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Does Healthy Fast Food Exist?

Does “healthy” fast food exist?  Yes and no, but first I’m going to start with the no.

Fast food partnership with Men’s Health Magazine
Recently, Hardee’s / Carl’s Jr. partnered up with the guys from Men’s Health Magazine to create a “Healthy” Burger, aka. a healthy turkey burger.

Could it be true?  The guys with the luscious six pack abs helped Hardee’s create a Healthy Turkey Burger that won’t wreak havoc on my six pack?

I’m always leery of “unhealthy” food companies trying to convince me that they have something healthy to offer me.  My motto has always been, there’s nothing “healthy” about “healthy fast food”.  But hey, this is Men’s Health Magazine and you’re talking to someone who enjoys an occasional turkey burger (granted I do make my own), so I thought I would look into this.

Did I go to Hardee’s and order one?  Heck no!  I did a little research first.  So, here’s the scoop on the Hardee’s Chargrilled Turkey Burger.

Don’t be fooled!  It’s still crap!
The first thing I always want to know when eating animal protein is, where did it come from and what’s in it?  If I can’t get those questions answered, there’s a good chance I ain’t eatin’ it.  No, I don’t know where Hardee’s is getting their turkey patties from (let alone their chicken and beef) and I don’t know if it’s 100% turkey meat either.  Most fast food chains use all kinds of icky fillers that make up their patties, nuggets, fish and chicken sandwiches.

What I can tell you is that the nutritional information on these Charbroiled Turkey Sandwiches is enough to tell me this isn’t going to help me get or keep my six pack abs.

Yes, they are less than 500 calories, but oy vey have you seen how much sodium is in these?  A whopping 930mg of sodium, oh, and 150 of those 480 calories comes from fat.  I thought turkey was supposed to be lean?  Where’s all this fat coming from?  By the way, the Mushroom Swiss Turkey Burger has 1380mg of sodium.

The guys from Men’s Health Magazine are known for their Eat This Not That book.  Believe it or not, my choice for an eat this (and I’m not saying I’ll be visiting a Hardee’s anytime soon) over the Turkey Burger is their regular hamburger.  It’s 310 calories (compared to the 480 calorie Turkey Burger), 500 mg. of sodium (turkey burger has 930 mg of sodium) and 140 calories from fat (which ain’t great but is lower than the 150 fat calories in the turkey burger).

Needless to say, the guys from Men’s Health have…. sold out!  When you see the Men’s Health Magazine endorsement for these, don’t be fooled.

The only review I found on the Men’s Health Magazine Hardee’s Turkey Burger was done by the people over at TakePart which you may want to check out.

And now for some good news!

Yes, healthy, sustainable fast food does exist!  Leading the pack is Chipotle Mexican Grill.  They buy all their ingredients from local, sustainable, family farmers.  Unlike most fast food places, you do know where your food comes from and what is in it.  Whenever possible Chipotle uses meat from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones.  They source organic and local produce when practical, and use dairy from cows raised without the use of synthetic hormones.

They do cater to people who are gluten intolerant/celiac disease, vegans and vegetarians.  All their ingredients are low in calories, low in fat, and low sodium.

If you’ve never been to Chipotle, you tell the person behind the counter what ingredients you want in your plate so you have control over what you eat.

Have I eaten at Chipotle?  Yes I have.  If you’re going to eat fast food, this would be your best bet.  I wish the rest of the big chains would follow Chipotle’s lead.

Welcome to Moe’s
Moe’s Southwest Grill supports sustainable farming and uses grass-fed beef, grain-fed pork, local produce and organic tofu as a meat alternative.  They also cater to people who are gluten intolerant, vegans and vegetarians.

While all of this is great, I will have to warn you that while they do advertise their menu as being low calorie, when you look at the nutritional information chart, most of their menu items are 500-1000 calories and are high in sodium.  Still, I do have to give Moe’s props for supporting sustainable farming and being free of hormones, antibiotics, gluten-free, etc.

Moe’s may be a great option when you’re in a pinch such as being at an airport where finding healthy options can be a challenge.

Burgerville, is a chain of 39 Pacific Northwest quick-service restaurants. Burgers here are made from pastured vegetarian-fed and antibiotic-free beef. The eggs on their breakfast biscuits are from cage-free hens that have never been treated with antibiotics. Salads offer mixed greens topped with smoked salmon and Oregon hazelnuts. Even desserts and sides rely on seasonal, local ingredients—blackberry milkshakes are only available in season, as are the hand-prepared buttermilk-battered onion rings made from Walla Walla sweet onions grown in Washington and Oregon.

With Burgerville, you never have to question where their food comes from because they tell you exactly who they do business with on their website.  Their menu is seasonal, so as the seasons change, so does their menu.

Burgerville certainly has a wide variety of selections and yes, while some of their items may be high in calories or sodium, there were plenty of low calorie, low sodium, low fat menu items to choose from.

Hopefully, over time, more places like Chipotle, Moe’s and Burgerville will become the rule, and not the exception.  Until then, I’ll stick to making my own burgers, fajitas, sweet potato fries, etc.

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