Let’s say I wrote a post on walnuts and how much I disliked them. And let’s pretend I wrote that I never ate walnuts as a kid and I’m never going to change and eat a walnut. I’d say, “You can eat walnuts if that is right for your family. I just don’t like walnuts.”

I’d get comments from the anti-walnut folks who would say, “Right on! Walnuts suck!”

But then pro-walnuts people would mob the post and comment,
“Mrs Q, I can’t believe you dislike walnuts!?”
“I feel judged that I eat walnuts.”
“Is eating walnuts once a month so bad? Moderation in walnuts, duh!”
“Mrs. Q, your blog is so inflammatory. Please stick to reporting on school lunches.”

And then the anti-walnut folks would jump to my defense,
“Hey now, Mrs. Q is totally justified. I wouldn’t touch a walnut with a ten-foot pole!”
“Walnuts make you fat, haven’t you read the latest study in JAMA?”
“I’m so happy to find other people who hate walnuts! Call me!”

And then the pro-walnuts folks would assert,
“Well, walnuts are sometimes good and sometimes bad. Don’t eat too many or you will get fat!!!”
“Mrs. Q, you ignoramus, you must toast them!”
“I dislike how smug you are about your walnut-hatred. You like your anti-walnut-self a lot, don’t you?”
“Mrs. Q, Don’t you realize that if you label walnuts as “bad” all of a sudden they are forbidden? You must let your family consume walnuts at will!”

Finally the post would be swimming in comments and I’d close all new comments. Ack!


After I did the post on McDonald’s, I did a lot of thinking about fast food. Also I thought about my own biases and the fact that I might have been a touch judgmental. What remains the same is that I am anti-McDonald’s. The fact is that I never ate McDonald’s as a child, my husband had a terrible experience working for them in college, and I dislike their McFood. Enough said.

But I’m left with a couple questions. Maybe you can answer them:
A friend asked me, “Is Panera fast food?” Good question. I love Panera and I eat there about once a month. I eat at Subway once a month too. I think of Subway as fast food. Panera? Well, I guess it is fast food too. I mean, it’s served very fast…

We go out to dinner about 1-2 times a week. Once if we are home the whole week and then if we travel, which we do a lot over the summer we go out about twice a week. I’m really trying to bring the number down to once per week to save money and because I like to cook. But we usually chose local restaurants, usually ethnic (Asian, Mexican, Italian) and more rarely American diners. Most places charge about $10 per entree, we don’t drink, we like appetizers, but we avoid desserts. We love going out for ice cream at the very local, very adorable 1950’s-style soft serve shop once a week in the summer. That’s how we splurge.

And for those of you that do McDonald’s occasionally, what is moderation? Once a month? Twice a month? Once a week? And then in relation to school lunch, is fifteen chicken nugget meals, close to 100 chicken nuggets, in six months moderation? What about seventeen school pizzas?


Just so we’re clear: I love walnuts.

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69 thoughts on “McWalnuts”

  1. I really love the walnut analogy! I think that a lot of people do feel defensive when you say you don't eat McDonald's (which I don't). I am now thinking about your questions. Thanks for a thought provoking and informative blog!

  2. I consider any non-independent restaurant fast food, but there are healthful and not healthful choices in each establishment. I think that may be as middle-of-the-line as you can get 🙂

  3. Mrs. Q this is your blog. People may not like what you are writing, but you have every right to say what you feel and give your perspective on the situation. Yes, it may bother you to have to close the comments on a thread, but at least you know you are making people think and start talking about the topic.

    In relation to your questions, I believe people who eat at McDonalds once a week are considered "heavy users" according to the documentary, Super Size Me. I think as long as you consider the fast food in your daily caloric intake and adjust appropriately, you can have some fast food in a healthy diet. Moderation is key, and I think the definition of moderation can vary depending on the individual.

  4. I've followed your blog for a while now, and loved the McDonalds post comments, so I thought I'd add my two cents. I'm a little scared about where their food comes from, how's it's processed, and what it's made of. However, after watching Fat Head, a documentary response to Supersize Me, it refuted my feelings about fast food in general…you have to order in the same way you'd buy food at a grocery store. You don't need the fries or a full-sugar drink, you can get a salad if you want with dressing on the side, etc.

    The same goes for eateries like Panera, Au Bon Pain, Bear Rock Cafe, etc. Though they are casual dining experiences, you can fall into the same fast food traps: All their food is mostly pre-cooked (save for the breakfast eggs) and processed. The soups come out of plastic bags, which skeevs me. However, you can find some terrific, healthy options. I eat at Panera every weekend for brunch…thank goodness for free WiFi!

  5. My (7-year-old) daughter just came back from a 2-week vacation — one week with her great grandmother, another with her uncle, aunt and cousins.
    They ate a lot of fast food. Now, we don't eat fast food at home except rarely — once every couple of months, probably — and she probably consumed a year's worth of her fast food intake in those two weeks.
    Was it too much? Yes. Is it the end of the world? No. Since she's been home this week, she's been eating lots of locally grown produce (some from our backyard, even), home-cooked meals and lean protein.
    Eating fast food once or twice a month is not the end of the world. Eating fast food once a week is not the end of the world. Not even when it comes to our kids. Teaching our kids healthy, thoughtful eating habits involves teaching them about fast food, too. And moderation.

  6. You made me laugh! Thanks for that today! I would hope that most people recognize moderation is your key, but you're right, what is moderation? I let my kids have Happy Meals about 1-2 times a month – they usually choose apples over fries on their own, which does make me feel good a bit, and they don't drink soda (2 & 4 yrs old is a bit young for soda I think) 🙂 I had a sad moment the other day at a fast food place when a mom asked her two daughters (around 8 yrs old) if they wanted Dr. Pepper or Dew. Those were the only options offered and they said Dew without even thinking. I must have looked at my husband with a saddened expression because he just nodded at me, thinking along the same lines as me. Food choices are just that, choices. It just makes me sad when the only choices aren't all that good for you, or are altered by what someone else thinks. Sorry for the ramble, just wanted to say thanks for this! I ate school lunch as a teacher occasionally a few years back, yuck! It was not great and rarely good…

  7. I talk about "moderation" with my friends all the time. I think it's such a loosely used term. Really? Is there really EVER a time when you NEED to ingest chemicals or poison into your body (aka. HFCS, MSG, preservatives, pesticides, Draino, etc.) I'm not saying I don't do this (well, with the exception of the Draino,) I'm just asking, "Moderation in ALL things?" No, probably not.

  8. I eat fast food (McDonald's, Taco Bell, Wendy's, ect.) about 5-6 times a year, usually on a road trip or if I'm running errands and don't want to go to the grocery store ravenously hungry. The last time I went to McDonald's, I decided that I wanted a 4 piece chicken nugget meal and a small order of fries. The cashier looked at me like I was crazy… an adult ordering the small sizes! She convinced me to get a Happy Meal because that is the only way that they sold 4 piece nuggets. It was definitely awkward.

  9. oo mrs. q…you have hit the chicken nugget on the head…i remember saying to friend of mine once something derogatory about bleached white bread…after all, i had just read a whole bunch of bad stuff about it but she freaked out because that is what she was feeding her 5 kids…turns out, she is a "real" food fanatic now…all she needed was that little nudge of "real" information…

    i'm so glad i found you here in blogland…i was shocked when i sent my little angel to school and found out what they were feeding him….a crime in my opinion…then they can't figure out why the kids are hyper…don't even get me started on shortened recess…ggrrrr

  10. I LOVE the walnut analogy! I identified with it a lot, because this is exactly how people reacted when I became a vegetarian/was thinking about becoming a vegetarian. I hesitated for close to two years because so many of the reactions from my friends and family were negative and defensive and I didn't want to hurt them, but in the end I made the decision that felt right to me and most of them are now very supportive.

    I think the point many people are making is a very good one- we all have choices in food, and eating McDonalds is a choice. I happen to agree with you that its not one that I would make, but that doesn't mean I think people who eat McDonalds are monsters, and I think that's the point you were making too. But in the same way it is the most common criticism of my vegetarianism, I think you hit the nail on the head with one of your common criticisms of people who don't eat McDonalds- many people feel judged when your choices are different from theirs, and that goes beyond food.

    Love your blog, keep up the good work!

  11. Yes, Panera is fast food made to look like cafe fare, much the same way Boston Market food is fast food made to imatate home cooked fare. I have a family member who works there, and she totataly ruined it for me! Dam her for informing me that their soup comes in big plastic bags that they immerse in hot water, eew! Think of the toxins from the plastic exposed to the heat and seeping into your soup, never mind the sodium content! Try 3xs that of canned soup. Look it up on their web site if you doubt me. I used to love to go there with my kids and lunch before we headed for the Barnes & Noble next door. No more…well, much more rarely! Oh well, I can still overindulge in books and coffee.

  12. I love walnuts. 😉

    My husband and I have really cut back on eating out as well. Once a week is our usual – and that usually falls on the weekend. But like you we try to go to a sit down place and I take forever looking over the menu trying to make the right choice.

    And you're right, moderation is relative. If you eat like crap at home odds are you're eating out crappy place more often than not.

  13. Fantastic analogy! I think Kayla is right, people feel judged and that is why they react so strongly.
    It is hard to give up fast food, even if you know what is in it, how it is made, and how bad it is for you. Why, because sometimes you are tired, the kids are tired and hungry and the thought of getting the energy together to put a homecooked meal on the table is discouraging and exhausting. Nights like those, I go for breakfast for dinner, or salad and a quick chicken tender saute or homemade bean burritos. All easy peasy. Do I still opt for fast food every once in a while…sadly yes.

    I told my husband…this usually means I just don't want to cook. If he or the teen would step up we wouldn't have the fast food at all.

    I love the nights when I've thought ahead and have extra grilled chicken and lots of fresh salad greens and I know I don't have to cook if I don't want to. If I was only more organized and planned ahead all the time.

  14. I think Panera is fast food. In a way, Panera, Atlanta Bread and the like can be WORSE than McDonalds. When you go to McDonalds you know you are eating junk. There is no disgusing it. At the "cafe" restaurants, high fat, high salt, pre-packaged food abounds, but it looks like healthy fare. Remember back in the day when everyone thought Cesar Salad was healthy? Same thing at Panera. I think moderation is key with ALL eating out. If you aren't making it, you don't know what's inside.

  15. Mrs. Q, your analogy to walnuts doesn't hold, precisely because of the judgmental attitude you admit to having about McDonald's. You went after that establishment as if it had personally injured you in some way – you didn't just say, "I don't like the taste of McDonald's."

    It sucks, but your beloved Panera is no healthier than McDonald's. I have close friends who love that place, but because I do my nutrition homework, I found out that even the Caesar salad can't be served with plain oil and vinegar on the side – because they don't keep the raw ingredients on-premises. Everything is pre-mixed, full of additives and preservatives, and they don't even have a bottle of olive oil in the place. I still love those friends, but I don't go to Panera with them anymore.

    What constitutes "moderation" is and should be a matter of individual choice. People are different, and what they put into their body is none of my business.

  16. I think moderation at McDonald's is twice a month.

    I think Panera is worse than McDonald's. Something about their food seems wholesome until you look at the calorie counts. At least when you're at McDonald's, what you see is what you get. I like their food, but we never go there because I can't find anything to eat that won't ruin my day calorie wise and my husband thinks their food is too bready. Plus, their coffee isn't that good, and they don't spread the cream cheese on the bagels for me. It's not that I "would never" go to Panera. It's just that I never do. I don't think you're a bad person for going there or feeding your family there.

    I think Subway normally does a better job than I do. I think Subway is the best fast food choice.

    So, obviously, school lunches aren't wholesome, and there is no moderation there. I would say that if it is something like nuggets or pizza, it should be limited to once a week. Maybe on Friday. And, that would assume the rest of the week was good, wholesome food. I think that would be moderate.

  17. I'm not certain what your criteria are for fast food, but mine are; Is there wait staff? Does it take less than five minutes for my food to arrive to me? Is my name/number/color/etc called? Is any of it wrapped, bagged, or contained in some way even if I'm eating there?

    If the answers are no, yes, yes, yes, then yes that's a fast food restaurant. However, I don't include bakeries in that. They make it all there ahead of time and you pick it up. Just thinking of fresh pastry makes me sigh in delight.

    As for the McDonald's debate…meh, c'est la vie. It is one of those polarizing things, when health and nutrition are the harsh light being shined on it. Don't forget that in 1940 when McDonald's founders opened their restaurant their goal was quality food with quick service. I don't think their intentions were to cause such an overwhelming sense of distrust. They just wanted to provide an inexpensive meal to families recovering from two world wars.

  18. Okay, first… Yay!! You can get people to argue with you on your viewpoints. That's blog success, lady!! Congrats :o)

    Panera is technically a bakery/deli… therefore, it IS fast food. But like Subway and Tropical Smoothie, it's healthy fast food so it's okay. We are Subway addicts and that's our fast food of choice. My husband has digestive issues and gets sick when we eat at McD's or anywhere like it. But, we don't have a lot of choices. Maybe 15 restaurants within a 35 minute drive…

  19. Oh! And in defense of Panera! When we lived in Las Vegas, we ate there 3 times a week in the late summer and ordered their strawberry poppyseed salad. The BEST 6 points I could spend!! I was sad every time they were done with it for the season.

  20. You go out to dinner 1-2 times a week? With kids? Where do you find all of this money?

  21. Mrs. Q, I was puzzled when you closed the comments on the McDonald's post. Perhaps there were more inflammatory comments that were never made public, but what I read (after comments had been closed) seemed like a healthy (pardon the pun) discussion (not even a debate!) about fast food.

    I'm still assuming there was more I didn't see, but I'd urge you to stick it out through the comments that challenge you! Isn't that what you're up against?

    You write a themed blog, and I'm sure most of your readers agree with the theme – school lunches in this country as largely not as healthy as they could be, and we need to fix them – ad if you're going to make waves, you're going to need to shrug off the naysayers and stand up for yourself! Part of that means letting unwanted criticism roll off your back – especially when you're confident in your own viewpoint as it is.

  22. Hm, yeah…I don't have that much sympathy for the McDonald's crowd. At the same time, I don't think McDonald's is the symbol of all that's wrong with the way we do food in America, although I know people who do believe that. And I agree that most things in moderation are fine as a part of a healthy diet.

    The thing about McDonald's (and most fast food joints) is that almost every item on the menu is going to contain pretty nasty stuff like hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. These just aren't healthy no matter how moderate you are. So eating there is a ton of work if you're conscious of this, because it's really hard to put together a balanced meal there that doesn't contain these ingredients. And quite honestly, I've heard the whole "you can eat a salad at McDonald's" argument, but how many people really go to McDs for the salads? I'm pretty skeptical about that whole line of reasoning. And really, if I want a salad, I'll go somewhere that makes good salads (although I hear they have Newman's Own salad dressings, which are both healthy and yummy).

    Also, to me the debate is really not just about caloric intake, as it's commonly framed. Most items at McD's probably are pretty high-calorie, but the ingredients, their impact on your body, where they came from and the environmental and social impact their production had, etc are bigger concerns that no amount of talk about eating in moderation can resolve.

  23. Ironically your Google AdSense ad (that I see at least) is for Restaurant Coupons for a free sandwich at Arby's, 1/2 off at Qdoba and $3.00 off Boston Market. Right now the power of marketing has lead your audience (at least a very small fraction) to go…."Hmmm, I'm thinkin' Arby's! I'm going to click and get me a free sandwich." at the exact same time you are screaming to get kids to eat a better school lunch. The intersection of commerce and ideals is a bummer isn't it? (I've been there many times)

  24. Also, I seem to have missed the memo about Caesar salads being moved to the Bad List. How funny! Caesar salads can be healthy, and they can be unhealthy, depending on the ingredients. The same is true of pizza and chicken nuggets. What goes into them? How are they cooked? What are they served with? These are the important questions.

    Of course it's true that if you open a bag of processed frozen chicken nuggets, for example, they're most likely a bad choice. Even if you dump them on top of a salad. But it's not because chicken nuggets are inherently bad. It's the way we process them and the ingredients that go into them that are problematic. On the other hand, take some organic hormone-free antibiotic-free chicken strips, brush them with olive oil, dip them in seasoned breadcrumbs, and bake them. Turns out that's pretty good for you.

  25. I feel about McDonald's the same way I feel about places like Ruby Tuesday, Panera, Olive Garden, Pizza Hut, Subway, Taco Bell, KFC, Five Guys, and Chipotle (of which McDonalds used to have the majority share).

    Its all mostly quick frozen, sodium laden fast food weather you go through a drive through or wait to be seated. And although there are healthy choices at Subway (like the apples and salads at McDonalds) many people are opting for the 1000 calorie chicken teriyaki or some other juicy fatty 12 inch.

    I try not to judge the people that choose to eat there frequently but a part of me can't help it. 9 time out of 10 it is a learned behavior of which they cannot break without help. Some people get really offended when you question their food choice. In these economic time many feel that what they eat is the only part of their life they have control over. When you dismiss their choices calling them inferior, people get upset.

    However, I am only 25 years old. I really don't want to live the rest of my life paying through my teeth to care for these overweight people with heart problems, diabetes, and high blood pressure who eat fast food daily. I resent it, and I resent the fact that I was once overweight (as were my parents and siblings) but upon seeing the impact it had on my father (knees with no cushioning left and agonizing pain), we all acted as one, losing the weight for good (over 175 lbs total, among us so far), yet no one else can see the failing health of Americans. We are choosing healthier habits because we care about ourselves and our families. We don't need fast food to be happy.

    My husband and I eat out maybe once a month. When we do, it is sushi, Indian, or some other weird ethnic hole-in-the-wall. I love to cook, so I do it a lot.

    There is a huge myth out the cost of food in America as well. People are choosing fast foods because it is "cheaper". That's a completely fabricated lie. For 3 adult people my weekly grocery bill barely reaches $60 and all I buy are vegetables, milk, bread, dairy, eggs, meat, chicken, and the occasional box of cereal. All my meals are from scratch and they are quick AND easy to make. I make a lot of stuff at home too – bread, yogurt, sweets, ice cream. Right now my husband and I are living on 1 income, his, and half of that each month goes to the mortgage. Are we rich? No, thats why we don't eat out (and yet we had filet mignon and roasted vegetables with home made chocolate pudding for dessert last night). People have crazy ideas about food costs because they fail to look at the bigger picture. All they see is food being a waste of time, so they don't care about its quality, just its quantity and speed of execution (their own).

    This whole school lunch issue is just another reason I am choosing to homeschool my kids. Education starts in the kitchen – chemistry, cooking, biology, cooking literature, photography of food (I write for a food blog), along with proper etiquette (something many have forgotten), independence, and a feeling of accomplishment. I never felt better than at 13 cooking my first meat and veg dinner for my family. They oohed and awwed at everything (despite the fact that it was slightly charred).

    I guess all I'm saying is Americans needs to start making better choices for themselves and the kids will follow. Starting with the kids while the parents still eat crap, is backwards and non-productive.

  26. I think it is interesting that so many people thing Panera is "healthy".. I copied some nutrition facts from the Panera website and the McDonald's website just to do some comparison:
    (and note that I am neither promoting nor condemning either restaurant–just sharing some facts)
    -Sierra Turkey Sandwich on Focaccia with Asiago Cheese has 970 calories and 54 grams of fat
    -Smokehouse Turkey Sandwich on Three Cheese has 720 calories and 29 grams of fat
    -Italian Combo Sanwich on Ciabatta has 1040 calories and 45 grams of fat
    -Cuban Chicken Panini has 860 calories and 37 grams of fat
    -Fuji Apple Salad with Chicken has 520 calories and 31 grams of fat
    -Double Cheeseburger has 440 calories and 23 grams of fat
    -Quarter Pounder with Cheese has 510 calories and 26 grams of fat
    -Big Mac has 540 calories and 29 grams of fat
    -Filet o Fish has 380 calories and 18 grams of fat

    I just think it is misleading that Panera seems to be marketed as a healthier place to eat when the fat and calories rival (and often top) McDonald's. And note that these sandwiches I listed don't even include the fat/calorie content of sides (potato chips, fries, soups, etc)

  27. I forgot to add the Tomato Basil Mozzarella salad at Panera (sounds healthy, right?) contains 770 calories and 47 grams of fat.

  28. Thank you for pointing this out-this discourse which appears on any blog that tries to get people to think a little bit.

    I feel like any chain restaurant is "fast" food, even the Romano Macaroni Grills and Red Robins of the world. Their business models are the very same that McD's uses. And our family doesn't eat at them because the food isn't that healthy for you. Not even the salads.

  29. It's definitely a personal taste thing, but I don't consider eat out weekly any number of times moderation. I would say once or twice a month is more close to moderation.

    It is certainly fine health-wise though to eat out more; if you are careful about where or what you eat when you aren't eating out.

    Right now I'm at a two week conference. Everything is made fresh and local, but being a restaurant, they tend to use way more cremes, oil, butter, salt, and sugar then I would ever use at home. And the portions are made to satisfy even the largest man, so I get pretty stuffed eating it every day.

    It hasn't even been a week! I can't imagine how eating chicken nuggets, pizza, and loads of stuff everyday would make you feel – stuff that isn't even made from scratch or with care. School lunch definitely needs to change!

    The same goes for any chain restaurant. The food is heavily prepped and processed to guarantee consistency. It doesn't matter how they are dressed – it's all the same chemicals, treatment, and bulk distribution. From McDonald's to Panera to Red Lobster to Cheesecake Factory, don't expect it to be real food or good for you.

    Do I still eat there? Every time I go back to the US to visit family! Everyone wants to take you out to dinner and seeing friends is more important than a week or two of questionable choices. Plus, there is no Mexican food to speak of in Europe – so I fill up when I can! However, the less and less I eat of fast food, the less and less I enjoy it when I do.

  30. I was a little put off by your McDonalds entry – only because I look for non biased posts that are informative and let me make my own decisions as to what I believe. I think most of the hubbub around that post was that it was mostly and opinion piece and not really informative.

    Perhaps the problem was that your readers trused you to provide fact and not as much opinion. I definitely understand that it is difficult to not interject opinion, but perhaps you can just preface that it is an opinion piece.

    I'm not opposed or pro McDs (or walnuts). I think people need to learn to make their own decisions about what is right for them, their families and their bodies. Everythign in moderation as you say whether its fast food or a fancy french meal slathered with butter.

    Fast food to me is basically anything that we eat that wasn't made from scratch. That box of hamburger helper or TV dinner = fast food. There is no devil in the fast food options, you just need to look for the options that are healthiest for you whether that means watchign the sodium, gluten, or meat in the option.

    just need to teach kids about nutrition and how to make choices for themselves, not force anything on them.

  31. Mrs. Q, I get that the reaction to the McD post took you by surprise, but what you wrote above is not what you wrote about McDonald's. If you told people go ahead, feed walnuts to your kids, but I think they're "utter crap" then I'm guessing you'd get the same reaction. (for the record, I knew you said something like junk or crap but I had to go back and look up the post to see you actually wrote "utter crap").

    I don't eat McDonald's either but over the years I have gotten really fed up with the holier-than-thou food attitude that seems to be in style nowadays. I don't think it's helpful.

    In my opinion, giving suggestions and being kind about it does more good than telling people that something they eat (or serve their kids) is "utter crap". Just being more diplomatic would have worked better. Saying that you don't eat at McD because of the fat, calories, sodium (whatever) is much more likely to lead to a real discussion than just saying it's "utter crap". That's a discussion ender. There's nothing for the other person to say at that point.

    I really like your blog and think you're doing great. And even if I didn't, I agree with those who say it's your blog, your right to say what you want. But it's also the right of the reader to disagree with you.

    I hope you'll read these comments and get where we're coming from. Even if you don't agree 😉

  32. A few comments:

    1. I agree with the posters who point out that this is your blog and you are free to express your opinions here.

    2. HOWEVER, I would also argue that your blog has a greater purpose than most blogs. You're not just sharing your opinions or building a blog-industry, you're trying to effect social change for the benefit of children. Branching out to other areas of food politics has the potential to disenfranchise your readers which could end up hurting your effort to improve school lunches. I'm not saying you can't do both, but I think you stand a greater chance of making a difference with school lunches if you stick to just that issue. But like I said, this is your blog so it's your decision whether to stick to one issue or branch out.

    3. Out of curiosity, does the fast food sold in schools for lunch have to meet the same dietary guidelines as the food "produced" in-house? Regardless of the how you feel about fast food, if the food doesn't meet the guidelines does it belong in school?

    4. Also, by offering fast food in school alongside the "healthier" school lunch options, the school is sending an implicit message that this food must be ok. Do we want to teach our kids that fast food is an acceptable meal to eat every day?

    5. To those who argue that children learn self-control by having access to "bad" foods: when I was in high school there were two lunch lines: the school lunch line and the fast food line with a different "restaurant" every day of the week. You might let your kids have a cookie after dinner but this is equivalent to asking your kids whether they would like a plate of cookies or plate of salad for dinner EVERY. DAY. What would your kids choose? And try to imagine what effect this would have on your kids' health after a month? Year? Lifetime?

    6. To those who argue that fast food is only bad if you don't exercise self-control: did you know that the frontal lobe of the brain (responsible for decision making and impulse control) doesn't fully develop until your MID TWENTIES? Adults can turn down a delicious, greasy slice of pizza in favor of a salad but kids (including most teenagers) are unlikely to make that choice. Is it responsible of us to put our kids in a situation where they can make bad decisions that may lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. that will affect them the rest of their life?

  33. In response to the poster who listed calorie/fat content for Panera & McD's items, I
    don't think you're giving the whole picture. Pretty much every restaurant, no matter what kind, has items on their menu that are terrible for you. As has been said before, it's about choices. Some other Panera and McD's numbers:

    -Asian Sesame Chicken Salad w/dressing: 490 cal, 27g fat
    -Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad w/dressing: 300 cal, 8g fat
    -Half Smoked Turkey Sandwich & Cup of Chicken-Noodle Soup: 360 cal, 10g fat
    Most of the bagels aren't too bad either – the worst (cinnamon crunch), with regular cream cheese, is 620 cal & 26g fat.

    -Angus Bacon & Cheese: 790 cal, 39g fat
    -Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips (5pc): 660 cal, 40g fat
    -Double Quarter Pounder w/Cheese: 740 cal, 42g fat

    I could give more examples, but you get the idea. It all depends on choices – there are better and worse ones at any restaurant.

    Portion size is also a big issue – when I get a salad at Panera, for example, I usually eat half of it and save the other half for the next day. Their salads are huge. I know other posters have said that Panera makes everything in advance, but I've never had a problem getting dressing on the side.

    To more generally answer Mrs. Q's question, I call places like McD's, Burger King, Wendy's fast food and places like Panera, Subway, Quiznos delis. Quantitatively, both have similar choices in terms of nutritional content: some are decent, some are astronomically awful. It's the qualitative difference that matters most to me – if I eat McD's or similar food, I don't feel well afterwards. Panera or Subway will satisfy me without leaving me feeling gross or in pain, and the options for fresh fruit/veggies are more abundant. Plus there's the psychological factor: I'm a lot more likely to order a healthier choice when I can't smell french fries!

  34. I will volunteer McD's information. I homeschool, so my kids eat lunch at home almost every single day. I would say that we eat healthier than average, but not nearly as healthy as some. We don't eat a lot of processed foods, daily snacks are fruit, yogurt, and cheesesticks. We eat meatless meals 2 or 3 days a week.

    We eat at McD's 2 or 3 times a month usually. The main reason for this is that we live in a rural area, and McD's is by far the closest to our house, and located on the main road which we use every time we go into town.

    Our typical order for the kids is a fruit and yogurt parfait and their choice of sandwich or nuggets. Two of the kids usually order the fish sandwich. We only order Happy Meals 2 or 3 times a year, when it is a toy that is especially nice. We always get drive through, so we just drink milk at home.

    I often order a large chicken sandwich meal for myself (because I try to avoid their beef) and all five of us share the fries, which works out to a small handful a piece.

    I'm surprised that so many people think eating out "only" once a week is moderation. I would say we eat out about that often, but I also would say that we eat out a lot, and I am always trying to plan better and have better self control so that we can cut that number down. I would say that eating out once or twice a month is not that often.

  35. I too was put off by your McDonalds post — not because you said you disliked it (plenty of people do), but the judge-y tone combined with the fact that the whole post was based on a factual error. You thought the eggs weren't real, several posters corrected you. At the time I saw the post, after comments were closed, the error was still in the post. This information may have been very misleading for readers who don't peruse the comments, which I thought was really irresponsible.

  36. Monica,
    I wasn't trying to give the whole picture– I was just showing that McDonald's and Panera rival each other in fat and calories for many of their items. The point was that while everybody knows getting a Bag Mac from McDonald's is an indulgence rather than a healthy option, many people would see a turkey sandwich from Panera as a healthy option without realizing they may be getting as much or more fat and calories than if they had gotten the Big Mac.

  37. People feel judged and defensive when they are presented with someone who has a different opinion or does things differently than they do.

    I am a vegetarian and have been for 6 years now. Everyone's first reaction is always defending their meat-eating ways, which I have to repeat over and over again is not necessary. I can honestly say I don't judge anyone (or care for that matter) about their eating habits, be it meat-eating, vegan, eating at McDonalds everyday or cooking at home only. People feel judged even when no judgment is placed.

    For example, my boyfriend is not a vegetarian. His favorite meal is steak and he loves bacon. I have cooked both of these for him, though I did not partake in the consumption, and I have faced a lot of scrutiny from other vegetarians for doing so, but I'm not going to let it bother me. I make the decisions of what I eat and do based on what I feel is right, and that's all that matters.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that you're allowed to have an opinion, but people are always going to feel criticized and try to defend themselves, even when that wasn't the intention of your actions. I think everyone just needs to be comfortable with themselves and their decisions, and respect that other peopel live differently than they do.

  38. Thanks so much for your comments! Those are some interesting points about Panera.

    @Jackie D – It's certainly not my "beloved" — I only go there once a month!

    @Shannon – I am a kind person. I'm pointing out in the post that I have a bias again McDonald's. Saying that I dislike their food and even saying it's "utter crap" should not make you feel bad unless you already have mixed feelings about the food there. If my bias against McDonald's disenfranchises you as a reader…well, I can't apologize for my own opinion on my blog.

    @Mackenzie – I'm pointing out in this post that I have a bias against McDonald's. I'm just letting you know that you may want to take that into consideration if you base your decision on where to eat from this blog.

    I strive to be as neutral as possible. I got many comments about my school lunch posts that I didn't come down hard *enough* on what was perceived as "bad" school lunches. I was trying to do a softer critique.

    What I felt like at the beginning of the year and how I feel now is very different. I have evolved into a more vocal advocate, more than I imagined. I have surprised myself.

    @Shannon if the "holier-than-thou" food attitude you read online bothers you, I have news for you: there is a good food revolution brewing. Food reform may be the next big march-on-Washington reform movement. Those "holier-than-thou" comments are not meant to bring you down, but instead to LIFT YOU UP! We're all in this together.

  39. Every once in a while, I get a craving for their fries or Egg McMuffin, no cheese. Actually, I really only like the egg and english muffin. I'm aware I can make it at home, but sometimes I don't feel like it.

    My love there is sweet tea and McFlurrys. I'm much happier now that they make M&M McFlurries in the small size. I can eat a few bites and put the rest in the freezer for another day. That's only a summer thing and maybe once or twice I get that craving. Honestly, if we had a Fro-Yo place in this town, I would go there instead, but since we don't I consider McD's the best ice cream source…

    I like Panera but I'll admit I don't go that often (we don't have one here) and when I do, I still to the stuff I know. I'm not really a fan of fancy mayo or melted cheese, so I would rather walk over to subway and get my sammich there…or even get some good turkey breast, whole grain bread and good lettuce and mustard at the store and make my own. I wish I was more motivated to cook turkey…

  40. I remember that McD's post.

    @Shannon – I am a kind person. I'm pointing out in the post that I have a bias again McDonald's. Saying that I dislike their food and even saying it's "utter crap" should not make you feel bad unless you already have mixed feelings about the food there. If my bias against McDonald's disenfranchises you as a reader…well, I can't apologize for my own opinion on my blog.

    It wasn't the utter crap part that stood out for me. It was the previous sentence coupled with the remark,

    "Bottom line: you will not see the Q family at a McDonald's. We think the food is utter crap."

    Struck a bit of a superior tone I think. It could be that is what bothered people so much. But this is your blog which is just your opinion. I hope you continue it.

  41. we eat out a lot i would say in my family. my mom loves to cook. so do i. but my dad and brothers are way to picky. they basically only eat hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, pizza. my mom and me? pasta, mexican, chinese, salads and so much more. i'd eat a salad half the time for dinner if i could. we never get to have or make anything we want so…we eat out. im 15 and most the time at mcdonalds…i get a happy meal. because i like the small preportions.

  42. I like McDonald's. When I think of yummy fries; I think McDonald's. Having said that, I eat there maybe three times a year. Overall, I have drivethrough food probably an average of once a month.

    I love high fat foods and no amount of healthy eating can change that desire, however I know it's not a healthy lifestyle. So for all those who say I eat there because it's cheaper or because I don't know better; sorry you're just wrong. There are times that I do not have time to cook or to run into somewhere and wait for food. Fast food salads or sandwiches are sometimes the only choice I have other than skipping a meal.

    I live in a decent sized metropolitan area, I work downtown and live in the suburbs. I work out three or four nights a week after working in the city and attend my boyfriend's softball game one night a week in the summer. I have elderly parents on the opposite side of the city. I have a dog that has to be walked three times a day.

    I find it interesting that most ballplayers skip dinner and are amazed that I come with a cooler to the game that has my dinner in it. Sometimes though, it's an early game or my dog needed some extra time or I left work late. I'm really glad for fastfood salads at these times. My boyfriend plays better with a grilled chicken sandwich in his belly so sometimes I grab that for him.

    Some commenters say they don't want to be judgemental but they can't help it. Yes they can. They choose their attitude and they've chosen to be judgey. They are undoubtedly teaching their children to be holier than thou too. That is just sad.

  43. Panera is classified as "fast casual." It stands between fast food and a casual sit down place. ANY chain restaurant (fast food to sit down) uses precooked items. That's how they keep the taste the same from coast to coast. Just because something looks healthy, doesn't mean it is- if you're worried do your homework!

    And remember, our knowledge base changes as do our social concerns. Avocados were once considered to be really bad for you because they are high in fat (Thankfully it's a good fat!). And what about eggs?! Are they meat? Are they good for you? Are they bad? Whites versus yolks, anyone?

  44. Mrs. Q, I seem to have hit a nerve. I didn't say you weren't a kind person, I'm sorry if it sounded like I meant that.

    Like I said, I don't eat at McD, but I also don't agree when people say that the words of others only hurt if there is truth in them. An insult is an insult, no matter if it's true or not. Someone could certainly eat at McD and be ok with that and still be turned off by a comment like that. I don't even eat at McD and I didn't care for it.

    The point I was trying to make is that phrases such as "utter crap" shut down the conversation. Something like that doesn't leave room for a reasonable conversation. You can't go anywhere from there.

    "Utter crap" is also not informative. It doesn't give the person any information. It could just as easily be used for a perfectly healthy food item that you just don't like the taste of. I think it makes more sense to talk about *why* you don't like McD and what you do like about Panera or your homemade food.

    *That* is a healthy food reform movement I can get behind. And that is what I meant by being kind.

  45. I've always felt that when the listener is least confident with their choices they are most offended by a differing opinion, especially one that is stated with absolute conviction. I've seen it with bottle vs breast, SAHM vs WOHM, cloth vs disposable and my personal favorite CIO vs co sleeping. When we question our own decisions we are threatened by someone secure in theirs. Plus the human desire not to lose face can inspire some to be rather passionate in their rebuttals.

    For me, I'm not a fan of fast food. I don't want to put it in my body and I try to limit it in my 6 year old. My company buys lunch for our employees once a week, today was Taco Bell day. I really don't like Taco Bell, it makes my stomach ache. Why should I feel obligated to put into my body something that will make me sick? I'm not. Is it going to offend my employees if I seek out a healthier alternative? Hope not. Because that's what I did, I bought myself some sushi. I'm not going to eat fast food just to make them feel ok about their choices to consume it-multiple times a week. I know my body does not run right when I eat fast food and it's up to me to protect my own health.

  46. I must say that eating at McDonald's holds an emotional attachment for me. When I was growing up, we only ate at McDonald's occasionally. It was always considered a special treat. So I still like to eat there occasionally – maybe once a month, but I do not go crazy. I usually eat off the dollar menu which gives me a small portion but enough food.

    That said, I have found it very interesting to listen to my students talk about "eating out". McDonald's is not special for them. It is a normal place to eat dinner.

    I think that chicken nuggets/pizza are probably over-served at schools, but I am not sure who is responsible for the ordering… district, individual school, government?

  47. mmh…. I like McDonald's, but no more then twice a year… eating there more often is very boring!

  48. I ABHOR the "everything in moderation" comment. I hate it.

    Because let's face it, anyone can justify their own version of "moderation". And I find that what I consider to be moderation and what most others consider to be moderation are two different things.

    I feel a child eating junk food every single day isn't moderation, it's regularity. But some people consider it moderation.

    It's not a good excuse and it's not a good argument because there is no definition of "moderation".

  49. I'm definitely in the "I don't like McDonalds" camp.

    However, I did learn recently that they are a huge mover in the fish world – that is, they consult with the environmental groups regularly and ensure that they are properly sourcing the 5 species of white fish that they are using in their fish sandwiches. Indeed, they have influenced the fishing markets because of their size.

    Still…. it's fast food that I don't want to eat nor do I want my family to eat it.

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