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Oxymoron department: Healthful fast food?

March 13, 2009 |  3:59 pm

Fastfood Last week I ran across this interesting, albeit baffling, "restaurant report card" in Men's Health magazine. (I read it for the pictures.) The report card grades America's most popular fast-food chains according to how healthful their food is. Huh? Apparently my long-held belief that fast food is, by its very nature, unhealthful, isn't exactly accurate.

According to Matt Goulding, the report card's author and the man partially behind last year's zeitgeisty non-diet diet book, "Eat This, Not That," certain chains actually deliver food that won't send your blood pressure to Mars, and your thighs to the local big-and-tall shop. The catch being that you need to know what to order.

Goulding breaks down the restaurants accordingly:

"To separate the commendable from the deplorable, we calculated the total number of calories per entree. This gave us a snapshot of how each restaurant compared in average serving size—a key indicator of unhealthy portion distortion. Then we rewarded establishments with fruit and vegetable side-dish choices, as well as for providing whole-grain options. Finally, we penalized places for excessive amounts of trans fats and menus laden with gut-busting desserts. What we ended up with is the Eat This, Not That! Restaurant Report Card, which will show you how all of the nation’s largest eating establishments stack up nutritionally."

After scrolling through the long list (there are 62 entries), I was astounded to find out that the KFC fried chicken chain actually scored an admirable B. Other surprises include Taco Bell's B+, Pizza Hut's C and In-N-Out's C+. Not surprisingly, Subway is teacher's pet with a solid A-. An A+ gets doled out to Chick-Fil-A, but I've never eaten there so I can't weigh in on that one.

As interesting as I find all of this fast-food grading (don't ask me why), I'm more than a bit dumbfounded as to why anyone in L.A. who is actually truly concerned with counting calories and trans fat content would actually deign to set foot in a fast-food joint at all. I know many of us are on the move all the time and that makes coming home to cook a truly healthful meal a total drag, but still.

This city is full of juice stands, sandwich shops and even places to grab a quick plate of sushi or a California roll. Farmers markets are also a dime a dozen and many of them have healthy booths set up that serve fresh veggies and fruits as part of filling entrees. But then again, most don't have $1 value menus. (Curses upon on you wily fast-food gods!)

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: Mark Lennihan / Associated Press