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Now there's a great irony.

My lunch today was $3.82 total at Wendy.  I went inside because the drive through line was ten cars long, only to find to my dismay that a small cluster of folks from the retirement home were also inside, and I was still ten people back in line.

No matter.  It gave me time to study the menu.

Fast food is not inherently unhealthy.  It comes down to making informed choices and knowing you can go outside the standard 1-10 combo list.  

The local Wendys has not yet put up calorie information, but I knew from previous research that the lowest calorie "entree" on the list was the Chicken Go Wrap, at $1.69 on their menu.  Basically, a chicken tender wrapped in lettuce inside a flour tortilla.

I wanted something a bit more substantial than a 260 calorie snack, however, so I opted for their Crispy Chicken Sandwich.  99 cents and 380 calories.

I paired this with a Garden Side Salad - 1.69 - no dressing. 100 calories but two servings of veggies.  And some apple slices for 89 cents, with an estimate of 40 calories for the bag.  And a cup of water for free.

That $3.82 and 520 calories total knocked out 3 of the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, a protein, probably two servings of carbs (two pieces of the bun), and cost half of what a meal with three times the calories would have set me back.

I've done similar voodoo at McDonalds.  

Their chicken sandwiches are nothing to write home about (basically it's a giant chicken nugget in a bun with lettuce and mayo) but it's a heck of a lot healthier than Son of Baconator.

Don't order the sandwich of the month.  Study the menu - there are healthy choices there if you look hard enough.  

And save yourself a couple bucks in the process.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I am not so sure about the chicken (9+ / 0-)

    the parts they use would make you forego your lunch.

  •  Healthful, not healthy. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catwho, NormAl1792, Crider, commonmass

    Only living things can be healthy.

    Plus, it's better not to shop at fast food places for numerous reasons, including the crappy wages they pay their workers, their other unfair labor practices, and so on.

  •  We used to go to Wendys (8+ / 0-)

    often for their chili w/a baked potato and a salad.

    I go to McDonalds maybe twice a year at most and when I do it's because I'm craving a Big Mac and that is what I get. It's terrible, but it's not regular and I'm so underweight that it really doesn't hurt me.

    Most of the time when we stop at fast food places I get the smallest burger they have on their menu, in many cases it's not very different from an adult version.

    I'm not a big fast food eater, we have one local place and we do go there to support them now and then. When I'm in SLC I go to 5 Guys. If I'm gonna go for it, it might as well count. lol

    And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County Down by the Green River where Paradise lay. Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away. John Prine

    by high uintas on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 11:14:17 AM PST

  •  When I travel to remote locations, I have been (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catwho, Brian A, Gooserock, BlackSheep1, boran2

    known to hit a McDonalds and buy their oatmeal with nuts and fruit.  It's about 1000x healthier than the McMuffin nightmares that quickly punish your insides. And yup, the salads.  This is a really politically incorrect thing to say, but poverty doesn't require that anyone choose the worse food possible.

    Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

    by bigtimecynic on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 11:15:50 AM PST

    •  There Are Conflicting Requirements for Food (9+ / 0-)

      The immediate thing you need if you're poor is energy to get you through as many hours as possible. Salad and oatmeal are miserable for that; one of the best things for enduring energy is fat, and it's especially useful if you're doing hard work and in cold weather.

      Fatty foods are often cheaper than good lean meat.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 11:59:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm actually sort of a fan of McMuffins (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Alexandra Lynch, catwho

      That's probably my favorite meat-containing item on a McDonalds menu.  I've made 'em, there's just a slice of ham, an egg, and an english muffin (plus whatever they're using for griddle oil these days).  Not remotely five-star winning for health, mind you, but miles better than anything else on the breakfast menu as far as I'm concerned.  Just skip the hash browns.

      (I can't eat oatmeal.  Even the really bulky hardcore kind leaves me shaking with blood sugar crashes a half hour later.  Never mind the McDonalds variety that's pulverized into dust.  It's crazy what that stuff does to me.)

  •  It's good to forego the beef and fries but (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    as a lot of moms know, the way they make those chicken patties and nuggets doesn't make for nutritional eating.

    Still, it's so much better than what most folks eat at fast food joints.  I used to let my kids get a happy meal once a month or so. Their appetites are too big for that now. I rarely eat at fast food places myself (though I've gotten a few salads) except when I was pregnant.  I had a difficult to squelch urge to eat Carl's Jr. Had never even been to one in my life at that time, but I HAD to have their burgers.

  •  my mcdonald's story: (26+ / 0-)

    on good friday this year, mar 31st, i found myself coming from the vet's office with the last meds my ancient golden would ever need and my mother, who would also die in a couple of months.  we were hungry which was very unusual for my mother at the end of her life.  so as we drove past mcdonalds, we decided to stop and have a couple of fish sandwiches, being as it was good friday.  i drove thru since i had the dog in the car and mama was very frail and we parked, facing a brick wall, to eat.  as we sipped our cokes and shared our fries with the dog, we made believe we were at a drive in movie, but the film was very boring, like an antonioni film.  we made up dialog and a plot.  we had such a fine, small moment in time, made possible by mcdonalds.  my dog died on april 22 and my mother died on may 1st but this is one of my lasting memories of both of them.  i don't go to mcdonalds as a rule but this is a cherished bright spot.

  •  Crispy Chicken Patty (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Chicken Breast, Water, Salt, Sodium Phosphates. Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Bleached Wheat Flour, Water, Rice Flour, Salt, Modified Corn Starch, Leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, monocalcium phosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate), Spices, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Yeast, Spice Extractives, Extractives of Paprika, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Lactic Acid. Cooked in Vegetable Oil (soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural flavor [vegetable], citric acid [preservative], dimethylpolysiloxane [anti-foaming agent]). Cooked in the same oil as menu items that contain Egg, Milk, and Fish (where available).

    Sandwich Bun
    Enriched Flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, niacin, iron, folic acid), Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Vegetable Oil (contains one or more of the following: soybean, cottonseed, canola), Yeast, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Contains 2% or less of the following: Dough Conditioners (contains one or more of the following: sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, mono and diglycerides, DATEM, enzymes), Yeast Nutrients (may contain one or more of the following: monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, ammonium sulfate), Turmeric, Paprika, Annatto, Natural Flavor, Calcium Silicate, Calcium Propionate (preservative).

    Somehow, I managed to avoid fast food places for years and years. Really don't miss a thing. But, your meal was better than most, I suppose.

    "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

    by Crider on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 12:29:19 PM PST

    •  Ah, I'm not scared of ingredient lists (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I took a lot of organic chemistry so the "if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it" rule doesn't phase me :)

      The big thing for me is that those oils used are not trans oils.  They stopped trans fat frying oils many years ago.

      The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

      by catwho on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 02:46:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As someone who relies on quick dining, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1, commonmass

    I agree.

    It's all about managing the menu, reading the details, and portion attention.

    All fast food places have their menus and nutritional info online so it's not difficult nowadays.

  •  Wendy's is better than most (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1, commonmass, catwho, CroneWit

    Especially the chili.  I'll sometimes buy an extra one to heat up the next day, and even after being in the refrigerator there's no congealed fat on it at all.

    I knew a guy who worked at Wendy's and he told me I wouldn't want to eat their chili if I saw them make it, and I asked what was so gross about it.  He said that they kept hamburgers cooking all the time, but if nobody bought one they'd put it in a bucket, and that was the meat that was in the chili.  I don't know why he thought that was so gross... it was just an unsold hamburger patty.  Seemed to make perfect sense to me...

    "Glenn Beck ends up looking like a fat, stupid child. His face should be wearing a chef's hat on the side of a box of eclairs. " - Doug Stanhope

    by Front Toward Enemy on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 12:40:41 PM PST

  •  What about: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, catwho

    Factory farm meat: antibiotics, slimy and cruel living conditions for the animals.

    About that burger: Factory farm meat?

    Those chicken offerings: Factory farm meat?

    Don't get me started! There's (much) more...

    "I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor." ~ Pope Francis

    by paz3 on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 01:09:53 PM PST

    •  Well, my salad and apples... (0+ / 0-)

      .... were probably factory farmed or migrant labor picked or imported from Mexico, too.

      I'm talking pure economics and calories, not ethics or sustainability or organic-ness.

      If I had wanted to be splurgey and didn't care about the calories, but did care about the meat source and nutrient origins, I'd have had to drive fifteen minutes further up the road for Earth Fare.  Kind of impossible on an hour long lunch break that got truncated to thirty minutes because of wall to wall meetings.

      (At least I get overtime when that happens.)

      The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

      by catwho on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 02:41:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Every once in a while I find myself in a situation (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catwho, CroneWit

    where fast food is necessary and every time I eat it, I throw up ten minutes later. I guess I never learn, but on car trips I always bring my own food. It's cheaper, healthier, and it doesn't make me barf.

    •  we take supplies with us when we do long car (0+ / 0-)

      trips, but we also have hot meals at select junque-foode outlets. I have extremely picky eaters, not adventurous at all, so we use chains we're familiar with.

      we've yet to have any adverse reactions... sounds like maybe you might be sensitive to something lots of chains use, like seasonings, or fryer oil???

      "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

      by chimene on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 11:04:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Portion control (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catwho, quetzalmom

    99 cents typically means it's the "junior" or "value size" whatever. I always order from that section on fast food menus simply because it's enough - the full size burgers are too much fro me, especially if I'm having anything else with it.

    “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

    by Catte Nappe on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 01:18:48 PM PST

  •  Healthy might be stretching the point a bit (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Darwinian Detrius, catwho

    Half the calories in the chicken probably come from the who-knows-what-kind frying oil; the salads are mostly iceberg lettuce (definitely not 2 servings of anything much); and the bun is so much fluff.  I guess the apple slices are OK, but they don't give you very much.

    That said -- you can for sure get out of a fast-food restaurant without busting the calorie budget if you want to.  (A plain hamburger from McDonalds is only 250 calories, for instance.  313 with cheese.)  Still junk food, though.  The major problem is it's pretty limited in nutrition no matter what you do, and it's not very filling for the calories provided.

    Gas stations with attached convenience stores are getting a lot better these days and you could probably put together something a bit healthier there from the fruit/yogurt/hummus/etc area, though it might cost more.  

    •  Their grilled chicken go wrap (0+ / 0-)

      - the 260 calorie "snack" option I skipped - is grilled, not fried.  Roughly the same ingredients otherwise.

      I believe their website did list that 100 out of the 320 calories came from fat, and they were one of the first restaurants to stop using trans fats several years ago.  Some calories from fat are needed, but I prefer to get that from fish when I can, or olive oil.

      The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

      by catwho on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 02:44:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  But but... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Real Men eat beef. And lots of it, all at once. Red meat, grr, kill. Gimme your biggest big-ass burger. No, three of ’em, because I'm totally not a lady.

    Sorry. Habit. The whole time the kids were growing up I would point out the manipulation of advertisers by making fun of it like that.

    One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain -Bob Marley

    by Darwinian Detritus on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 01:51:34 PM PST

  •  All the additives and the hidden corn syrup get me (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catwho, Throw The Bums Out, chimene

    every time.

    Usually I can figure out what the corn syrup containing things will be, and avoid them, but fast food that isn't salads (which I can't eat much of, due to lettuce being related to cabbage) have enough additives that a fast food meal guarantees me a fibromyalgia exacerbation that night/the following day.

    Fortunately, I am currently doing rural stay at home poverty, so I normally just eat what I cook and all is well.

    When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

    by Alexandra Lynch on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 02:22:56 PM PST

    •  Main reason I skipped the dressing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Alexandra Lynch, chimene

      Their dressings, even the light ones, are corn syrup + vinegar + salt + artificial flavor.

      I'd rather just have the mayo on my chicken sandwich instead.  That's full fat, but at least it's not sweet.

      The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

      by catwho on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 02:38:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've never liked any salad dressing that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Throw The Bums Out

        wasn't a grind of fresh pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

        When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

        by Alexandra Lynch on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 04:08:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  we do this all the time! our version of a "hamburg (0+ / 0-)

    er" is

    "(whatever burger), plain, no cheese, no nothing, just the meat and bread"
    That's for the boys' burgers, plus dad's gets the bun downsized, and Mr Type 2 can have a junk-burger with an appropriate carb number! Teh boyz don't WANT any of the "fixings" OR the cheese anyway!

    These days we're about 90% Dairy Queen for burgers. Mom-the-Omnivore is much less picky, will eat LOTS of stuff the boyz wouldn't touch with a 10-ft pole! (pizza, tomatoes, Mess'cn from LeftCoast TacoTIME chain, Hawaiian-oid, Indian, etc.)

    we never buy sugar water drinks for any of us; we go out and collect whatever entrees are desired and take them home to eat, mostly with 1% milk to drink.

    Dad & I occasionally split a Wendy's baked potato, PLAIN, although I get the "sour cream" packet on the side.

    Dad's regular is burgers or a very plain KFC order: 2 piece white, original recipe; kiddo gets the Kentucky Wedges & biscuit that we usually can't avoid. We NEVER take the sugar water that comes automatically with these things.

    "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

    by chimene on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 10:56:21 PM PST

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