In response to the news that Burger King was planning to implement a home delivery service, a local online website, Patch, asked the question “Would You Use Home Delivery From Burger King?” I was shocked to see that 50% of the people who responded said yes!
It was the same reaction I had last week while sitting in a McDonald’s parking lot. A friend was using the restroom, while I watched car after car filter past the drive-thru window. “Are people still eating at McDonald’s?” I wondered, completely dumbfounded.
With an annual revenue of approximately 26.4 billion dollars, apparently they are. The Subway franchise, operating more than 36,000 restaurants worldwide, is no doubt a close cousin to the fast food giant.
I mention these two restaurants — McDonald’s and Subway — because among the commentary about the Burger King home delivery program was the following response, “It is reasonable to believe that Subway is bigger than McDonald’s now. It is the quality of their food. It is healthy for you and not all that salty or full of fatty starch.”
I have to tell you, every part of that sentence — it is reasonable to believe, quality of their food, it is healthy, not all that salty or full of fatty starch — caused me great distress.
So, where to begin?
Well, let’s begin with that cockamamie comparison between the health value of McDonald’s and Subway. THEY ARE BOTH HORRENDOUS!
But since that’s not the kind of fair and unbiased statement journalists used to be taught to formulate, let’s look at the facts…
Here is a comparison of the basic nutritional information for the top-selling sandwiches at McDonald’s and Subway as provided on their respective websites:
(And that’s the sandwich. We won’t even get into the fries, soda, dessert!)
Now, maybe that doesn’t look too bad for you. Maybe you don’t mind getting 25% of your daily calorie intake from one piece of food. Maybe you like eating 50% of your daily-recommended fat and sodium all at once.
But there are so many more monsters than the often-touted Calories, Fat and Sodium. Let’s talk about Ingredients.
Ingredients are no secret, but they are scary. Here, for example, are the components of the mega-seller that is the Big Mac.
100% pure USDA inspected beef; no fillers, no extenders. Prepared with grill seasoning (salt, black pepper), Bun: Enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, high fructose corn syrup and/or sugar, soybean oil and/or canola oil, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, wheat gluten, ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride, dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: sodium stearoyl lactylate, datem, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, mono- and diglycerides, ethoxylated monoglycerides, monocalcium phosphate, enzymes, guar gum, calcium peroxide), calcium propionate and/or sodium propionate (preservatives), soy lecithin, sesame seed; Pasteurized Process American Cheese: Milk, water, milkfat, cheese culture, sodium citrate, salt, citric acid, sorbic acid (preservative), sodium phosphate, color added, lactic acid, acetic acid, enzymes, soy lecithin (added for slice separation); Big Mac® Sauce: Soybean oil, pickle relish [diced pickles, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, vinegar, corn syrup, salt, calcium chloride, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate (preservative), spice extractives, polysorbate 80], distilled vinegar, water, egg yolks, high fructose corn syrup, onion powder, mustard seed, salt, spices, propylene glycol alginate, sodium benzoate (preservative), mustard bran, sugar, garlic powder, vegetable protein (hydrolyzed corn, soy and wheat), caramel color, extractives of paprika, soy lecithin, turmeric (color), calcium disodium EDTA (protect flavor); Crinkle Cut Pickle Slices: Cucumbers, water, distilled vinegar, salt, calcium chloride, sodium benzoate (preservative), natural flavors (plant source), polysorbate 80, extractives of turmeric (color).
Now, take a look at its “healthier” alternative over at Subway, the classic B.M.T.:
Enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, sugar, contains less than 2% of the following: soybean oil, yeast, wheat gluten, calcium blend (calcium carbonate, vitamin d3), salt, dough conditioners (acetylated tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides, ammonium sulfate, calcium sulfate, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, potassium iodate, amylase [enzymes]), wheat protein isolate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, flavor (yeast extract, salt, natural flavor). Pork, beef, salt, water, corn syrup, dextrose, sugar, wine, sodium erythorbate, flavorings, sodium nitrate, spices, garlic, lactic acid starter culture, sodium nitrite. Pepperoni: Pork, beef, salt, dextrose, water, spices, corn syrup, paprika, oleoresin of paprika, flavorings, sodium erythorbate, lactic acid starter culture, sodium nitrite. Ham: ham (cured with water), salt, dextrose, modified food starch (from corn), sodium phosphates, sodium erythorbate, smoke flavoring, and sodium nitrite. May contain: seasoning [potassium chloride, pork stock, sugar, yeast extract, salt, lactic acid, fructose, sunflower oil, cysteine HCL, calcium lactate, modified food starch, flavors, grill flavor (from sunflower oil), polysorbate 80, rendered pork fat, and smoke flavor]. Mayonnaise, Regular: Soybean oil, water, eggs, egg yolks, vinegar, contains less than 2% of salt, mustard flour, lemon juice concentrate, dried onions, dried garlic, calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor), paprika, natural flavor.
Eating healthy is not rocket science. It’s all about the food — not the chemistry, not the misperceptions we get fed by the media, not the hype.
I once heard Suzanne Somers talk about eating healthy in an interview. She explained that the best way to grocery shop was to stay around the perimeter of the store: produce, meats, dairy. Laugh at the source if you will, but her point is valid. Look for foods that are close to their natural state — foods called whole foods.
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“Whole foods are simply fresh, natural, edible things, as close to their natural state as possible: fruits, fresh vegetables, unrefined cereal grains, beans, nuts, seeds, sea vegetables. Animals that can be eaten whole by one person at one sitting if they’re small enough (smelts, oysters, sardines, soft-shell crabs, small fowl), or by a whole group or tribe over a few days’ time, as is done by hunting communities.”
— Annemarie Colbin, Food and Healing
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Just think about that for a while. We’ll come back to AnneMarie Colbin, whole foods and ingredients in the next installment of The Food We’re Eating.
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“The Food We’re Eating: Part I,” ©2012 Jen Payne, Branford, CT
• McDonald’s USA Nutrition Facts for Popular Menu Items
• Subway’s Nutritional Information
• Image: modified from a photo found on Wikimedia Commons