Now I’m no nutritionist, nor do I play one on television, so I must admit that every so often I go out to eat and indulge in a lunch or dinner of fast food. I know that we’re all supposed to shop at Whole Foods or Wild Oats, and cook a healthy and nutritious homemade meal made from organic vegetables, low fat meats like fish and perhaps some Japanese side dishes like endamane (green soy) beans.
Grasshopper, this is the way of the triathlete!
However this is not the way of the modern Everyman Triathlete who has a job, family, dog, a tank full of fish, and mortgage. You know I really love to hate those cooking shows were the Chef prepares easy, light, and healthy meals that "we can all make in just a few short minutes."
I would love to make those meals. But first I’ll need a producer who will gather all the ingredients and put them in those beautiful glass bowls in the perfect amounts. Next a professional kitchen with studio lighting, and how about a team of interns to clean up my mess, feed the dog, change the fish filter, put away the dishes, clip the coupons and pick up the kids at school?
Oh by the way, the interns might as well fill up the car, get it washed and pick up my dry cleaning. Now I’m ready, in a Zen-like state, to cook that perfect healthy meal.
Jeez Louise, someone forgot to inform the producers that my kid will not eat fish, or any sort of bean, or for that matter anything that is green that is not called Sprite.
So gang, for the rest of us Everyman Triathletes who are occasionally forced to partake of fast food, I’ve put together a short list of workable alternatives to the hamburger and fries.
Please keep in mind that I really only have four simple rules when it comes to healthy happy meal fast foods:
1) It must be healthy. By healthy I mean a common sense “healthy” which in my book means that the meal uses mostly fresh ingredients, it is not fried or nuked or in anyway cooked in grease or unsaturated fats.
2) It must be truly fast food in so much that I can order it, get it, and eat it after a 4-mile run over my lunch period.
3) It must be cheap. This means that I can purchase it, get a drink and still get change from a ten-dollar bill.
4) It must taste good.
What’s the use of a tofu spinach salad that is perfectly balanced with all essential nutrients and vitamins if it tastes like paper and glue? I’m not a big believe in healthy meals just for the sake of healthy meals.
Sure you may feel like you are “doing the right thing” when you have one of these healthy meals, but sooner or later you’ll break down and snarf down five dozen chips ahoy cookies like a contestant on survivor, day 30. The meal has to taste good, and you must want it to the extant that you crave it.
So here’s my short list of Everyman Healthy Happy Meal Fast Foods:
You can order either a steak or chicken naked burrito at Qdoba and get it made your way. This means either grilled steak or chicken on a bed of rice and black beans with tomatoes, salsa, lettuce and your favorite hot sauce. To keep this meal truly healthy you have to walk away from the cheese, sour cream and tortia.
I’m not a big fan of any sodas so I tend to stick to unsweetened ice tea with a fresh wedge of lemon. The down side is that it colors your teeth, but the upside is no high fructose corn starch or funky sugar like chemicals. I also like to squeeze a couple of limes onto my naked burrito. I’m not sure that this makes it any better, but it sure feels healthy. All the limes you can squeeze are available by the soda machine.
Restaurant Chain: Noodles and Company
Meal: Penne Rose
From the companies web site; “Spicy red pepper-flaked tomato cream and penne pasta tossed with white wine, mushroom, fresh spinach and roma tomato. Parmesan or feta cheese.”
Once again I would skip the cheese and order some grilled chicken instead. They now offer this meal as combo with a fresh salad and drink. Try it and I believe that you’ll not only like it, but you’ll feel good about eating it.
This Boulder based chain has some of the freshest food in the fast food world. Not only do I like many
of their meals, but they also serve a wide selections of healthy bottled drinks and waters that go beyond your usual soda machine
Most Whole Foods Markets have a tremendous salad bar with about every organic vegetable and salad you could ever imagine. Build your own perfect salad in about 3 minutes and take it to the express lane check out for a quick, healthy, and easy meal. I also love their fresh soups if you want to go the soup and salad combo route. My personal favorite is the Matza Ball Chicken soup with a fresh roll from the bakery.
Word of warning. While it is easy to eat healthy from their giant salad bar, it is just as easy to overdo it. I especially recall the young ladies from my freshman collage days who somehow still managed to put on that freshmen fifteen, even though they only grazed at the cafeteria salad bar. And that’s just it…avoid the temptation to graze by creating a salad pyramid of eggs, cheese, nuts and creamy salad dressing.
So I must admit that I have a guilty pleasure left over from a misspent childhood of fast food fare. But before I get to that I’m convinced that McDonalds offers only one truly healthy food item, besides bottled water, on their menu. This would be the fruit salad plate that if eaten without the sweetened nuts and sweetened yogurt-like white sauce, might actually be healthy as it has fresh grapes and apples slices.
But if you are like me and you must have a true fast food fix, I would recommend the All American Hamburger meal. You won’t find this on the menu, but almost all the restaurant server it as a left over from the times when you could get this meal for just $1.00 at MacDonlads. It is a hamburger, small fries and, small drink. Today it cost just over $2.00.
The good news is that if you stay away from the Soda and get unsweetened ice tea, this meal is only about 500 calories...give or take a few ketchup packets.
The bad news is that it is still 22 grams of fat that you’ll have to swim, bike, or run to remove from your body. But for just over $2.00, every few months, it is a guilty pleasure that I like to indulge as it leaves plenty of money for dog and fish food, as well as that monthly mortgage check that I still have to write.