Home Health News Can Fast Food Ever Be A Part Of Clean Eating?

Can Fast Food Ever Be A Part Of Clean Eating?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Again, coming straight from the BGG2WL FB page:

Be glad you’re not in the UK right now, because we know you’d be beating down the doors of your local Burger King just to get your hands on the limited-time-only “Sprout Surprise Whopper,” featuring that most beloved of burger add-ons, Brussels sprouts.

Brussels sprouts are apparently associated with the holidays in the UK (maybe they are here too, though I’ve never come across it), so the King has created a Whopper topped with sprouts and emmental cheese.

Said someone in charge of culinary development at BK UK with a completely straight face:

We believe that taste is king, and as such, we wanted to create a recipe that would challenge existing sprout perceptions, and genuinely make sprouts a flavour to be reckoned with.

Judging by this statement on the BK UK Facebook page, it appears that even in Ol’ Blighty the response to the Sprout Whopper wasn’t exactly oohs and ahhhs: “[S]orry to hear some of you weren’t too keen on the idea of the Sprout Surprise Whopper yesterday, but we’re confident that The King can make even Brussels Sprouts taste good!” [source]

Even though this is in the UK – it would be clearly labeled a result of “food policing” in the US – I still have questions.

The article was dropped on the FB page with the question of “while i’m sure it’s unhealthy and all that, could it be considered a “cleaner” alternative?

I know my answer… but what’s yours?

And furthermore… what does it take for you to consider a fast food restaurant “clean” or is “cleaner” acceptable?

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Nicole January 6, 2011 - 12:44 PM

Ugh, I wouldn’t touch that with a ten foot pole. Since eating cleaner I think I have become more skeptical of things that I once thought were a delicacy.

I definitely struggle with not planning. I know Erika has offered tons of tips but I just can’t get it right! As a result I am often left at lunch time to make a decision of what I can eat quickly that is clean.

Cleaner is not acceptable to me. I have been starving and unprepared and resorted to a salad w/out meat or dressing. It doesnt really bother me anymore, but my friends think I am crazy. Burger King, McDonalds, Popeyes, KFC, etc all make me cringe. My problem is overeating at mealtime at home :/.

Heli January 6, 2011 - 1:22 PM

Weird. Of course adding Brussels sprouts doesn’t make a Whopper cleaner, but it adds a serving (or portion thereof) of veggies. *shrug* Adding veggies doesn’t make the bad aspects of a Whopper less bad, but if you’re already going to eat the Whopper, you probably could use the extra veggies in your diet.

I personally have zero problem with grabbing a fast food salad if that’s my best/cheapest option while out, and sometimes it is. I choose grilled chicken, skip the croutons and other processed additions, and choose the lowest-sugar lesser evil dressing option. If someone thinks that using half a pack of Newman’s organic dressing once a month takes away my clean eating cred, so be it. Personally, I don’t think it does.

Most restaurant meals, fast or slow, are not going to be as clean as meals you make at home. But I think that if you try hard enough, you can find a reasonably clean, healthy option on nearly any menu you encounter. If it’s not on there, customize it yourself. Some fast food joints are harder than others (Taco Bell comes to mind, though you could do a lot worse than a cup of pintos & cheese.)

April January 3, 2012 - 4:24 PM

“…adding Brussels sprouts doesn’t make a Whopper cleaner…”

You took the words right out of my mouth. And if the sprouts are laden in oil, or some other concoction, what’s the benefit in that other than a little fiber?

I love Brussels sprouts, but UGH! That’s just nasty!

Sirobe January 6, 2011 - 1:26 PM

Hi Erika!

I’ve been following your blog for awhile now, and I must say congrats on your transformation and I love the blog!

I’m glad you hit this topic, because my answer is NO, NO, and HECK NO! The reason being besides how fast food is cooked (fried, tons fo grease, etc) and besides what it is fries, salads, etc… there is a main component of fast food that makes it unhealthy: how it’s preserved. The documentary “FOOD Inc.” looks at how food is processed and industialized, and fast food and restaurant chains are the worst! Due to the packaging and bulk quanities. Even SUBWAY, which everyone swears is healthy is still industrialized food.

When I eat out, I try to stick to mom and pop spots only! I lived in Italy for 2 years and lost tons of weight. Half of it was the walking everywhere, but the other half was the “freshest” food possible. I won’t say “FRESH” because even from the store it has been processed. However, still not as harmful as chains. Even when I ate there, the food was either delivered that morning or bought at the grocery store (small bars and delis). Also, dare I say it, but I ate a TON of carbs. However, again, those fast food carbs (vs fresh out of the bakery) were more dangerous and harder to digest.

If you can, would you do a post on the dangers of industrialized food?

Thanks and keep up the good work!


Jaci January 6, 2011 - 3:20 PM

What?!? It isn’t Wednesday!

Erika January 6, 2011 - 3:30 PM

ROFL You mean Saturday, for the Weekend WTF?

Ohhh, don’t worry – I’ve got something GREAT for this Saturday. LOLOL

Rita January 7, 2011 - 12:17 AM

This has been my primary dilemma in my clean eating efforts. As a working student, I often succumb to a lack of planning so I try to make “smarter” fast food options. More veggies, less meats and breads, extra bottles of water. I’ve been known to hit a Wendy’s and choose a salad with 2 bottles of water, no dressing. Followed up with a mini bag of mixed nuts for protein.all serving to tide me over til I get home and/or half time to cook/properly eat.

Kels January 7, 2011 - 2:16 AM

I’m gonna go with “What is No?” for 800, Alex. When I think of clean, I think of simple. Unfooled around with. I don’t associate any of those things with fast food. Fast food is clean right off a tree.

The Fitness Enthusiast January 13, 2011 - 12:52 AM

I do not believe any fast food can be apart of ‘clean’ eating. I just know that most companies will take one crap thing out of a food item, and put something else in just as worse.

But thats just me.

Tiffany March 1, 2011 - 1:42 PM

I am in the minority. I believe that you INDEED can eat clean at fast food spots. The key here is to plan ahead and everything in moderation. A couple of fast food restaurants have healthy options and I choose those every time. You can find their nutritional information on their website and create your own ‘healthier’ meal before you go and order. Most of these sites have info on eating under 500 calories. Here are some suggestions for under 500 calories that will fill you up and be able to eat out with friends or your spouse.

I got a lot of these suggestions from “Eat This, Not That” website and books:
-Wendy’s: small chili (no cheese or crackers) and side salad (no croutons/cheese) with my own low cal/fat free dressing at home
-Chick-fil-a: grilled chicken sandwich
– McDonald’s: after a long run on Saturday morning, I’ll get an egg mcmuffin (350 cal); their grilled chicken snack wrap with honey mustard sauce is low fat too…
– Baja Fresh: 2 mahi mahi tacos
-Taco Bell: 2 fresco style steak or chicken tacos

To me it is not about saying that you can’t eat what you want. It’s about moderation and making better choices. Get those fries in a small size and then get a salad with low cal dressing if you have to have fries!!! Life is too short. Of course you must workout too!

Erika Nicole Kendall March 1, 2011 - 1:46 PM

Clean eating isn’t about simply calories. It’s about the QUALITY of the ingredients, as well… and fast food spots are NOTORIOUS for poor quality foods.

So while you can maintain a calorie budget there, you can NOT, in fact, eat “cleanly” there.

Phyllis April 17, 2011 - 10:14 PM

If I eat fast food it is always a salad. It is usually for lunch on break from work so I like something lighter.

Celine April 10, 2012 - 5:43 PM


Also for those who mention just getting a salad with no dressing: Greens (all kinds of lettuce, spinach, kale, etc.) are always on the “dirty dozen” list meaning they have tons of pesticides sprayed on them.

And of course if you DO use their dressings it will have at least two of the usual bad suspects: soybean oil, corn syrup and/or artificial sweetener.

Catherine January 2, 2012 - 4:32 AM

Of course this depends on your idea of “clean” in “clean eating”. Is it all natural ingredients? Or is it specific macronutrients in certain amounts? Or anything else considered “clean”?

I like the all natural category and I would say no, due to the fact that there is too much at stake for them to go that road. In the macronutrients area, may it take more chemicals to change the product and still make it tasty?

Either way, the eating part is up to the person. I could take one normal bite of a burger and stop. I don’t think I could be entirely penalized for that one bite. The reason people eat it is for the taste. Health isn’t always an issue in the retrospect.

April January 3, 2012 - 4:40 PM

The only fast food place that I’ve seen to have a clean menu is Pret-a-Manger or Pret. Awesome all-natural fresh foods without the chemicals and additives. Even their sodas (which I haven’t had) are all natural. The list the ingredients and calorie count for each item on the shelves, full nutritional data is on the website. I love the Shrimp and Cilantro Wrap. Any food that doesn’t get sold that day goes to a local food bank.

I will say that all the items the sell can be made at home, but on days that you didn’t do that, this is the place to go. Hopefully there’s one near you.


Erika Nicole Kendall January 3, 2012 - 6:32 PM

Are you in NYC? Is this the place on the other side of Union Square from WF?

April January 4, 2012 - 3:43 PM

No, I’m in Washington, DC. A new one just opened up in Union Station. I know there’s a rack of ’em in NY though. And there is one at Union Square.

Union Square
857 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

Mary Ann MacKay February 24, 2012 - 7:39 PM

I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole! I love Brussels Sprouts and this just seems . . . wrong!

Seriously, though, I’m with Erika – it’s not just the quantity of calories – quality is MUCH more important. And not just what the food item is (at fast food places, I would even question whether some of the items are actually food!) but how it is processed and prepared as well.

I would have to be pretty desperate to resort to fast food.

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