I thought I was doing good by finding meatless choices at fast food joints. I know fast food is processed food and it's worse for the environment, which is my whole purpose of cutting back on meat. But Melinda demands fast food a couple times a week, and I feel cheated if I can't get some.
So I had gotten down a sort of a pattern. At "Culver's" (a smaller chain that's expanding from Wisconsin across the northern Midwest), I get a grilled cheese kid's meal. They also have a lot of good side dishes and sometimes they'll have soups without meat in it. At Steak & Shake, I get cheese fries. At McD's I get a couple side salads. At Wendy's I get a baked potato and wish they had some meatless chili to dump on top of it. Burger King has veggie burgers, which aren't really good enough to seek out, especially when I've heard people working there say my "stinkburger" was ready.
But Taco Bell has several options that are filling, like a regular meal instead of a bunch of side items. Seven Layer burritos, bean burritos and cheesy bean and rice burritos have no meat. I used to alternate between them, knowing that the sour cream and guacamole make Seven Layers really fattening.
Last weekend, Melinda and I went to a place that offered KFC and Taco Bell. I ordered a cheesy bean and rice burrito from the Taco Bell menu, and an individual side order of green beans from the KFC menu. I grabbed some brochures off the wall showing nutritional info, feeling good about myself for finding satisfying vegetarian options at these places. And then I started to read.
One individual side order of green beans from KFC has about one quarter of the salt you should have in one day. 570 mg Sodium, 24% of the recommended daily dosage. It's just fucking green beans! One cheesy bean and rice burrito has 58% of the sodium you're supposed to have in one day. Putting them together, I was having 82% of all the sodium for my day in one sitting. If you ate two of those burritos in one day, you'd be 16% over the amount of salt you should have in one day.
So I'm pretty much done with fast food. The only thing I can figure that's still acceptable is baked potatoes from Wendy's, which they serve with nothing on them but a sprinkling of dried chives.
Here are some other stand-outs from the KFC nutrition guide:Crispy BLT Salad without Dressing
: 1130 mg Sodium, 47% daily value.
With KFC Creamy Parmesan Caesar Dressing
and Parmesan Garlic Croutons
on top, it would come to 1130+540+150 = 1820 mg Sodium, or 76% of the salt you're supposed to have for one day! It's also 71% of the fat you should have for the day. (The dressing by itself is 40% of your daily value of fat.)
Showing their jumbled priorities, the Hidden Valley Golden Italian Light Dressing
is even higher in sodium, bringing the total with croutons to 1940 mg Sodium, or 81% of the salt you should have in one day.
Their other large salads all clock in around 35-47 percent of your daily value of salt, even before adding any dressing or cholesterol-encrusted croutons.
(R) is a sandwich that's small enough to price cheaply, so they can claim to have a "value menu", but they're also small enough that people order two or more for each meal. Each of them ranges from a quarter to more than a third of your day's salt. If you had a two-snacker combo, it would be half your day's salt in one meal, or up to two-thirds of your day's salt in one meal, even before you started on your drink or side item.
Judging by the values given for plain pieces of chicken, you'd think that nine or ten of the Colonel's eleven secret herbs and spices are just salt. A single original recipe chicken breast has 1020 mg Sodium, 43% of your salt for one day, and 32% of your fat for one day. Extra crispy has less sodium but more fat, clocking in at 42% of your day's fat in one breast.
Some of the most innocuous sounding items on the menu are still incredibly high in salt, like the green beans, seasoned rice or baked beans, providing 24-30% of the salt you should have in one day. But the toppers are Boneless Fiery Buffalo Wings
with 94% Daily Value of sodium and KFC Famous Bowls (TM) - Mashed Potato with Gravy
at 98% Daily Value of sodium.
Theoretically if you had just a Mashed Potato "Famous" Bowl, the only other side item you could have to not exceed your sodium intake for one day (all in one meal!) would be a 14 oz pepsi, diet pepsi, or Tropicana Fruit Punch. Then the rest of the day you'd have to eat raw foods with no sodium in them.
I had thought the beans and cheese used by Taco Bell were plain enough or natural enough, but reading their nutrition guide set me straight.
A 1/2 lb Cheesy Bean & Rice Burrito
is almost half the salt you should have in one day. Bean Burrito and 7-Layer Burrito each give half the salt you should have in one day. A Beef Enchirito is more than half.
But wait. I've been reading it wrong. These values are only when you order the "Fresco" versions. When you say "Fresco," they replace the usual cheese and sauce with Fiesta Salsa, reducing the fat by 25% for most items. ("Fresco" actually translates as "fresh" and has nothing to do with lightness or fat or diet or health.)
The regular versions of all those are even higher in sodium. If you've been developed a salt deficiency and need to recover a lot of it in one meal, you could grab a Grilled Stuft Burrito
ranging from 80-90% of one day's salt in each version. Border Bowls range from 64-88% of your day's salt (and that low figure is only if you skip the dressing). And the shocker for lots of soccer moms, the most fattening item on the menu is the Fiesta Taco Salad
, 69% of your daily value of fat and 74% of sodium. Skipping the shell brings it down to 37% daily value of fat, but still a whopping 63% daily value of salt.
They print these fucking densely packed tables of info in tiny type, but at least they provide little alternating strips of blue so you can trace your finger across to the proper value. Another easy way to find the sodium count and % daily value of sodium is too look for the row of mostly four digit numbers. Many of the items are over 1000 mg Sodium, providing an easy visual cue to find that column, and the one nearby that usually shows % daily value of sodium.
I'm definitely going to start eating "Fresco," which is to say getting unprocessed vegetables and preparing them myself, not "Taco Bell Fresco" which apparently means popping a blood vessel while you watch your weight.