Healthy “Fast Food”
- Wednesday, March 17th, 2010
- 42 Comments
A lot of people like fast food. No wonder McDonalds serves about 47 million people a day worldwide! I probably do not have to tell you this, but fast food is definitely not healthy. This post is about the essence of fast food, my attempt to recreate a healthy version of a chicken nugget meal, and a comparison between my version and the regular meal you would get at a fast food restaurant.
What is good about fast food?
Fast food is fast
One reason people like it is because fast food is well… fast. Perhaps convenient would be a better word — I am sure there are people who drive to a fast food place in the time that they could whip up a healthy meal. But, in terms of convenience, driving somewhere, looking at the food you want, telling someone you want it, and having it in your hands a couple minutes later is as good as it gets.
Most people who get fast food also enjoy eating it. But does it really taste good? Does it just have these amazing flavors, this perfect balance of tastes…? No, it does not. It is mainly incredibly greasy, salty and sweet (buns/sauces).
Even though we are evolved to prefer the sweet taste and like fatty foods, these preferences are mainly acquired. Try going for a couple of months without salting your food… eating a french fry will taste like eating a salt shaker to you. Same with sugar. Most people did not grow up eating mainly veggies and therefore love these tastes at least somewhat and crave them. Of course, the more you eat them the more you crave them the more you eat them…
Convenience and taste aside, I think there is another element to fast food that makes eating it enjoyable. Most fast foods are foods that you can eat on the go, with your hands or finger. There is something playful about dipping a french fry into ketchup and picking up a chicken nugget with your thumb and index finger.
Also, fast food is often enjoyed on a special occasion. Maybe when you drove on vacation or when you went to Disney land. This factor is a major one. When we link food to good memories that is reason enough to eat and enjoy it.
When I was a child we would only go to McDonalds once a year. Is was incredibly special. We would always get the chicken nuggets, french fries and cola (no pop at home). I remember how I loved having the different dips and having the food come on a little tray, the nuggets neatly stored in a little box etc. I loved it despite being a child whose favorite food was cauliflower. ☺
Maybe fast food simply reminds you of being a child, because french fries and chicken nuggets is what you usually got in a restaurant when everybody else was eating goat cheese stuffed salmon…
My kind of fast food
While you could not pay me to eat at McDonalds, I still crave “fast food”. Whenever I make french fries or chicken nuggets I get some of the same feelings I had as a child sitting in front of my tray. I almost get giddy inside, even though there are other foods I prefer more taste-wise, there is something that feels special about this meal.
Capturing the essence
While my version of fast food is neither fast nor super greasy and salty, I think it captures the essence of fast food, at least for me, minus the sick feeling you get afterward and the fullness that only lasts about 30 minutes. Mark, of course, loves it too. ☺ Needless to say this meal is great for children.
Meet Asian nuggets and rosemary fries
Of course there are many different ways to create healthy “fast food”. This is one of our favorite version of chicken nuggets and french fries. The nuggets are asian marinated chicken breast pieces in a sesame crust. The french fries are rosemary/paprika baked oven fries with fresh olive oil. I serve it with homemade tomato ketchup and a sweet-salty dipping sauce for the nuggets. Here are the recipes for the asian chicken nuggets and the rosemary oven fries with homemade ketchup.
Below is a table where you can compare a typical chicken nugget meal and my version of it (red and green respectively). The serving size for the ketchup is about 2 Tbsp. We also have about 12 oz. of french fries (two large). Then there are about 12 typical chicken nuggets and sesame chicken nuggets from one breast. The two amounts are equal in weight, but the recipe will make about 18-20 nuggets of sesame nuggets! You can tell from the picture that they are similarly sized to typical fast food nuggets.
Keep in mind that there is no “right” serving size. Eat within your calorie budget if you have one or eat until you are comfortably full. The amount listed in the table is what Mark and I ate (with a salad). We were super full! Stuffed! Half of it would be plenty. The picture above shows only about half of the fries in one portion and about 2/3 of the chicken nuggets! Yes, it makes that much! ☺
|Food||Calories||Fat (g)||Protein (g)||Carbs (g)||Sodium (mg)||Fiber (g)|
Nutrition data mysteries
I got the data for the table above from food databases, but some information just does not make sense. I wonder how can the same amount of fast food french fries have more fiber, than fries with the skin still on? Plus, since a large portion of the fast food french fries weight is fat, the fiber content should be even lower (more potato in my fries). This really makes you wonder if “they” tweak the numbers to make things seem more healthful…
Also, how can they give you accurate information about the sodium content in their french fries. Have you ever seen someone measure the salt they sprinkle on there? Usually, they just shake some on there and then another person shakes some more. And whenever a new batch gets put in, they shake again, while the already salted fries are still in there. But of course, they all keep track of the sodium content in their heads…
Other important nutritional differences
The data in the table is not the whole story. It gives you no information on the quality of fats or on the amounts of micronutrients. While you get unhealthy oxidized and trans fats with the regular fast food meal, the fat in the healthy version comes mainly from sesame seeds and unheated extra virgin olive oil. Do I have to say more? ☺
I hope you enjoyed this post and are excited to see the recipes for this meal! ☺
Let me know… ?
What is it that you like about “fast food”? Do you treat yourself to it once in a while?