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It’s tricky finding healthy fast food

Updated: January 26, 2012 5:14PM

Q. Fast-food places now have healthy entrees and salads. How healthy are they, really?

A. The idea of “healthy fast food” probably is more wished for than great sex and more mysterious than the contents of the McRib, with its 70-plus ingredients and not a rib in sight.

You need a degree in food science — or 20/10 vision to read the nutritional wall charts — to figure out whether a virtuous-sounding salad or smoothie is a heaping serving of ill repute.

But with a little sleuthing, you can find good and quick choices. In fact, McDonald’s now sells more apples and walnuts than anyone. Still, at Mickey D’s, like many places, you gotta sweat the small stuff. Like salad dressings. A Caesar salad with grilled chicken has a nifty 190 calories and 5 grams of fat. But add Creamy Caesar dressing and, boom, you’re at 380 calories and 23 g of fat. Opt for Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette, though, and you’re at 225 calories, 7.5 g of fat (less than 3 of it saturated), and little sugar. Impressive. It actually meets the tough criteria of Cleveland Clinic’s GO! Foods program.

Even chains with a healthy rep can smack you in your expanding fanny. A 16-ounce Aloha Pineapple smoothie from Jamba Juice has 1 g of fat but 290 calories and 63 grams of sugar (though lots from fruit). The just-as-delish 16 ounce Berry Fulfilling Light has 0.5 g fat, 140 calories and 24 g of sugar. Easy-peasy.

Here’s the tricky part: While it’s now possible to find healthier choices at fast-food joints, once you’re inside, will you? Smell the fries and suddenly you’ve eaten a bagful. While almost half of us say we want healthier choices, only about a fourth actually order them.

Do fast food only when there’s NO healthier alternative. Even then, don’t go in. Pick a salad, use the drive-through and keep repeating this: YOU deserve the rewards of good, nutritious food — a bigger brain, snazzier sex life, more energy and a RealAge sweeter than any 650-calorie, artery-clogging McFlurry.

Q. Is the radiation from those full-body airport scanners harmful?

A. In seconds, the two types of scanners used at more than 100 U.S. airports zap a full-body, naked image of you and — discovering that you’re packing a hip replacement, not a bomb — send you to your flight. It’s far more pleasant than the crotch-checking pat-downs sometimes used when you set off the alarm and TSA agents can’t tell why.

You’re not alone in worrying about cancer-causing radiation, especially since the European Union has now banned “backscatter” X-ray scanners, which account for about half of those in the United States.

How much radiation did you get? Not nearly as much as you will in flight. Winging through the upper atmosphere from coast to coast exposes you to 4,000 times more radiation than the scanner emits.

King Features

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