Sunday, October 11, 2009

Yes, I eat fast food

Once people get to know a little bit about me, they invariably ask, "Do you eat at McDonald's?" If you've been reading my blog for a while, you probably know the answer to that question is, "No," even though I've never mentioned the fast food chain before today. Not eating at McDonald's is just as astonishing to some people as the fact that I milk my own goats.

There was a time when I ate salads and french fries at McDonald's, but they proved to be less-than-ethical in the 1990s when they said that they no longer used lard in their french fries, so vegetarians could eat them. A few years later, it came out that tallow was an ingredient. So, they traded pig fat for beef fat. While some vegetarians decided to sue the fast food chain, it made me realize that we are responsible for what we put in our mouths -- and whom we trust to feed us. In the end, it was one of the experiences that led us to Antiquity Oaks.

After learning that we don't eat at McDonald's, there is usually a quick list of questions: "Do you eat at X, Y, or Z?" and "Do you eat out at all?" and ultimately, "Where do you eat out?"

First of all, you have to realize that although I'm no longer a vegetarian, I only meat whose history I know, which means that I don't eat meat from restaurants. When I eat out, I'm basically shopping like a vegetarian and looking for places with good vegetarian options.

My first choice is Chipotle. In fact, I visit their website when I travel to see if there will be any Chipotle restaurants on my trip. Why do I like them so much? Because I think every restaurant should follow their model. They buy sustainably-farmed meat and rBGH-free dairy products. Rather than looking for the cheapest way to do business (they have the highest cost in the fast-food industry), they look for the best -- best food ingredients and even the best wages for people who pick the tomatoes for their restaurants. They use romaine lettuce instead of iceberg, and 100% of the pork and chicken used in their restaurants is drug-free and humanely raised. So far 50% of their restaurants serve beef that has been sustainably raised, and they're working to find enough suppliers to make that 100%. No, I don't eat the meat at their restaurants. Their vegetarian black beans are great in all of their entrée choices, and I just don't feel a need to eat meat very often. The food in their restaurants is also fresh, not greasy, and delicious. Seriously, they serve freshly made guacamole!

If a Chipotle is not available, I will eat at Panera, but they are a distant second to Chipotle. There is a good variety of soups and salads, and it is one of the healthiest options out there in the fast food category. Unfortunately, they use a variety of ingredients that you don't find in a real kitchen, such as dough conditioners and artificial flavors. I find it annoying that they advertise making their breads from scratch. My definition of "made from scratch" is that every ingredient can be found in a real kitchen, yet I've never seen a jars of mono- and diglycerides or polysorbate 80 in the grocery store. And they're definitely not using fresh ingredients in their soups when the potatoes include sodium acid pyrophosphate as an ingredient. Yes, they are better than the fast-burger joints, but you can still do better in your own kitchen.

But what if there is no Panera or Chipotle to be found? I will settle for Subway, which is available as readily as a McDonald's or Burger King. We all have our challenges in life, and low blood sugar is one of mine. If I don't eat every five or six hours, I will get the shakes and start to feel really crappy. A couple decades ago, I managed to make myself pretty sick by refusing to eat when nothing suitable was available, so I've come to the conclusion that eating at Subway is better than nausea, dizziness, shaking hands, and a headache, especially when I'm driving. That's not a very good endorsement, but it's the best I'm going to give a restaurant that has one of the longest lists of nasty ingredients I've seen on bread. This is what you're getting in their Italian white bread:

Enriched flour (wheat flour, barley malt, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, sugar, contains less than 2% of the following: soybean oil, fermented wheat flour, yeast, salt, wheat protein isolate, wheat gluten, dough conditioners (acetylated tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides, ammonium sulfate, calcium sulfate, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, potassium iodate, amylase [enzymes]), sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, lactic acid, sulfites, mineral oil.

Mineral oil? Seriously? It's a petroleum product! I wouldn't put it on my babies' bottoms 20 years ago, and I certainly don't want to eat it. I didn't even know it was legal to put mineral oil in food. I get the 9-grain wheat bread, although it's only slightly better. (At least there's no mineral oil in it.) I find this rather interesting since the most delicious bread I make at home has only four ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt. The fresh vegetables are, at least, fresh, and the provolone cheese is real cheese, so you can get a fairly nutritious meal. I just don't understand why they have to put so much crap in their bread when it's supposed to be baked fresh daily. I'm sure my bread even costs less to make.

I'd like to think that there are more healthy options out there for us when we're away from home. What are some of the places you've found?

This is Part I of a two-day post on eating out. Tune in tomorrow for sit-down restaurants and how to break the addiction to eating out.

For more posts of food, check out Real Food Wednesday.


Kari said...

Do you have a Baja Fresh opinion? They have a tasty veggie burrito, and they give the impression of being fresh anyway.


hippygirl said...

I think that eating out can be an addiction, but I know that for us, we eat out for one of two reasons: 1) poor planning or laziness on our part, such as going into town to run some errands and not eating beforehand and not wanting to drive home to eat, then back to town to finish errands, and 2) to treat ourselves.

So I guess I'd be interested in other ways to treat ourselves. I mean, we don't drink or smoke or do drugs to relax, we don't buy things as rewards, etc. Perhaps it's a bad mindset to feel that we need a treat? That's the unschooling side kicking in, I'm sure.

Michelle said...

I have never tried Chipotle; I'll have to investigate that one for when we are farther afield (there aren't any in the towns we frequent most). No Panera around here, either. My husband eats at Subway for lunch sometimes; Brian and I usually get veggie burritoes at Taco Bell or Taco Time after his noon violin lesson once a week. I get the Fresco style at Taco Bell because it's lower fat, no cheese or sour cream. Another place we visit sometimes is Burgerville. Check out their website; I think you'll be impressed! (But sorry, only in the NW.)

When I want a treat, I make it! Homemade cookies and such are far better than anything I can buy like that (I have a sweet tooth). We are blessed that in our area that are several good, non-chain restaurants who make their food from scratch and cater to vegetarians, in a variety of ethnic styles. One of the things I love about living on the West Coast!

Ann Duncan said...

I rarely eat out, tho do have a few restaurants that check out ok for my list of requirements :) Mostly Mediterranean food places.

As soon as I heard of Chipotle's wonderful philosophy, I rushed over to talk to the manager there. Though I was very disappointed that they use soy oil, I was quite pleased with their attitude, and think that as soon as they are aware of it and can work on that issue, that they will find a healthy cooking oil.

I rarely leave the house without at least a small soft-pak cooler with some good-for-me snacks in it. EVEN if I think I'll only be out for a little while! Cuz I am so often mistaken about how long an errand will take.

I can relate to getting sick from refusing to eat junk food while out, hence this decision to always 'carry'.

Healthy blessings!


Eating out is a real challenge. Not only do we want to eat healthy but my husband cannot eat wheat in any form and we both avoid fat.

We like Chipoltle very much. I get the veggie burrito with no cheese or sour cream. I usually eat half of it and save the other half for the next day. Their guacamole is wonderful. My husband gets tacos with their corn taco shells. So we are both happy.

Sometimes we get a quick lunch at Burger King where I get the veggie burger. I suppose I would hate it if I knew what really was in it. My husband gets a Whopper Jr. and leaves the bun behind. He's become very adept at it over the years.

We are vegan plus fish or as we like to say, "we eat nothing that comes from anything with feet".

We started on this diet because of my cholesterol, but there have been wide ranging benefits.

We eat mostly at home.

I really enjoy your blog. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Deborah said...

Kari, Thanks for letting me know about Baja Fresh. The info on their website looks good. Unfortunately, the only one within 200 miles of me are in six Chicago suburbs that I almost never visit. Next time I see one, however, I will try it!

Hippygirl, I understand about not planning and underestimating how long a trip will take. I'm not advocating a completely Spartan lifestyle, so treating yourself is fine if you're not doing it several times a week. Going out to eat is a nice way to celebrate something big.

Michelle, Taco Bell would be #4 on my list.

Anne, Great idea on planning ahead! When we travel, we always take along snacks and bottled water. Why hasn't it ever occurred to me to do that when taking day trips closer to home?

Coneflower, I'm happy to hear that you've seen multiple benefits from your changed diet. And I'm glad you enjoy my blog. I love hearing from you!

Melissa said...

Deborah! Its so funny we both had this on our minds yesterday. I was watching Supersize Me and I am always amazed about how some people are so shocked about how bad this food is for you.
Up here in the sticks we have only ONE McDonalds within a 25 mile radius, but it is the busiest one in Vermont I believe. The last time I ate there I had a cesar salad and immediately felt incredibly ill afterwards. So my "I'll eat a salad there maybe once every two months" has become a definite boycott on all of its "food".
Its hard to find healthy "fast food" up here...most of the time we'll just grab a couple slices of pizza somewhere (that is the most readily available quick food). But if we're down in Montpelier or over in Burlington we can hit up a food co-op where they always have stuff made where you can grab and go which is my favorite.

Zarah said...

Great post - tyvm! :D


Ha! I blogged about McDonalds today, too! My honey eats at Chipotle when I don't have anything prepared for him for lunch. He goes there because it's really cheap (he gets a discount through his job) but I'm glad because it is a relatively healthy option. We used to LOVE Sierra Grill, before the local one closd down -not sure if that's a Florida thing or not. All of their wraps are so fresh. Nothing is every frozen. They also make several different kinds of fresh salsa. Love the pineapple one!

Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship said...

Rather recently discovered Chipotle! It's too bad they aren't as pervasive as McD's. I just know we're going to end up with fast food when we travel to thanksgiving with my in-laws...blech.


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