#335 Fast Food Survival!

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7 Tips for Fast Food Survival

Bonus! Guide to Eating Out in Fast Food Chains
By Joe Wilkes

Fast Food Nation and Super Size MeNo, we haven't lost our minds here at Beachbody®. We don't actually want you to eat fast food. It's terrible for you. It makes you fat. It destabilizes economies and nations. It kills the environment. Read Fast Food Nation. See Super Size Me. If you're really serious about getting or staying in shape, fast food restaurants are not on your path to success.

However, sometimes fast food is the only option other than starvation. Long road trips, coworker lunches, the only place your child or childish companion will eat—these are all situations where you may be forced to enter one of these fluorescent dens of gluttony and decide which of their evilly delicious menu items you'll be naming your newly enlarged buttocks.

Burger, Fries, Salad, and Iced Tea

While the fast food companies have generally shown an appalling disregard for their customers' health, they have lately been shamed by our nation's obesity epidemic into offering some menu items that have some nutritional value. They still can't resist adding a little unneeded fat or extra high-fructose corn syrup just to spice things up, so it's wise to take a buyer-beware approach when ordering your meal. Here are some tips to make healthier choices and some suggestions about the healthiest (relatively speaking) things to order at some of the major fast food chains.

  1. Fast FoodGet less for your money. This may seem counterintuitive, but the so-called value meals really only offer you extra calories, saturated fat, sugar, and other diet killers. While it may seem like an unbelievable deal that you can get twice as many fries for only 19 more cents, it's a bit of a false economy, unless you're saving up for a bypass operation. If you really want to save money, pack a lunch.

    One of the biggest problems with fast food is that the food is incredibly dense in calories, fat, sodium, and bad carbohydrates. They pack a lot of unhealthiness into a small package. So you think you're just having a quick bite, but you're really getting most of your day's requirement of fat, sodium, and calories. This is where we get the term "gut bomb." Paying extra to ruin your health makes no sense. Ordering the small size may not be as cheap per pound of food, but it will save you a fortune when you're working off pounds of fat later.

  2. ToyDiscover your inner child. The best place to find a reasonably sized portion for an adult is, sadly, the children's menu. Bowing to the horrible publicity created by childhood obesity, fast food companies have made the most improvements to their kids' menus. In fact, at some restaurants, the kids' meal is the only way you can get healthy sides like fruit or carrots. It's great that kids are getting healthier options. After all, the children are our future . . . organ donors. We need to keep them healthy. But if you eat the healthy stuff on the kids' menu yourself, you might be able to hang on to your own organs a little while longer. You don't need to impress the teenage cashier with your ability to eat the maximum amount of fries and triple patties. Don't be ashamed to order the junior hamburger or even the kids' meal. You might get a free toy in the bargain!

  3. SaladStick to salads. A big problem with fast food is that many innocent-looking nuggets and patties are loaded with added fats, flavorful chemicals, and high-fructose corn syrup, which wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels. Salads are a good way to eat ingredients that you can easily observe whether they've been adulterated with bad-for-you additives. Not to be deterred, the fast food companies will try to get you with the dressings. Ask for oil and vinegar, if possible. If not, carefully check the ingredients and calorie counts of the dressings offered. You're better off with a vinaigrette or vinegar-based dressing like Italian. Also, true to form, most places give you enough dressing to dress several salads. Either use only half the packet of dressing or ask for a side cup you can squirt it into, and then dip your fork in the dressing before you get a bite of salad. Another way to avoid the dressing trap is to forego it completely, and scam some fresh lemons from the condiment or beverage counter and squeeze them over your salad.

  4. Tostada SaladBeware of "theme" salads. It's called a salad. It looks like a salad. It has lettuce. It must be a salad, right? Don't be fooled by clever naming tricks—like the restaurant I went to that had a "cheesesteak salad" on its menu (I kid you not). A taco salad at most places is just all the unhealthy ingredients you're trying to avoid dumped on a plate of lettuce. In some cases, you're better off calorie-wise eating the taco in its original construction. Use common sense when selecting a salad, making sure all the ingredients are vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins you can recognize. Don't let restaurants mislead you into eating crap disguised as food.

  5. Burger Your WayHave it your way. Remember the old Burger King jingle, "Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don't upset us." Take them at their word—only don't hold the pickle and the lettuce, and do hold the mayo and the high-fructose corn syrup ketchup. Ask if you can substitute the grilled chicken breast for the breaded chicken breast, wheat buns for white buns, and lettuce cups for buns. Ask for extra veggies. And hold the "cheez," especially if it's spelled with a "z." Tell them you'd rather salt the fries yourself. When you order the "healthy" grilled-chicken or fish sandwiches, make sure they're not loaded with mayo or special sauces. Ask for salsa or mustard instead. After all, one advantage of a fast food joint over a fine restaurant: When they're annoyed with your special requests, they can't spit in your food, because you'll see them do it.

  6. Iced TeaWatch what you drink. The most profitable menu items for restaurants are soft drinks. Costing almost nothing to make, they want you to get as big a size as possible and pay for it. What you'll get is tons of sugar and chemicals, and maybe, eventually, diabetes! Read Steve Edwards' "Nutrition 911, Part VI, The Worst Food on the Planet" in the Related Articles section below if you need to know why soda (and diet soda) will ruin your figure and your health. Try to stick with iced tea or water. And to play the broken record again, if you must get soda, get the small size.

  7. ShakesAnd a milkshake is not a drink. It will often be suggested that you wash down your burgers and fries with a frosty milkshake. Sounds good, right? You can tell yourself you're getting your calcium, fighting osteoporosis! You're also getting over 1,000 calories if you get a large size at some restaurants. Even the kid sizes come in at 300 plus calories. Your drink probably shouldn't have more calories than your meal. Also, if it's called a shake, instead of a milkshake, there's a good chance it doesn't even contain any dairy—maybe some whipped lard instead! Mmmmm, whipped lard . . . I guess Frosty Whipped Lard Shakes didn't make it out of the marketing meeting.

Quick-Look Fast Food Guide

All hope isn't lost, though. You can almost find something healthy to eat anywhere. Here are the best bets at some of the most popular fast food chains. (Unless specified, salad calorie counts do not include dressing.)



  • Hamburger (250 calories)
  • Premium Asian Salad with Grilled Chicken (300 calories)
  • Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken (220 calories)
  • Newman's Own® Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette (40 calories)
  • Fruit 'n Yogurt Parfait (160 calories)

    Most misleading item: Chicken Selects® Premium Breast Strips. Premium chicken breast sounds good on the surface, certainly better than the mysterious McNuggets, but the 5-piece version will run you 660 calories (360 from fat!), and that's before you dip them in the sauce! You could eat a Big Mac and get fewer calories, and fewer calories from fat.
Burger King

Burger King

  • Chicken Tenders®, 4 pieces (180 calories)
  • TENDERGRILL™ Chicken Garden Salad (220 calories)
    Note: This salad is without dressing. The KEN'S® Light Italian Dressing will add 120 calories, and the Garlic Parmesan Croutons will add another 60 calories.
  • WHOPPER JR.® Sandwich (without mayo) (290 calories)
  • BK VEGGIE® Burger (420 calories)

    Most misleading item: TENDERCRISP® Chicken Sandwich. At 800 calories, and 46 total grams of fat, don't think you're cutting calories with this batter-fried, mayo-slathered doozy.


  • Mandarin Chicken Salad, with Crispy Noodles and Roasted Almonds (380 calories)
  • Chicken Caesar Salad, with Homestyle Garlic Croutons (250 calories)
  • Mandarin Orange Cup (80 calories)
  • Small Chili (220 calories)
  • Plain Baked Potato (270 calories)
  • Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich (320 calories)

    Most misleading item: Chicken Club Sandwich. You don't want to belong to this "club." At 540 calories, you're better off with the more decadent-sounding, but healthier, Ultimate Chicken Grill.
Taco Bell

Taco Bell

  • Fresco Crunchy Taco (150 calories)
  • Fresco Grilled Steak Soft Taco (160 calories)
  • Fresco Ranchero Chicken Soft Taco (170 calories)
  • Spicy Chicken Soft Taco (170 calories)

    Most misleading item: Fiesta Taco Salad. At 820 calories, this is the most highly caloric item on Taco Bell's menu. You can shave off over 300 calories by not eating the deep-fried tostada shell it's served in, but still, that's a pretty hefty calorie count for a "salad."


  • 6'' Veggie Delite® sandwich (230 calories)
  • 6'' Turkey Breast sandwich (280 calories)
  • 6'' Roast Beef sandwich (290 calories)
  • 6'' Ham (Black Forest, without cheese) sandwich (290 calories)
  • 6'' Subway Club® sandwich (320 calories)

    Most misleading item: Meatball Marinara. What's in these meatballs? A 6-inch sub is 560 calories; a 12-inch sub has 1,120 calories; and if you double the meat, you can get a single 12-inch sandwich with 1,920 calories and 84 grams of fat. On the bright side, I believe the defibrillation is complimentary.

Nutritional information obtained December 1, 2008 from www.mcdonalds.com, www.burgerking.com, www.tacobell.com, www.wendys.com, and www.subway.com.

Related Articles
"Nutrition 911, Part VI: The Worst Food on the Planet"
"Are You at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes?"
"5 Ways to Keep the Scale Moving"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Monday, December 8th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Joe WilkesIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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10 Tips to Help Your Skin Survive Winter

By Steve Edwards

Winter is hard on your skin. Even the healthiest of us have a rough time coping as the days shorten and the thermometer begins to drop, which is why words like dry, chapped, itchy, and flaky are often associated with snow, wind, and cold. Here is a 10-step program to help your skin survive the winter.

Winter, Lotion, Fruit, and Water

  1. WaterHydrate. This is, by far, the most important thing you can do during the winter. When it's cold, it's hard to drink enough water. For one, you don't get thirsty. But even when you are, drinking cold water can cause your body to revolt, creating a catch-22 that can leave your skin dry and itchy. Our bodies are mainly made up of water. Here are some of the roles that water performs:

    • Regulating body temperature
    • Carrying nutrients and oxygen to all cells in the body
    • Moistening oxygen for breathing
    • Protecting and cushioning vital organs
    • Helping convert food into energy
    • Assisting the body to absorb nutrients
    • Removing waste

    That's a tall order of functions; and the organ that's most affected when deprived of water is the largest one, your skin. It's hard to convince yourself that when it's cold you often need as much, if not more, water than you need when it's warm. This is because cold air is drier than warm air. Exacerbating the issue is the fact that artificially heated air is drier than naturally heated air, creating a need to hydrate even more.

    Do keep in mind that water need not be cold, or even just water. You can hydrate with almost any liquid, but most have added ingredients (sugar, caffeine, alcohol, etc.) that will hurt you in other ways. This makes keeping an assortment of herb teas an excellent winter accessory choice.

  2. P90X®Exercise. Most of us work out to keep healthy and/or look good in a bathing suit. If that's all you thought exercise did, welcome to the bonus round. Working out also does wonders for the skin by toning, reducing stress, and increasing circulation. Increased circulation means that your blood can deliver oxygen and nutrients to your hide.

    Exercise also makes you sweat, which flushes toxins out of your system. Additionally, it releases sebum, a mixture of fatty acids, waxes, triglycerides, and cholesterol that acts as the skin's built-in moisturizer. Researchers at Eberhard Karls University in Germany believe that sweat also releases dermacidin, an antibiotic that limits disease-causing bacteria, thus reducing your chances of getting a skin infection. So pop in that P90X®, Turbo Jam®, or Rockin' Body® video for healthy skin!

  3. LotionMoisturize. Try doing it as soon as you get out of the shower, and do your best to make this a ritual. Post-shower, when your natural oils have been washed off, is a vital time for moisturizing. Even if you're pressed for time, taking a minute to add moisturizer to your entire body is worth it, since your skin absorbs it best when it's warm and damp. You don't have to limit this to once a day—your skin would be pressed to get too much lotion—but after a shower is by far the most effective time.

    Try finding products free of fragrance and parabens. Also, don't buy products that contain mineral oil or petroleum. Both of these will clog your pores and can trap sweat and dirt, thus causing acne. For your face, you should also try to use a moisturizer that contains sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 (more on this in #7).

  4. Baking SodaTake hydrating baths. While soap dries your skin, there are ingredients that, added to a bath, will help hydrate you. Baking soda works if your skin is very dry and itchy, but as a precautionary measure, choosing a hydrating bath substance makes more sense. A perusal of any skin care aisle will provide you with myriad options.

  5. Shower less. Soap and water do more than just wash away dirt. Soap removes natural body oils that do more than just protect our skin; soap removes body oils that help us fight off environmental toxins. Our preoccupation with cleanliness can actually have an adverse effect on our health. Not that you shouldn't bathe, but doing it more than once per day is excessive, especially if you're not sweating profusely. And if your skin feels dry and itchy, opting for a moisturizing bath is the prudent call.

  6. ActiVit® MultivitaminsTake your vitamins. Vitamins and minerals do all kinds of things for your skin. Zinc and protein speed healing and reconstruct damaged tissue, as does vitamin C, by aiding the production of collagen—the protein-building blocks vital to all your connective tissue. Vitamin E helps with circulation, which flushes out toxins. Both vitamins C and E deliver antioxidants, which are believed to fight against sun damage, smoke, and the dreaded hole in the ozone layer—although they are by no means a substitute for sunblock and a good hat. To ensure you get all the vital nutrients you need every day, it's a good idea to take a premium multivitamin like ActiVit®, which includes 200 percent of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C and 100 percent your DV of vitamin E.

    Fatty acid supplementation, like fish oil, also helps ensure that your nutritional profile is strong and ready to combat the evils of winter ( Core Omega-3™ is a great way to meet your fish oil needs).

  7. SunscreenUse sunscreen. Most of us are conditioned to add sunscreen while skiing or going to the beach, but daily sunscreen use on your face and neck should be practiced. Many facial moisturizers have sunscreen as an ingredient. Because they are more expensive, it makes economical sense to have two bottles of moisturizer, one for your face and neck, and one for the rest of your body.

    Make sure your sunscreen is broad-spectrum in addition to having a high SPF. It should protect against both UVB rays, which cause superficial sunburn and skin discoloration, and UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin, accelerating aging and causing skin cancer. Make sure you don't forget your ears and the back of your neck when applying sunscreen as they are prime real estate for skin cancer. Don't forget your lips, either—try to use a lip balm with an SPF 15 or higher to avoid drying and burning. The stuff's cheap, so keep a tube in your car, at your desk, at home, etc.

  8. FruitEat fruit. All the damaging effects of cold, dry air create free radicals—nasty little oxidized molecules that are believed to cause tissue damage at the cellular level. Among other things, free radicals contribute to the development of cancer. The best way to neutralize them is with antioxidants, like the ones you get from many fruits and vegetables, including oranges, berries, leafy greens, and beets. You'll also find antioxidants in green tea and some in tasty items like chocolate. But fruit, which is harder to find during the winter, is the best natural source of antioxidants and has a number of other hydrating and health effects to help keep winter's ill nature at bay.

  9. HumidifierHumidify. When Mother Nature isn't cooperating, it can make sense to use man-made solutions. Humidifiers come in all shapes, sizes, effective ranges, and prices. From the poor man's solution of boiling a large pot of water to highfalutin units that can make life in an igloo mimic life in the Amazon jungle, the principle is the same: to add moisture into a dry environment.

  10. Layered ClothingSkin-friendly couture. Cottons, silks, and other skin-friendly fabrics that glide over your skin can help lessen the irritation of winter. Unfortunately, many traditional fabrics that keep you warm can also make you feel like you're wearing a Brillo pad when the northern winds begin to blow. When you can, layer with something soft as a base.

Related Articles
"Should You Drink Bottled Water?"
"12 Teas to Brew Up Better Health"
"6 Ways to Keep Clean While You Get Lean"
"Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Monday, December 8th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Steve EdwardsIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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Test Your Junk Food IQ!

By Joe Wilkes
  1. Burger and FriesWhat is the biggest-selling restaurant food? French fries accompany 22 percent of meals served in restaurants. Burgers are in second place at 17 percent.

  2. Who were M&Ms invented for? M&Ms were originally invented for soldiers to carry in their K rations as regular chocolate tended to melt.

  3. SodaWhat costs more to produce a can of soda, the can or the soda? In most cases, the can costs more to produce. Especially since the invention of high-fructose corn syrup, sodas only cost a couple of pennies a serving to produce. With those kinds of profit margins, you can see how restaurants can offer free refills.

  4. How much of a typical chicken nugget is chicken meat? About 16 percent is meat. The rest is ground chicken skin and other ingredients. According to Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, there are 38 ingredients in a McDonald's Chicken McNugget. Fifty-six percent of the nugget is corn.

  5. TwinkiesHow many Twinkies do Americans consume each year? 500 million. Chicago, the birthplace of the Twinkie, is also the Twinkie-eatingest city—no statistics as to how many are deep-fried.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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