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Fast food cravings

April 28, 2009 - Kathie Evanoff
Everyone knows Jared Fogel, the Subway guru who lost tons of weight after developing his own diet eating food primarily from the restaurant chain. Before Jared came along, Subway was just another fast food restaurant, but afterward became the symbol for healthy eating on the run.

Ten years ago, after being diagnosed with high cholesterol, in order to bring it under control I would take a trip to the local Subway at least once a week for a Veggie Delight sandwich, filled to overflowing with vegetables but no cheese and no meat. It helped me accomplish my goal. Even now, when I think about greasy burgers slathered in melted cheese and dripping with mayonnaise, my guilt will often send me to Subway instead.

But after a weekend of calorie counting and denying my inner chocoholic, I decided that no matter what, I was going to have a burger for lunch and still stay within my calorie limits. But first I needed a plan.

How many times have I driven into the narrow one-way alley that is the drive-through (or “thru” to all that aren’t sticklers for correct spelling), with a plan to order salads and grilled chicken, only to have cheeseburger and fries emerge from my mouth when the little voice in the box asks for my order? But this time, I was determined to accomplish my mission, and that was to stay on track, no matter what. But I still wanted that burger.

I remembered those long ago words from nearly all of the nutritionists I’ve spoken to, Weight Watchers administrators and gym members. Salad and grilled chicken. It haunts me sometimes that my fast food fare is so limited. What about burgers? Why aren’t they on the list? Is beef really that bad? While I carry my lunch most days, there are times when either rush out the door without a lunch or stare into the refrigerator and pantry in the hopes something will toss itself into my lunch bag with no effort from me. Let’s face it. Fast food exists and we simply have to learn to deal with it.

The truth is a burger without cheese and mayonnaise is certainly a better choice than deep fried fish with tartar sauce and curly fries. Now understand that I’m not talking about a four-ounce Whopper or a half-pound double quarter-pounder. Nor am I talking about a double decker Big Mac. And speaking of a Big Mac, who remembers the Big Barney, from the old Red Barn restaurants?

Without running the risk of walking down fast food memory lane, I will simply say I did accomplish my mission of keeping within my calorie limit and fulfilled my craving for a fast food burger. A few days ago, I had the foresight to slice up some raw carrots and celery sticks and shove them into a Zip-Lock bag. These, I decided, would be my “fries.” Off to the burger joint I went, and back I came with a two-ounce meat patty on a bun with mustard, lettuce and tomato. I’m so proud of myself. Even as I drove past the sign that tried to convince me I would get a better deal by ordering an entire meal of burger, fries and drink, and not only that, I would get an even better deal by bumping up the sizes to something larger, I stood my ground. To my amazement, when I got to the window to pay, the clerk on the inside said, “That’ll be one dollar.” I asked her to repeat it. Turns out, that particular sandwich is always just $1 when purchased by itself. It was more than three times that amount when purchased as a meal. Ha! Who is saving money now?

A quick count of the calories proved I was well within my limit and my vegetable “fries” filled me just as well as the real thing. Later on, I even had a fresh orange to get me through the afternoon.

It can be done.

As an aside, some of my weekend meals included a filling egg-white omelet with low-fat cheese and medium hot salsa for breakfast one morning. This is great food for lunch or even dinner if you’re in the mood. Egg whites have all the protein without the fat and cholesterol of an entire whole egg. My omelet was made with whites from three large eggs and beat with a fork to give it a bit of fluffiness in the pan. I also heated the salsa for 20 seconds in the microwave.

And for lunch on Saturday, I practiced what I preached about thinning those beet seedlings. After pulling them out of the soil, I pinched off the dirty root end and tossed the tender green tops in a strainer for easy washing. They topped my turkey breast sandwich on whole wheat bread that held more vegetables than turkey. I have been substituting spicy mustard for high-fat mayo on all my sandwiches. Totally worth it.


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