Healthier Fast Foods?

A “nutrition expert” interviewed by a news station selects “best bets” in fast food for healthier options.


Just because a small sandwich with fries has fewer calories than a larger sandwich (with fresh veggies, instead of fries), does not mean it is healthier, despite what this “nutrition expert” says. A calorie count is a function of portion size. It does not tell how much protein, fiber and other beneficial nutrients are in one menu item compared to another. Calories can be reduced simply by eating less of a food (e.g., cutting a sandwich in half will reduce its calories by half). The news piece (and expert) also made the mistake of thinking there is a significant difference between 710 and 770 calories for a sandwich. That 8% difference is much smaller than the 20% margin of error allowed for restaurant nutrition info (meaning the 710-calorie sandwich legally could have 852 calories, and the 770 one might have only 616 calories). And then there is the whole accuracy issue. Depending on the method of analysis used, who is making the sandwich (how much mayo, etc. is applied), and many other factors, the same sandwich can have either 710 or 770 calories. It is more important to compare multiple nutrients when judging the healthfulness of a food or menu item (on a per calorie basis, if possible), and then eat an amount that provides appropriate calories for your needs (no law requires that you eat the whole thing).

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