I found a fly in my Panera Bread salad last night. A real one. Black and icky with wings. It was just sitting here on a lettuce leaf right next to a piece of feta. I was really disappointed. I was looking forward to eating that nice Greek salad along side my Sierra Turkey on French bread. It got me thinking, though. If I had washed that lettuce and built my salad from scratch I probably wouldn’t have missed such a big, nasty fly. In fact, if I had torn those lettuce leaves myself the salad probably would have been much cleaner. Think about it: How many people touched that lettuce before it hit my dinner table? (And let me say here first that I actually like Panera very much, and feel like they do a nice job, especially, with their kids’ menu that doesn’t have a single Mc fried anything on it, and has plenty of organic options.)
Take it one step further, actually. Despite the fact that Panera is actually a pretty decent option in terms of fast food, was that salad really the healthiest option for me? What was in the dressing? Did the salad have any preservatives sprayed on it? How about the cheese? Did it come from a local source who cared about his or her animals, or are they crammed into crates side-by-side? What about the plastic container it came in? Did it have BPAs? Will my township actually recycle it, or did I just drop another non-compostable item into a landfill?
I didn’t think about it before, because I didn’t care. I like that meal. It’s a favorite. And yet researchers tell us we should be eating fewer fast food meals and more home cooked meals and even I, the so-called Natural as Possible Mom is ignoring them. Maybe I should pay more attention. One study out of the University of Minnesota found that families who eat more fast food are more likely to be obese. Another even scarier study out of the American Heart Association that draws a direct correlation between the number of fast food places in your neighborhood and your likelihood of having a stroke. “Residents of neighborhoods with the highest number of fast-food restaurants had a 13 percent higher relative risk of suffering ischemic strokes than those living in areas with the lowest numbers of restaurants,” reported the study. Wow. That’s just crazy. (And scary for all of us here in New York where you can’t throw a balled up wrapper without hitting a fast food joint.)
I try and rationalize my probably-too-frequent visits to places like Panera, Ralph’s Italian Ices, the pizza place up the block and my favorite Mexican restaurant by saying I eat right most of the time and exercise, so doesn’t that cancel it all out? Well, turns out the answer is probably no. For example, I know there are some moms who think that their kids are well protected from fast food that they eat in toddlerhood and childhood because they were breastfed. However, a University of Alberta study found that a fast food diet cancels out any protection against asthma that breastfeeding may have provided.
I think it’s really hard for parents today. So many of us are pressed to the limit when it comes to time management. And so, like I did last night, we’re willing to let someone else cook for us. Sure, some of the prepared foods are probably less damaging than others. If you’re lucky enough to have a pizzeria that makes its own dough and sauce and uses good cheese, (and you can stop at one slice) your risks aren’t worse than if you cooked it yourself. Still, how many of us actually take the time to ask the local chef if he uses high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils instead of sugar and EVO?
So getting back to my fly. Maybe I should thank him. He got me to stop and think about what I was eating. For reminding me that healthy fast food is still fast food. Thanks, fly.