Lunch Literature Book Club #fastfoodlover

Every morning my husband drops our son off at day care and each night I pick him up. Seeing his face when I come and get him is my favorite moment of the day. It’s like therapy.

He always runs to me and gives me a big hug. Then he cocks his hand to the side and asks, “You got someping ‘pecial?”

That’s because I often have a little nibble for him in my car. Sometimes it’s a small cookie, nuts, or a bite or two of a bar. The treat is not always food. This week I gave him a package silly bands. He put all 12 of them on and was quite proud.

When I picked up my son tonight, I overheard a mom say to her kids, “We’re going to McDonald’s for dinner tonight!”

Fast food is such an easy option on weeknights, especially Friday. My little family eats dinner early and with my husband working late these past couple weeks it’s been challenging for me to get something prepared with my son underfoot. Luckily my little guy wants to help and so I’ve been involving him. He dumps food into bowls and stirs. He feels so important!

Over the past two weeks we’ve had to resort to fast food a couple times. We went to Chipotle this week and the week before we went to Noodles and Co. Two weekends ago the three of us ate at Five Guys. They use pure ingredients and my son and I could eat their burgers and fries without any tummy problems! The ingredients in their fries? Potatoes with skins on fried in 100% peanut oil. Honestly, I pigged out. Be aware the restaurant also gives out raw peanuts.

Normally, I’m not interested in eating beef. We don’t buy it at the grocery store and rarely eat out. But I am not an island. My husband likes to eat the occasional burger and told me that he wanted to eat out at a place he thought was nutritionally safe for the whole family (that’s why we went to Five Guys).

As I read Fast Food Nation, it’s hard for me to read the statistics (I’m re-reading the book actually). I’m assuming you are going through the same turmoil. Given what you are learning about our food supply, how do you justify going out for the occasional burger? Or should we abandon all fast food excursions? I have found it not to be that easy. What about you?

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13 thoughts on “Lunch Literature Book Club #fastfoodlover

  1. We can't justify going out for monetary reasons. It also strikes me that people might have different definitions of fast food. For example, we have a Mexican place in town that we consider "fast food" because they make everything quickly. However, they use quality ingredients unlike actual fast food places.
    However, I've found that abandoning fast food excursions to be quite easy when we are on one income.

  2. I'm glad to know you and your son had no problems at 5 Guys. I tend to feel ill after eating fast food, but I've never had an issue at 5 Guys. I think both their ingredients and processes are more pure than other fast food places — the burgers are formed and cooked much like many of us would cook our burgers at home when not using an outdoor grill.

    I think it's okay to go out once in a while, especially if you know that the place you've chosen uses quality ingredients, treats their employees well, and gives you a good value for your money. My husband and I are really health conscious and live on a single income, but we still make the occasional trip to places like Five Guys and Chipotle. Being that my father-in-law is a Subway franchisee, we tend to go for franchised versus corporately owned restaurants whenever possible. Once in awhile, we go out to eat somewhere a little nicer, like a pizza place that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives a few years ago — but again, this place meets my specifications for a good place to eat, being locally owned, using quality ingredients, treating the employees and customers well, and being a good value for my money.

  3. I stopped eating fast food chain burgers and buying supermarket beef, especially ground beef, after reading Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle's books and seeing Food, Inc., King Corn, and Super Size Me. Those books and movies were great aversion therapy and definitely made it easier to cut out fast food. I haven't started reading Fast Food Nation yet.

    Five Guys only came to this area a few months ago and the closest one is about 35 min. away from my home. I would have to drive past a favorite mom and pop place that sells steamed cheeseburgers to get to that Five Guys so I haven't tried them yet but I think I'd feel comfortable eating their burgers.

    Chipotle came to this area about year ago. I haven't eaten there because when I checked out their nutrition guide, I was appalled at the sodium content of their food. I'll probably give the place a try at some point but the sodium thing is a real turnoff for me especially because Chipotle touts their food as healthy.

    I tend to eat burgers, and eat out in general, more often in the summer than I do the rest of the year. One locally-owned place whose burgers I like is a seasonal seafood shack on the way to the beach. Their meat is from a local source I trust. I love their burgers without cheese which I think speaks volumes about how good the beef is. I do love a good cheeseburger, but the first time I eat a burger at a new place, I typically order it without cheese so I can really taste the beef.

    I'll only buy ground beef if it's not CAFO beef and only if it's ground in-store the same day. I only buy what I will use the same day and I won't freeze it for later use. Here's where I'm something of a hypocrite regarding frozen ground beef, though. One of my friends maintains a herd of 6 to 9 beef cattle. Various other friends of mine will buy a side from them and they always have the processor package ground beef and burger patties for their freezer. I will eat that previously frozen ground beef. I guess I'm comfortable eating it because I knew the animals when they were alive, I saw how they lived and what they ate, and I know every person involved in handling the meat down the entire processing chain.

  4. I agree with Kim that the books I have read have been "aversion therapy" for me. I somehow manage to avoid eating at fast food chains in general. I've been successful at convincing my friends to go to other restaurants instead, which is pretty significant, considering we're college students and all. 🙂 But I think they just know me well enough that they don't even suggest McDonalds to me. 😉

    However, the other day we went to Culvers for ice cream. Out of curiosity, I got the lemon ice instead of their divine frozen custard. Big mistake. After my first bite, I could TELL it was made with artificial sweetener. It was SICKENINGLY sweet. And halfway through the dish, I got a piercing headache that lasted on and off for the proceeding hour, the kind of headache I got for weeks when I quit artificial sweeteners last year. I don't know if they could actually affect my body that fast…but I think it's pretty darn suspicious. Anyway, the whole episode reminded me that I never know what I'm putting into my body when I eat out. Kinda depressing, but a necessary reality check.

  5. But aren't you and your son gluten-free? Do you avoid the bun? I'm confused — bread is bread, even at Five Guys.

  6. as someone who has worked in fast food for a big part of my life, knowing how the food is prepared keeps me from wanting it that often. sometimes i can satisfy the craving by making homemade versions of fast food items (like a homemade version of kfc's mashed potato bowl), but sometimes i do give in to my burger cravings. i can't tolerate mcdonald's food, but do like burger king and steak and shake burgers.

  7. Thanks to everyone who commented!

    Anonymous — we order the burgers without a bun.

    I just wanted to share that even though we normally buy the very best (organic), sometimes we also go out. It's hard to avoid.

  8. I don't think going out in and of itself is a bad thing. I'd prefer to not support the places that use processed foods and treat their workers badly. I also hate to see money go to some large corporation instead of to the farmers that produced the food. Local/sustainable farming supporters are at the top of my list when I go out. I find no problem in buying from a place (like many near where I live) that has their own garden out back and buys from local organic farmers for the rest (and makes better-tasting food to boot!).

    Also, I don't mind Chipotle every once in a while (which for me means like 1/month maybe) because, although they are kind of large, they support sustainable farming, etc. They are not really in the same "fast food" category as McDonald's for me. And to clarify for a commenter above, they don't tout their food as "healthy" but rather as less processed and more in support of sustainable farmers. They know it's not health food, but at least if you are going to eat something gluttonous as a treat, you can support better farming practices while you are doing it and not ingest all the chemicals associated with classical fast food joints.

  9. Anonymous (who linked the nutrition facts for McD's and Five Guys),

    I can't get the links to work, but did you compare a regular McDonald's burger to a Five Guys Little Hamburger? The patties at Five Guys are 1/4lb each, which might explain the difference.

  10. For the person who could not open the links, I think you are on to something:

    McD Hamburger: 250 cal, 9g fat, serving size 100g

    5G Hamburger: 700 cal, 43g fat, serving size 265g!

    5G Little Hamburger: 480 cal, 26g fat, serving size 171g

    So, if you account for serving sizes, and had 2 McD burgers to = a 5G burger in weight, then the calories are ~the same, but there is still ~50% more fat in the 5G burger. Hope that helps!

  11. I try to plan ahead and make fast-food-like things at home so we're not in the mood to go out and get something similar for a while (organic turkey burgers and sweet potato fries, tacos with black beans, homemade pizza, etc.).

    However, with my husband's work schedule being unpredictable, my 3-year-old's attention span for toys still rather short, and fast food places just two blocks away, we have not been able to eliminate them completely.

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