can get their 6″ sub as a salad and you choose spinach or plain jane lettuce and any veggies you want. Not bad if you top it off with a no fat dressing – but still nothing like you’d make at home.

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Tiffany • October 17, 2007 at 7:53 pm

I usually get the fruit and walnut salad at McD’s, which is decently healthy and has identifiable ingredients in it. And. . .their southern [fried] chicken sandwich! Haha. I don’t eat fast food salads because they are usually slimy. But the fruit and walnut salad is usually a good choice.

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lili • October 18, 2007 at 12:49 am

In Europe this salad costs 5 Euro, what is about 50% more expensive, than in US. And it is disgusting in the same way, like you described. I did the experience yesterday.

P.S. Your blog is great. It is fun and I learned a lot, like to remain relaxed, if I screw up sometimes.

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Marla • October 18, 2007 at 7:14 am

Wendy’s Chicken BLT salad, with your own dressing. It’s truly not bad for fast food – it’s my Go To when I don’t have any other choices. I’ve never liked the McDonald’s salads – small and no flavor.

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Zentient • October 18, 2007 at 9:14 am

I have often had the “if I were rich” fantasy of starting a healthy fast food restaurant. Think of the great stuff you could have! Healthy wraps/pitas, salads, veggie burgers, even simply pieces of fruit, little carrots with fatfree dip, etc. Food you could eat as easily as fries and big mac. Why won’t this happen? Isn’t there a humanitarian wealthy person out there who cares?

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Amy • October 18, 2007 at 12:16 pm

The only thing I ever order from McDs are their Egg McMuffins. If you want a really good grilled chicken salad, try Zaxby’s if there’s one in your area. It’s about 6 bucks, but it is worth it. So good. And with lite ranch dressing, it’s also reasonably healthy. :)

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Princess Dieter • October 18, 2007 at 8:21 pm

Every salad I’ve ever had at McDonalds tasted horrible. I pretty much gave up on Micky D’s for more than a year, then someone recommended the SW Salad. I went, tried one: YUCK! I can’t believe so many people recommended that disgusting salad.

So, they could come out with a dozen new salads in 2008 and I won’t bother. They don’t give a rat’s behind about making a really good salad. How hard can it be? Come on!

The Princess

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Marla • October 19, 2007 at 8:03 am

Forgot to add – a lot of supermarkets have a pretty good salad bar in or near the produce section. There are some downsides (limited hours and personally I hate eating from a self-serve buffet), but you can get a heap of vegetables for a decent price. There aren’t many supermarkets in the midst of a business area, but it’s a good option that I usually forget about when traveling. Next time I go anywhere, someone please remind me of this.

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Wendy • October 19, 2007 at 3:47 pm

I second the pro-Zaxby’s comment, their Salads are amazing!!

IMHO, the easiest pleace to eat healthy in a hurry is Panera (St Louis Bread) – I recommed a non-cream based soup or 1/2 a Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich. The 1/2 sandwich is 300 calories but SO worth it. I think the non-creamy soups are all under 200 calories, some around 100. This is an easy place to eat well as a vegetarian too. Just try to resist the lemonade!!

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*CCC* • October 19, 2007 at 4:41 pm

Eww! Bad, McDonald’s! Bad Bad!

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Nancy • October 21, 2007 at 3:30 pm

One word

WENDYS

i think they let you order just their side-salad… I’ve never tried it. I love their other salads… the ones with deepfried chicken on top o.o well.. i guess it MIGHT be healthy, definately better than deep fried sandwiches & fries =)

Congratulations on doing your best in a hard spot!! :) Milky way, chips, or snickers is usually my option.

Best Wishes

Nancy

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ordinary girl • October 26, 2007 at 4:43 pm

When I lived in Boston I had McD’s once and got sick off it. I stopped eating fast food completely for a while, but due to my husband’s choices in eating, I started eating fast food again a few years ago. It’s generally an unsatisfying experience even though I don’t get sick from it now.

I had a food drawer here at work and I would eat snacks constantly. Even with 100 calorie snacks, I’d eat 2-3 and then it’d be almost like a meal. It’d be all about second breakfasts and second lunches. The same thing would happen at home with second dinners. I finally just stopped buying stuff and stopped thinking about the drawer completely.

I stopped cooking as much at home because if I have groceries in the house I tend to eat too much. But eating out is just calorie heaven. I know I obsess about food a lot less if I eat in a more scheduled, regular way. If I was rich I’d just hire someone to cook healthy meals for me. ;)

Argh! Why does it all have to taste so good?

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boo • April 30, 2008 at 11:51 am

I can see this post is from last year and I don’t know where you live but all the mcdonald’s I’ve gone to to eat salads have always been good, fresh and looked really bright and been tasty. I guess it all depends on who the owner of your local franchised mcdonalds is and how they treat there resturant and food there.

Remember eventhough mcdonalds is a big chain each one is owned by a different person and that will always depend on the quality of your food.

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boo • April 30, 2008 at 11:55 am

panera bread is really good but really really expensive

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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