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Fast Food and Protein

By Nicholas Bragg

There's no denying that fast food has become a staple in the American restaurant industry. The ability to buy a three course meal that is prepared and served in less than two minutes, and costs less than $10, has revolutionized the way people eat on the go. Because these meals often revolve around burgers, the protein count in fast food can be exceptionally high. Keeping the calories and fat down however, is another issue altogether.


A regular hamburger at McDonalds contains 250 calories and 12 grams of protein. The one caveat to this is that the hamburger is only 3.5 ounces total, including buns. Entree hamburgers such as the Angus Deluxe weigh in at a much heftier 11.1 ounces. These burgers contain 750 calories and 40 grams of protein. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, adults who live a sedentary lifestyle should eat approximately 0.4 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. If you weigh 175 pounds, then one Angus Deluxe accounts for more than half of your daily protein intake.


Chicken is used as a healthier substitute to beef by many people at fast food restaurants, from McDonalds to Jack in the Box. One popular entree chicken option is Jack's Spicy Chicken Sandwich found at Jack in the Box, weighing in at 9 ounces. This sandwich contains 570 calories in all, and holds 28 grams of protein. While this is considerably less protein than the Angus burger at McDonalds, it's also considerably fewer calories, allowing you to eat a healthy, low calorie side to make up for any potential needed nutrients.


Fast food isn't all just burgers, fries and a drink. Many fast food restaurants are fleshing their menus out with deluxe salad options. Wendy's has a particularly large salad assortment, including an Apple Pecan Chicken Salad. The salad by itself contains just 350 calories, while packing a major protein punch of 37 grams.


Fast food isn't particularly known to be healthy for you, and that's for good reason. The meat used in fast food is grain-fed beef. It holds a high amount of protein per serving, but in comparison to grass-fed beef, which can be found in most grocery stores, the calories and fat content are considerably higher. For example, a 4-ounce patty of grain-fed beef contains 280 calories, 24 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat and 20 grams of protein. The same size grass-fed beef patty contains 64 fewer calories, half the fat, half the saturated fat and the same amount of protein.


Most entrees found at your local fast food chain will contain a large amount of protein; however, your total diet needs to consist of a well rounded, balanced set of meals. The body requires 13 essential vitamins to operate on a day-to-day basis, and not all 13 of these vitamins are found in a Big Mac. The six major food groups outlined by the USDA -- grains, meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables and oils -- are recommended for a reason. The body requires them to survive, and while protein can be found in mass quantities through "easy on the watch and easy on the wallet" fast food options, there needs to be much more to your diet plan than a drive-thru.

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