Fast food – How bad is it?

South Africans love fast food so much that they ignored their expanding waistlines last year and spent a whopping R16.8 billion satisfying cravings for burgers, chips, pizzas and other franchise produced meals.

by: Reader's Digest | 07 May 2007

Typically fast foods are said to only succeed in getting arteries clogged and blood pressures boiling. But a study to uncover the good, the bad and the ugly sides to fast food has found that not all franchise meals should be lumped in the same frying pan.

Franchise giants Spur, KFC, Nando's, McDonald's, Steers, King Pie, Ocean Basket and Wimpy were all part of the study conducted by Reader’s Digest. Meals were rated according to their kilojoules, fat and sodium content.

Experts quoted in the study include Professor Tessa van der Merwe, President of the South African Society for the Study of Obesity.

The study guides the public on which are the worst offenders, which are less offensive and how best to satisfy fast food urges "without sabotaging your health".

South Africans would do well to take the guide seriously given that 45% of are overweight and a staggering one in three South Africans are actually obese – which greatly increases the risk of potentially fatal conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Fattest of the fastest
Spur’s Rib Burger – two 100g pork rib patties accompanied by chips and fried onion rings – was found to be the "fattest of the fastest". The study suggests that Spur fans look for the Heart Foundation's heart mark on the menu to identify healthier choices.

The best Spur choice would be the Slimmer's Steak – which has less than half the kilojoules, less than a quarter of the fat and less than a quarter of the sodium content compared to the Rib Burger.

The Big Mac is the worst offender at McDonald's as it contains twice the kilojoules, nearly three times the fat and about twice the sodium as the regular burger.

KFC fans should opt for the Regular Rounder, preferably lose the dressing and add some salad, and an orange, apple or pear juice to create "a complete meal".

The flame-grilling at Nando's ensures lower fat ratings, and the best choice is the Chicken Steak versus the Chicken Espetada which has nearly four times the kilojoules, five times the fat and over five times the sodium.

Pie fans should order the relatively low fat Beef Curry Pie and toss the Ham and Cheese Pie when popping in to King Pie.

As for chips – these can contain more kilojoules and fat than your basic cheeseburger. So it is best to order a small portion or share with a friend.

Milkshake fans will cringe at the thought that these can pack as much saturated fat as a bacon and cheese burger. The McDonald's Extra Large Chocolate Shake has 3 552 kilojoules and up to 20,4g of fat. If the temptation proves too high to conquer, then the researchers suggest the milkshake is enjoyed as the meal rather than in addition to a meal.

Generally considered a healthy fast food, sushi can contain some devilish secrets. So it is better to order a Salmon Maki Roll which contains about half the fat, sodium and kilojoules when compared to Rainbow Roll with rice wrapped in layers of salmon and avocado.

Cucumber Maki Roll is practically fat free and can be spiced up with a powerful wasabi punch which contains no fat or sodium and just 42 kilojoules.

Five pizza chains contacted were unable to provide nutritional analyses of their products so they were not included in the study.

* The R16.8 billion fast food turnover figure was calculated by Franchize Directions which conducted a survey on franchising in South Africa.

- None


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