Fat in Fast Foods

McDonald's meal

Susan, the nutritionist from the from the University of Minnesota Simply Good Eating program, returned to our class today, much to the delight of the learners.

Students took a survey about how often they ate fast food. Most rarely ate fast food, though some reported eating it once or twice a week. Susan was impressed; she said one women in another class consumed fast food five times a week or more. Learners stated that price, convenience and flavor influenced them to eat fast food.

Students talked about how some of them had gained weight since coming to the U.S. They brainstormed the following reasons:
• cheap junk food
• eating fast foods
• drinking soda
• too much sitting at work
• driving everywhere instead of walking

The nutritionist told learners that a healthy adult needs about 60 grams of fat a day. She gave examples of foods and variable fat content depending on the method of preparation. For example, a baked potato alone contains zero grams of fat, mashed potatoes with butter have approximately 5 grams of fat, and French fries can have anywhere from 19-30 grams of fat, depending on the portion size.

Students completed a worksheet in which they circling the food in a pair that they believed contained the most fat. One pair tripped up nearly everyone; learners guessed that a taco salad would have less fat than a soft shell bean burrito. In fact, depending on the salad ingredients, taco salad can have anywhere from 600 – 900 calories, whereas a typical soft-shell burrito without cheese and other ingredients can have as few as 300. The nutritionist passed out a handout with healthier options at fast food restaurants with tips such as eating skinless chicken or taco salads without the shell.

Learners analyzed pictures of fast food meals with the nutritional information. Depicted meals were from fast food restaurants such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds, Taco Bell and Burger King and contained various combinations, such as two burgers and a large Coke or one taco with a small side salad. Students had to identify the collective calories and amount of fat in the meal, as well as how many minutes it would take to walk off the meal.

One of the more astounding meals consisted of a quarter-pounder with cheese, medium fries, coke and an apple pie from McDonalds. This combination contained over 1,250 calories and 59 grams of fat – a whole day’s worth. It would take approximately 307 minutes or over 5 hours to walk this meal off! All of the learners were blown away by these statistics. Amira commented, “It’s really very terrible. Thank you, teacher, for telling us this information!”

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