I don’t want to be a crappy housewife. Can I serve fast food for dinner?

A few weeks ago, a friend introduced me to Tonje Langeteig’s song, “I Don’t Wanna Be a Crappy Housewife.” If you’re not familiar with the song, look it up. Consider yourself warned, though, it’s annoyingly catchy and fairly bad.

Regardless, I can relate to her sentiment. Mark and I got married in September, and when it’s my turn to cook, I strive to make good, healthy meals on a regular basis. That said, we have busy schedules, and I’m sure individuals throughout the Twin Cities can relate to the difficulty of finding time to make and eat balanced meals at home.

As a result, we sometimes sit down for a fancy dinner at one of the local fast food franchises. If I don’t want to be a crappy housewife – especially one who is studying to become a certified nutritionist – does that mean I should outlaw dinner at McDonald’s and Culvers?

For many people, permanently removing fast food from the diet may be unrealistic.

Meals from fast food franchises typically contain more fat, more cholesterol, more calories and less fiber than meals cooked at home, but there are things you can do to make your fast food dinners less diet-defying. Think about the following tips next time you’re at a fast food restaurant.

Did you know that frying foods adds about 50 percent more fat and/or calories? When you’re thinking about what to order, look for items that are grilled, not fried. For example, a grilled chicken sandwich from Wendy’s has eight grams of fat, compared with the 18 grams that are in a deep-fried, breaded chicken sandwich. You can also ask for a baked potato instead of French fries, which you can top with low-fat dressing.

Many burgers and sandwiches also come covered in several tablespoons of sauce. If you are ordering a burger or chicken sandwich, ask them hold the mayo. One tablespoon of mayo contains about 100 calories, and many burgers have more than one tablespoon. Think along the same lines with fish sandwiches. One tablespoon of tartar sauce has about 75 calories of fat.

Although sour cream and guacamole have fewer calories – about 25 calories per tablespoon – most restaurants don’t stop at one tablespoon. (Can you picture the workers at Chipotle adding your guacamole and sour cream with a ladle? Yikes.)

Add extra tomato or lettuce to give your sandwich more flavor. If you’re determined to have sauce on your sandwich, ask them to put low-fat dressings on the side, so you can determine how much you actually use.

After you order your sandwich, your next choice is what to wash it down with. The healthiest option is to drink your meal with water or milk. A 16-ounce soda adds about 200 calories to your meal; a medium chocolate shake adds about 350 calories; and a large shake easily adds more than 775 calories – or more.

If you want a few bites of dessert but don’t think you’ll be able to restrain yourself after that, you have a few options. For most people, a couple bites of something sweet will satisfy the craving for dessert. Split your dessert with a friend, or ask for a child-sized serving. Many places do not advertise children’s menus, but they typically offer much smaller portions at a lower cost.

Finally, one of the most important rules of fast food dinners is to avoid the supersize option. You may think you’re getting a great deal – more food, more drink and more fries for just a tiny increase in price – but that also comes with a large increase in calories.

I don’t want to be a crappy housewife who suggests fast food meals on a regular basis. But when that is all the schedule permits, at least I can be a housewife who knows that there are smarter choices available on your favorite fast food menu.

Source: Personal Nutrition, “Good and Fast – A Guide to Eating on the Run, or Has Your Wasitline Been Supersized?” Marie A. Boyle and Sara Long, Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010

Becky Spurbeck

8 Comments on “I don’t want to be a crappy housewife. Can I serve fast food for dinner?

  1. I love chicken selects as much as the next guy, and I do understand that the article is about making good choices at fast food restaurants, but I still have many problems with this. When you fast food, you’re going to fill yourself with bad things even if you make the best choices. If you’re looking for a quick meal, I think you’d be better off grabbing a bag of pre-mixed salad and having that with some hummus and pita or a turkey sammich.

    Since when are you studying to be a nutritionist? That’s awesome!

  2. Hey Tom,

    You’re right on with pointing out that there are genuinely healthy options that are fast — salad, pita, hummus, turkey sandwich, etc. We’re not suggesting that fast food is the healthiest option (or even close), but 60 percent of Americans eat at least one meal at fast food franchises each week.

    With so many people eating out, it’s important to know that there are little things you can do to easily cut more than 200 calories from your meal. If you can’t (or don’t want to) avoid the unhealthy things entirely, at least you can make them less egregious. Make sense?

    Studying to be a nutritionist is a relatively new endeavor. I’m about a month into process, and I’m really enjoying it.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. “Don’t eat fast food. Ever.”

    I think that is what people often hear – which is the best possible advice on the subject, but the problem is many people simply aren’t willing to give it up entirely or commit to that lifestyle change. I think what Becky is trying to do here is to show that if you aren’t willing to give up fast food, at the very least make smarter choices when you are there. It doesn’t mean you are being healthy, but at least you are being slightly less unhealthy.

    If you can completely stay away from fast food, more power to you! I wish I had the courage! Maybe I’ll get there someday. Until then, I’m going to ask them to hold the sour cream at Chipotle and make these types of choices when I can.

  4. A few bits of randomness –
    1. I once heard about a guy who was ate healthy during the week, yet would curb his “fast food” craving by eating an entire pizza himself every Sunday. It apparently worked for him! Everything in moderation, I guess.

    2. Did you know that Chipotle now offers brown rice?

    3. Are you going to write a story about keeping a balanced diet over the holidays? It’s hard to do with all of the treats people bring to work.

  5. Thanks for reading and commenting, Meghann.

    1. There are a few diet plans that suggest eating one or two “cheater” meals each week. No one can eat perfectly all the time, so it’s important to set realistic expectations. That said, even those diets still encourage eating healthy portions during your cheater meals. Having a whole pizza doesn’t sound like moderation to me, even if it’s only once a week.

    2. I did know that, and I’m excited. Nice to know that there are more fast food places with healthier options available.

    3. Great post idea! I’d be happy to write something like that. Watch for it in the next day or two. In the meantime, I find it’s helpful to go to work prepared. With so many people bringing in treats, bring a few extra snacks yourself. When everyone else is devouring cookies and fatty hors d’oeuvres, you can munch on an apple, celery sticks or carrots.

    Keep reading.

  6. love this! while i am not a housewife, it definitely helps to see ways that i can eat healthier even if i don’t have time to make something healthy myself 🙂

    that being said, i also thoroughly enjoy this blog! you two are great, and i especially like reading becky’s writing (sorry mark :P) and hearing her humor throughout the posts!

    • I especially like Becky’s writing as well! Thanks for checking out our site. FYI – I’ve seen your blog now. So you should also keep writing on it.

  7. This is a fantastic post. I admire that you realize we all have days that get away from us, travels that take us long distances, or other situations where going to fast food becomes one of the top choices. As my mom always said to me when I started new and better eating habits, “you are not on a diet, you are starting a new lifestyle”. This advice rings true with your post. Make good choices as a lifestyle rather than setting yourself up for failure by making a bold statement that you will never eat fast food again.

    p.s. Has anyone else realized that they can’t even taste milder cheeses on cold cut sandwiches? That’s one extra I can give up without even thinking.

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