Updated: Jun 28
I never thought that I'd ever find myself banging on the doors of McDonald's trying to get in. Out possibly, but never to willingly gain access. But there I was, stomping my feet with the local Bobbies on a cold winters morning positively begging them to open the doors under the golden arches because this was the first day of my Fast Food Diet. I was starving and they were the earliest openers on the King's Road, London, SW3.
We all know that if you scoff extra large burgers and shakes for a month that you will gain weight. What I wanted to discover was can you not only survive, but thrive on food bought on the hoof getting all the nutrients we need without overdosing on fat, salt and sugar and practically giving yourself a coronary in the process.
Filing in behind the shift workers, wiped-out clubbers and paper boys the order for that first day's breakfast was a no-brainer. A Double Bacon and Egg McMuffin with 412 calories a third of my days fat (23g) of my days fat and 50% of my daily salt, or a steaming hot pot of nutritionally virtuous porridge. Needless to say, I left with the porridge minus the sugar or jam I was offered.
The rest of the day was not quite such a breeze. For a start I was peckish around mid-morning which meant trekking back to the King's Road to find a snack by which time the bevy of familiar coffee shops were open from Pret a Manger and Starbucks to EAT and Café's Nero and Republic.
I had been doing my homework on the muffins so I knew that a typical blueberry number comes with up to 520 calories and 26g of fat – you could go for a Full Monty at your local café for that. The nut and oaty looking bars looked tempting, but with 400calories and 20g of fat I could have returned to my first port of call and ordered a portion of large fries. In the end I went for a low fat, salt free, no added sugar option of a Skinny Cappuccino and grapes from Prêt a Manger.
Initially I kept all my wrappings as reminder of what I was eating and trudged home with a surprising amount of debris for such a simple snack. There was a paper cup, a plastic pot the grapes had come in, a paper bag in which the grapes in their plastic pot had been placed, a plastic spoon for the cappuccino and a paper napkin which had been put round the paper cup.
After lunch and dinner the following day three things had already become clear. Firstly, there are healthy-looking options which are in fact wolves in sheep's clothing lurking everywhere and even my pre-diet swatting couldn't keep me completely safe.
My lunch time Chicken Noodle Salad for instance had sounded like 'good for you' food, but the chicken bits had been coated in a satay peanut sauce and were nestling in an oily, salty bed of noodles which only became obvious on eating.
Next, healthy snacks really are few and far between and come virtually only in the form of fruit salads which incidentally are also virtually the only option for pudding. And finally, whether or not I was going to emerge from eating in fast food places for a couple of weeks with my health in tact, I was clearly going to be in danger of suffocating under a mound of unwanted packaging.
Two weeks later and I couldn't wait to eat with a normal knife and fork, from a normal plate and drink from a normal cup. But hand on heart, after getting fast food savvy with the use of nutritional information on menus from the internet, the meals I managed to pick were tasty, nutritious, filling and much to my surprise had an added bonus. I lost 4lb. But here's the rub. After fourteen days as I cast my eye over four bulging bin liners of containers and bags I was beginning to feel personally responsible for having ravaged several rainforests and destroyed another bit of ozone.
There is no doubt that if you go for the 'good' stuff, eating on the run does not need to wreck your health. Yet one negative impact of our growing reliance on fast food (apart from how much it costs which is a small fortune) is certain. If the purveyors of such fare and we as individuals don't get our act together on reducing unnecessary packaging, our environment is a sure fired loser of our fast food culture.
Breakfast: Porridge and tea McDonald's
Snack: Skinny cappuccino, sparkling water and grapes, Prêt a Manger
Lunch: Turkey Soup with Terrance Stamp wheat free bread, Tuna and Bean Salad and a Seasonal Fruit Salad, still mineral water and tea, EAT
Snack: 3 Satsuma's and mineral water, EAT
Dinner: Crayfish and Avocado No Bread Sandwich and Fruit Salad, mineral water, Prêt a Manger
Breakfast: Skinny Cappuccino and large Fruit Salad, Starbucks
Snack: Half a pack of Nuts and Bolts pack of seeds and jumbo raisins, mineral water, Prêt a Manger
Lunch: Half a Chicken Noodle Salad and a Tropical Fruit Salad, EAT plus the other half of Nuts and Bolts, tea and sparkling mineral water,
Snack: Soya Latte and a couple of pieces of Vegetable Sushi, Prêt a Manger
Dinner: Rest of the Vegetable Sushi with ginger and wasabi but minus the soya sauce, large Fruit Salad, Prêt a Manger
Breakfast: Bircher Yoghurt Muesli, tea and mineral water, Eat,
Lunch: Scrambled eggs with grilled tomatoes, a roll and tea, Turks Head Café, Wapping
Snack: Missed it too busy
Dinner: Minestrone Soup, Italian style Mozarella and Basil Pizza and large Fruit Salad, mineral water and orange juice, Café Nero
Breakfast: Soya Cappuccino and large Fruit Salad, Prêt a Manger
Lunch: Salmon salad and pitta bread, tea and water, Turks Head Café, Wapping
Snack: Miso soup and grapes, 2 bottles of mineral water, Prêt a Manger
Dinner: Chicken Salad minus Caesar dressing with dough balls, mineral water, Pizza Express
Breakfast: Porridge and tea McDonalds
Snack: Fruit and Seed Mix EAT
Lunch: Two Mozzarella and Avocado 'No Bread' sandwiches and the orange drink and mineral water and large Fruit Salad, Prêt a Manger
Dinner: Seafood and vegetable pot with rice, New Culture Revolution
Breakfast: Alpine Mix snack and skinny Cappuccino, Coffee Republic
Snack: 3 Satsuma's and mineral water, EAT
Lunch: Miso soup, Crayfish and Avocado 'No Bread' sandwich, Prêt
Snack: Seasonal Fruit salad and tea, EAT
Dinner: Salad Nicoise no dressing, Pizza Express
Breakfast: Strawberry Brunch Pot with Skinny Cappuccino Café Nero
Snack: Smoothie, Coffee Republic
Lunch: Tuna and Bean Salad with Terrance Stamp Wheat Free Bread, EAT
Dinner: Vegetable Sushi, Prêt a Manger
Average Nutritional Breakdown Over The Week For Me Plus Recommended Intakes for The Day Plus Recommend Intakes for Men and Women:
What You Can Do Avoid Healthy Looking Food, Which Isn't....
Yoghurt pots unless low fat
Sandwiches and ciabatta with mayonnaise - homemade or otherwise they are packed with fat
Cutting Down on Waste
* Only take one paper napkin and give back excess if sales people hand you a bundle.
* Have coffees and teas in outlets like Starbucks in a proper mug.
* Don't take a paper or plastic bag unless you really need it. Put food in your own bag instead.
* Have a piece of loose real fruit rather than a chopped fruit salad in a plastic pot.
* Go to a sandwich bar and have a sandwich or roll made up and take it away in just one small paper bag.
* Use local cafes. They serve food on real plates with real cutlery, glasses and mugs minus any packaging.
* If you do use takeaway paper cups, take them home and re-cycle them with your own rubbish.
* Buy a refillable mug and take it with you for your drinks.