“Health food makes me sick.”Calvin Trillin

Have you been ordering the fish or chicken at the drive-through — believing that you are eating less fat? Truth is, the chicken and fish sandwiches from McDonald’s both have more fat than the cheeseburger.

But the amount of fat really isn’t the problem.

Fast food can be bad for you, all right. But not for the reasons you might think. Processed carbohydrates are the real major cause of obesity and heart disease. Government health agencies continue to give you bad “low-fat” health advice and completely ignore this fact.

When you choose your food solely by the quantity of fat it contains, you will inevitably consume more carbohydrates. And the typical lower-fat fast-food choices are loaded with the worst kinds of processed carbs — in very high quantities. For example, in:

  • breaded and fried fish and chicken
  • oversized white-flour buns
  • french-fried potatoes
  • sugar-based sodas

The media have perpetuated the myth that animal fat is responsible for the weight gain and high cholesterol levels associated with modern living. Low-fat food may be the most profitable kind, but its recommended consumption is based on a false premise.

The fact is, animal fat has been a central part of our diet for millions of years. During 99% of our history, obesity and heart disease were rare phenomena. That’s because processed carbohydrates were not a part of the diet. Excessive amounts of these unnatural carbs combined with excessive calories made us fat and caused our cholesterol levels to soar.

The real problem with fast food is not that it has too much fat. The real problem is that (1) it’s loaded with processed carbs and (2) the fish, chicken, and potatoes are fried in unnaturally processed oils. The trans-fatty acids in these man-made oils not only increase your risk of heart disease but also interfere with the processing of the healthy fats your body needs. And they may cause cancer.

So what can you do?

If you need lunch in a hurry, the selection at Boston Market is low in trans-fats and processed carbs — and they offer several  high-protein choices. If you must eat at one of the other fast-food chains, here are some tips to follow:

  • Choose grilled fish or chicken over fried.
  • Skip the trans-fat-containing salad dressing.
  • Throw the bun in the garbage.
  • Skip the vegetable-oil-cooked fries.
  • Drink water instead of soda.

Or you can do as I do. I order take-out from a local seafood restaurant or go to the supermarket. I find that the supermarket is not very busy at lunchtime, so I can pick up a healthier lunch in minutes. As always, I build my meal around a good-quality source of protein. A typical favorite lunch is:

  • fresh sushi or sashimi
  • an individual portion of roasted chicken
  • one whole, raw tomato
  • a quart of milk
  • a peach, a plum, or berries for dessert.

(Ed. Note: Dr. Al Sears is the editor of Health Confidential for Men, a publication devoted to men’s health.)

Al Sears has written six books and more than 500 articles in the fields of alternative medicine, anti-aging and nutritional supplementation. He enjoys a worldwide readership of millions spread over 123 countries and has appeared on more than 50 national radio programs, ABC News, CNN and ESPN. In The Doctor’s Heart Cure, Dr. Sears exposes the real causes of the modern epidemic of heart disease with practical how-to advice for building real heart strength and resistance to disease without drugs. It is available in nine languages and remains a bestseller three years after its publication. His 12 Secrets to Virility sheds light on the huge environmental and nutritional problems with virility in our modern world and gives men a step-by step guide for maintaining health, strength and masculinity as they age. It became a bestseller during its first month of release. His latest book Your Best Health Under the Sun addresses the myths of the sun’s dangers and gives readers an action plan for restoring this important natural resource for better mood, strength, energy and nutritional health.Dr. Sears is board certified as a Clinical Nutrition Specialist and was appointed to the international panel of experts at Health Sciences Institute, (HSI) a worldwide information service for alternative nutritional therapies. A master gardener and herbalist, Dr. Sears maintains an herbal apothecary of more than 250 organic herbs used for research, education and treatments. Dr. Sears is the founder and director of The Wellness Research Foundation, conducting original research evaluating natural alternatives to pharmaceutical therapies.Dr. Sears is a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and is board certified in Anti-Aging Medicine. As a pioneer in this new field of medicine, he is an avid researcher and sought-after lecturer to thousands of doctors and health enthusiasts. He is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Youth Sports Coaches Association. As well as being a sports and fitness coach and a lifelong advocate of exercise programs, Dr. Sears is an ACE-certified fitness trainer. He maintains his integrative clinic and research center in Florida, where he has developed novel exercise and nutritional systems transforming the lives of more than 20,000 patients.