Before You Order That “Healthy” Fish Sandwich, Read This

“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.)