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Supersize... Super Thighs

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

Fast food has long been a bane to our existence. It puts many of us on the fast track to fatter thighs, bellies and butts.

Junk Food But the dining out-on-the-dash experience got a lot worse when fast food joints began offering supersized servings of greasy french fries and sugary sodas... and they then convinced us these meal monstrosities were a value.

It doesn't help that the counter-ordering process has been tweaked to nudge unwary customer into a larger meal. These extra calories really add up.

Mr. Bad Food is demanding a fair shake -- and perhaps the return of the small fries -- and an end to this stomach-stretching Supersizing Switcheroo.

A few chilly weeks ago, my wife and I decided to take our children out to play. But since this winter has been anything but outdoors-friendly, we settled on a "brilliant idea" -- we'd take Jonathan and Caelyn to the local McDonald's for Happy Meals and access to the play area.

Resources from the Medical Online Information Site
Find informative fast food nutrition facts here. Keep your children safe and choose healthy alternatives with fast food nutrition facts. For additional information check out this educational site on fast food nutrition facts on all your favorite restaurants.

While ordering for the McGran brood, I was asked by the counter worker, "Large or Supersized?" She was referring to the Big Mac, fries and Coke (the Number 1) value meal I'd just ordered. I very nearly said "large" because I knew I wasn't all that hungry and I didn't want the biggest servings.

But then I said, "WHOA... I want the 'regular' size." In this case, that means the medium. It sounds like an Abbott & Costello routine, but when you order a medium, you get the smallest value meal offering. A large is the medium size and the supersize is the large.

Yes, friends... it's hard to order a small anymore. Try it. The old small fries in the paper packet is now the "children's serving." The smallest serving of fries available for adults is the red-cartoned medium one. It's maddening, for sure.

I nearly brushed aside my counter encounter with the slick-talking order-taker. But then the emails began to roll in from other Worst Food readers who'd been hoodwinked by Ronald's hamburger-hawking henchman. OK, so maybe I am being dramatic -- this isn't a worldwide web of deceit.

But I've heard enough to know the ordering process -- counter and drive-thru -- puts the customer through a gauntlet of extra grease. My more frugal friends may defend the guardians of the Golden Arches by saying, "Hey, for a few pennies more, you get a lot more fries and soda."

To that I say, "(insert raspberry sound here)!" What good is a value if it means tighter shirts and jeans... not to mention, tighter arteries? Portion size is out of control in America. A medium serving of McDonald's fries is more than enough food for any one person. Don't be a spud dud and gobble a large or supersize serving.

The same goes for the sodas. If you live by the adage, "Why sip from a teacup when you can drink from the ocean," then McDonald's indeed is your kind of place. Heck, I make my kids slip on those orange arm floats before they get anywhere near my supersized Coke for a sip.

Ready for a few numbers? Drum roll please...

According to the official McDonald's website (www.mcdonalds.com, of course), a medium (5.2-oz.) fries has: 450 calories, 22 grams of fat (4 saturated), 0 cholesterol and 290mg sodium. A large fries weighs 6.2 ounces and has 540 calories, 26 grams of fat (4.5 saturated), 0 cholesterol and 350mg sodium. Go for the gusto and grab the supersized serving (7 oz.) and your tally jumps to 610 calories, 29 grams of fat (5 saturated), 0 cholesterol and 390mg sodium.

Your best bet -- if ya NEED to have fries with your lunch or dinner: demand the small (children's size). This 2.4-ounce packet packs a more palatable 210 calories, 10 grams of fat (1.5 saturated), 0 cholesterol and 135mg sodium.

Now, how much is your Coke habit costing you... nutritionally? We all know Diet Coke registers ZERO calories no matter what size you suck down. But if you're like me and yearn for the crisp taste of a fountain Coke, full sugar and caffeine, then get ready for your stomach to rumble...

The standard, off-the-rack medium serving (since when is 21 ounces of anything considered medium?) will run ya 210 calories and a whole bunch of sugar (58 grams of carbs). Dive into the 32-ounce large (that's a quart folks) and you get 310 calories and 86 grams of carbs. The 42-ounce super size will soak you with 410 calories and 113 grams of carbs.

Just for the fun of it -- and to make me feel even guiltier about my family day at McD's -- let's total the Number One value meal shown above. Remember, I came to my senses (somewhat) in time to push for the medium-sized Coke and fries to accompany my Big Mac.

One Big Mac will whack you with 590 calories, 34 grams of fat (11 saturated), 85 grams of cholesterol and 1,070mg sodium (nearly half your recommended daily intake).

Add in the medium fries and Coke to find I wolfed down 1,250 calories, 56 grams of fat, 85 grams of cholesterol and 1,360mg sodium. Had I gone for the supersized sides, my meal would have been a whopping 1,610 cals, 63 grams of fat, 85 grams of cholesterol and 1,460mg sodium.

It's supersized meets super thighs... oh, my.

You should play the numbers games at every restaurant you frequent. Also, keep in mind that it is possible to dine at a fast food joint and not blow your daily allotment of calories. Keep your eyes open for our handy new eDiets Dining Out Survival Guide. In the meantime, check out our online dining out guide.

The big bottom line: More than 6-in-10 of us are overweight. Bigger ain't better and boy, it's true... size does matter when it comes to losing pounds or simply maintaining a healthy weight.

READER FEEDBACK

I read the comments about McDonald's and Burger King assuming you want a large drink. Evidently they eliminated the "small" option from the menu. Papa John's has done something similar. I love Papa John's pizza, but it only comes in small, large and extra large. When you ask for a medium, they say they don't have medium. I'm sure they know what you mean. Medium... the one in between the big one and the little one! Why are companies doing this? Why not just keep all the options open if you're going to add an extra large or super size? Is there some unwritten rule that says a restaurant can only offer food in three sizes?
Jessica

Just read an email from a fellow eDieter who got caught at McDonalds when offered a "large or supersize." Just wanted to let everyone know, not only is this nationwide, it's industry-wide. Movie theaters, fast food chains, restaurants, etc. train their employees with specific lines they must offer to every customer. I know because as a college student one of my side jobs was working as a "mystery shopper." My job was to go to all these places and pretend to be a customer and then rate the employee on how they repeated the lines and did the "hard sell." If they got it right, they won $50! Quite an incentive to get us to eat and order more!
Julie E.

I really enjoy your articles and want to thank you for the tribute to the Columbia crew. I recently started back to work after being off for a while. When I was at home, I managed, because of eDiets, to lose 18 pounds. Now that I'm back at work, I'm shocked! There's food, especially sweets, everywhere! Maybe your readers would like to hear about some chips that I experimented with. I buy low-fat tortillas, cut them into triangles or whatever shapes strike my fancy at the time. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and put the tortilla pieces on it. Put it in a 300-degree oven for 5-6 minutes, then check them. Turn them over and bake for about 3-4 minutes more. Apple chips are fantastic and very easy to make! The easiest way to make them is by using the food processor. Core the apples and slice them thin in the food processor. Dry them in the oven, just like the tortilla chips. I'm still experimenting with vegetables and other fruits. I really like your articles, John. Thanks for your good information and encouragement.
Joyce Parker

I have enjoyed your column for a while now and would like to let you and your readers know why they eat so much so fast at fast food restaurants (such as McDonald's). The reason is the colors. The two colors, red and yellow, actually make people want to eat, even if they aren't hungry! That's why when your driving down the road and you see that big red and yellow sign, you get the urge to eat and pull in the drive-thru for a quick bite. So, now your probably wondering if there is a color that makes people less hungry. It's blue. Think about it: how many restaurants do you know that have a blue interior or exterior?
Nana

I have nothing against disgusting food stories. Actually that isn’t true. I find them juvenile and boring. But in the case of a column supposedly dedicated to foods that are bad for you, I think they are particularly objectionable. There is more than enough to talk about. For God’s sake, run an article on corn nuts and Cheetos!
J.D. Burgener

I was very disappointed when I read the reader feedback to the Eating While Driving column. Your readers were quick to share the ingenious ways they had come up with to eat while on the road (apron, bib, etc.) rather than getting to root of the problem: not doing it at all! I know what it is like to be busy. I'm the mother of a young child, I work fulltime, and I go to school in the evenings. Some days, I eat all of my meals away from home! On those days, I try to adjust my schedule so if I do have to eat in the car I can pull over for 10 to 15 minutes to do so. Doing anything while driving -- putting on makeup, talking on a phone, reading -- distracts you and reduces your response time. Before we do anything while we drive, we should ask ourselves, "How important is this... do I need to do this right now?" If the answer is YES, pull over.
P. Gillett

Not fair! Introducing the oddly flavored ice cream as if it's part of the everyday Japanese diet? That's just not right!! Even most people in Japan don't know what to do with such ice cream, and some don't even know its existence! I have been away from Japan for over 13 years, but I still communicate with Japanese people. When I ran searches through Google in Japanese, I found that these strange types of ice cream are called "getemono" -- meaning it's the kind of food the majority would just throw away and wouldn't try, but a handful of people may recognize it as food and like its flavor. There also are reviews by brave people who have tried them, and 95% say they are awful, don't even bother trying it. So, will you let people know that this is not what we eat day-in and day-out?
Aika Florence Yasui

I know your column focuses on worst foods, but I wanted to take this opportunity to warn your readers of the worst supplement. I got caught up in the "burn fat, gain energy" claims of the Ephedra craze. Well, I didn't burn any fat, but I did gain energy through a pounding heart, racing nerves and jitters. I also have continuous chest pains that do not go away and shortness of breath at the strangest times. And I only took one pill per day when the recommended dose was six pills per day! Please, please warn all your readers not to be fooled by these same claims. The results can be life altering, permanent, if not fatal.
Julie

LEAVE 'EM LAUGHING

The following is an oldie, but a goodie to most good-natured dieters. Enjoy...

The 12 Rules of Dieting

1. If you eat something and no one sees you eat it, it has no calories.

2. If you drink a diet soda with a candy bar, the diet soda cancels out the calories in the candy bar.

3. When you eat with someone else, calories don't count if you do not eat more than they do.

4. Food used for medicinal purposes NEVER counts, such as hot chocolate, brandy, toast and Sara Lee cheesecake.

5. If you fatten up everyone else around you, then you look thinner.

6. Movie-related foods do not have additional calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one's personal fuel. (Examples: Milk Duds, buttered popcorn, Junior Mints, Red Hots and Tootsie Rolls.)

7. Cookie pieces contain no calories. The process of breaking causes calorie leakage.

8. Things licked off knives and spoons have no calories if you are in the process of preparing something.

9. Foods that have the same color have the same number of calories. (Examples: spinach and pistachio ice cream; mushrooms and mashed potatoes.)

10. Chocolate is a universal color and may be substituted for any other food color.

11. Anything consumed while standing has no calories. This is due to gravity and the density of the caloric mass.

12. Anything consumed from someone else's plate has no calories since the calories rightfully belong to the other person and will cling to his/her plate. (We ALL know how calories like to cling!)

And one for the road:

Fatty foods are like destiny. They, too, shape our ends.

Until next week, the fridge door is closed. But if you have any questions and/or comments -- or even a poem or a tasteful joke to share -- feel free to write me, eDiets editor-in-chief John McGran, at john@ediets.com.

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