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. For the record, I wish I could eat walnuts, but they are the only nut I'm allergic to!

    I love your blog, and you should definitely keep up the good work! No matter what you do in your life, there are going to be people who are "haters."

    I choose not to eat fast food at all for a few reasons, a)if I'm going to waste my calories on a burger and fries, it had better be a GOOD burger and fries, b)I live within walking distance of very good local restaurants and an organic grocery store that makes killer pizza, sammaches, and chicken salad, c)I would absolutely prefer to eat frozen spinach for dinner than sodium laden fast food.

    I used to be a die hard Taco Bell fan until I took home one of their nutritional pamphlets and discovered that while my Fresco bean burritos were low fat and low calorie, they had 1000mg of salt each!

  2. I rarely eat McD's. Maybe once or twice a year when on road trips and there aren't any other options close by. And when I do, it's either a Happy Meal (small sizes!) or something like the plain ice cream cone.

    I am like you, Mrs. Q — I like cooking. When we do eat out, which is once or twice a week or once/twice every other week, it's usually the local pizza place — from-scratch crust, sauce, etc.


  3. I loved your walnut analogy 🙂

    I'll admit that I often find the comments on your blog much more judgmental than your posts.

    I remember before I became a mom, saying things like "I'll never drive a mini-van". As my daughter gets older, and I try to balance the influences of her social circle, I try to live by the "never say never" approach.

  4. Good post. I like McDonald's. I would believe that there's something addictive in the food. My mom took me there once or twice a week when I was little (she was recently divorced and poor and I guess trying to cook for a 3-year-old wasn't the easiest task) and I've liked it ever since. I think my mom regrets this.

    With that being said — I eat there maybe once a month. The times when I've eaten there more often (twice in 4 days last weekend when I was traveling) I've felt physically bad and unhappy with myself for eating so many empty calories. I usually get the chicken nuggets Mighty Kids Meals, which I think are enough food to satisfy an adult. And I am not overweight; in fact, my BMI is closer to the underweight range.

    One of the reasons why I ate at McDonald's twice last week is because I was in southwest Virginia for a few days volunteering for a health fair that provided free dental, medical and vision care. And there weren't too many other places to eat, especially when I wanted a bite on the road. It got me thinking, because obesity is so high in that area. If someone is working a blue-collar job and does not have access to a fridge, they cannot pack their lunch even if they really wanted to. So where are you going to get lunch when you can only spend a few dollars? What are you going to do for dinner for your kid if you work two jobs to make ends meet and have no time to cook?

  5. I like walnuts…they don't like me! I am allergic to them (strangely enough, I don't react as much to pecans, which was good when we lived in a house with a pecan tree – pop a Benadryl and pass the pecans!). I also like McD's, a couple of times a month. I like a honey mustard grilled chicken snack wrap along with a side salad (which isn't just iceberg lettuce) with the Paul Newman balsamic vinaigrette; I also like the Southwest premium salad with grilled chicken – I squeeze the lime wedge all over the salad and just use a touch of the southwest dressing. Not too bad for a former QPC and fries girl – now that stuff just makes me ill. Now if I want a cheeseburger, I make it at home.

    I am a 3rd year law student with a family and my husband's health doesn't allow him to cook much anymore, so our teenagers are learning how to cook. We're teaching them not only technique but how to put together a well balanced meal. It's a work in progress. Some days, I just get deli meat, hearty whole grain bread, and baked chips, and we eat that along with something like carrot sticks or apple wedges. Some days, that just all I can do, but I like to think that it's a not-too-bad, quick meal with minimal effort.

    As for indulgences…We have a huge university about 10 minutes from us, and that university has a dairy farm. They milk the cows, and then they make ice cream right on campus. GREAT ice cream! Inexpensive, too! Nothing better on a summer evening than to go to the Dairy Store, and eat our ice cream outside!

  6. Mrs Q, I was thoroughly amused by your walnut analogy. I can't have been the only person who regularly reads the comments and saw the same trend you did. I think my favorite "mcwalnut" moment were the 5,000 reactions to you eating yogurt for lunch one day.

    It reminds me of Aesop's Fable about the Man, the Boy, and the Donkey:

    A man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”

    So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

    So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

    Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor Donkey of yours—you and your hulking son?”

    The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, until at last they cut down a pole, tied the Donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the Donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

    “That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them, “PLEASE ALL, AND YOU WILL PLEASE NONE.”

  7. I hope that some of you will read the book by Eric Schlosser called Fast Food Nation. It will change the way you look at the meat and fast food industry. We love meat in my home, but after realizing how unsafe so much of it can be, we opt to buy sustainably raised, grass-fed beef from a local farmer. It's more expensive, so we just eat meat a little less often. Personally I think McDonald's food tastes terrible and is, with other fast/processed foods, ruining our palates, but beyond that I am offended by the way they market to children so directly (happy meals, playland, etc.)–

  8. Laura, I am one who posted that my family eats at McD's regularly and I HAVE read Fast Food Nation. We also bought a local pig, had it butchered, and eat that at home, along side our few meatless meals a week. People really can pick and choose what works for their family.

  9. Well, personally I enjoy anchovies. Don't anyone diss my anchovies, because that would be unnecessarily inflammatory. Now come over here and let me breathe on you…

    …anyway, my kids don't eat McDonalds anymore because my eldest watched SuperSize Me and they both watched that Jamie Oliver chicken nugget cooking demonstration. I do let them order off the value menu at Wendy's a few times a month, but I try to keep it to two items per kid. Nobody needs to eat a burger and a frosty and fries and a soda.

    We also enjoy the occasional Taco Time meal. They have some lighter options that aren't bad.

  10. Several people have mentioned the nutritional information available on Panera's website, but I urge everyone who eats there to look it up for yourself. It's not just the calories and sodium content — check out the ingredients. In many cases, it's pretty nasty stuff. Panera does better on some things than McDonald's does, but a lot of it is simply window dressing.

    Same with Subway: Look up the ingredients. Lots of preservatives and additives, and almost every bread contains high-fructose corn syrup.

  11. I don't know if there are hard & fast rules as to what defines "moderation". We do occasionally eat McDonalds or a similar burger fast food type place, mostly when traveling (I can't eat Subway, it makes me sick. I suspect they treat their veggies with something for freshness? I get ill every stinkin' time.). I usually get a salad because I prefer it to the other food but I do let my kids get a burger or nuggets or fries. I have one kid who is good about moderation (if we've had to eat fast food for lunch she'll ask for broccoli or salad at dinner) and another who would happily eat chicken nuggets/strips for every meal every day if I didn't intervene. For our family, moderation means we don't necessarily ban any food but we do try to limit amount eaten. There are foods I simply won't buy but the kids are free to eat them at someone else's home (sometimes they do, sometimes they pass).

    I think most restaurant food is of pretty similar quality… restaurant soups are notoriously salty, salad dressings can be as fatty as burgers, stir fries can be full of MSG, etc. Kids menus are horrible; is a grilled cheese or mac & cheese any healthier than a burger or chicken strips and fries? In most cases, I doubt it. Even with salad bars you run the risk of E. coli or other contamination if food is not properly handled. So unless you are making food yourself, it's very difficult to know just how healthy your meal is and how "moderate" you are being. You have to make the best choice you can at the time.

  12. I'm sorry you closed comments on the other post, but you were right the first time. If McD's uses real eggs, then how come hydrogenated oil is now listed as an ingredient in their eggs? It didn't used to be. I am allergic to hydrogenated oil, so what used to be a quick cheap breakfast option (no ham, no cheese) is now off limits. You are right to hate them, they are everything that is wrong with this country's eating habits.

  13. The main thing that needs to be put into prespective is that it is cheaper to eat unhealthy foods. People who can afford to give thier kids organic baby carrots and ranch dip are not likely the ones eating at McDonalds everyday. To put it into persepective a grilled chicken salad is about $7.00 while a hamburger is just $1.00 on the dollar menu. It is also great to think that everyone would prefer to have homemade organic chicken nuggets, but it's the same thing as school food, everything comes down to budget. The kids who really need the healthy food don't get it because thier parents/ school district can afford it. Eating habits are learned, but it is hard to learn good eating habits when they are not available to you.

  14. you should probably ask 'is what I eat at panera junk food?' It doesn't matter if it's fast, since a pre-made salad is fast-food right? But if it's a salad with ingredients which are not healthy or health promoting then it's still junk food.

    BTW: check out the book eat for health if you would like to get a crash course in proper nutrition 😉 oh and Thanks for bringing awareness to the horrible school lunch programs

  15. I like how Michael Pollan summed up healthy eating: "Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants." I read a lot about nutrition and, excepting fad diets, have not found any disagreements with that. The longest-living peoples on the plant, such as in the Mediterranean and in Okinawa, have nothing resembling fast food in their traditional diets. And Dr. Andrew Weil, in his book "Eating Well for Optimum Health," points out that fast food, with its heavy fat, salt and refined carb content and lack of veggies and fiber, easily qualifies as "the worst diet in the world." So I think that Mrs. Q is vindicated in calling McD's "utter crap."

    Sure, there is a place for crap…I get an order of fries there maybe half a dozen times a year, when I am on a long road trip and don't feel like stopping for a real meal. I don't know how much one can eat of fast food and still be "moderate," but if the prevalence of obesity and its associated chronic diseases are any judge, Americans aren't moderate, and the rest of the world is poised to follow suit. Of course, we can (and do) find crap in the grocery store as well, not to mention in school lunches, so the problem is much larger than fast food.

    As far as Panera goes, I do like the salads, and yes, I can get the dressing on the side. I'm sure Panera has lots of unhealthy stuff too, but as far as the salads go, I think they taste fresher. I've tried McDonald's and it tastes like chemicals to me.

  16. I'm sorry I'm so late to comment on this. It's a very interesting discussion, and I can't hold back!

    Here's what I consider moderation:
    -I go to McDonald's on average once a month.
    -For my 2- and 4-year-old, I order a fruit and yogurt parfait and regular milk each.
    -For myself, I order a grilled chicken salad (use 1/2 the dressing) or three chicken select strips and an iced tea (fresh-brewed, non-sweetened!).
    -We get a fruit and walnut salad to share.
    -Maybe every other time we get a small french fry to share.
    -We occasionally get chocolate chip cookies.
    -I've also been known to get ice cream sundaes, but as a stand-alone treat, not in addition to a McDonald's meal.

    I don't consider most of the other food at McDonald's to be healthy, and I certainly don't think the food I order is better than something I could make at home. But when I am out on the road longer than expected, and my kids are hungry, I think it's awesome that I can order my children fruit, yogurt, and milk from a drive-thru window.

    No one with a car full of small children will deny how terribly convenient drive-thrus are. If I could get drive-thru sushi or vegetables or whole-grain somthing-or-other instead, I probably would. But if I can't get out of the car, I consider McDonald's my best option.

    So, just be smart about any restaurant food. Know the healthy options and make it an occasional meal. That's moderation to me.

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