Count pennies and calories with fast-food bargains


McDonald's has just launched a major campaign to get your business back. During this promotion, you can get one of four featured breakfast items for just 55 cents, as long as you buy hash browns and a drink, too.

If you are both cost-conscious and nutritionally aware, pay attention.

When it comes to cost, an Associated Press article points out the ad-ons could wipe out your sandwich savings. That's because franchisers set their own prices for required additional items.

And when it comes to nutrition, those meals can fit in an overall healthy eating plan. But you'll have to choose carefully for the rest of the day.

The worst case scenario is a sausage biscuit with egg, hash browns and orange juice combination. That adds up to 715 calories, which is OK if you're a man in the younger age group (see chart). But the 40 grams of fat is more than 40 percent of your maximum for the day. If you're a woman over 50, it's almost two-thirds of your maximum fat allowance.

An Egg McMuffin, hash browns and orange juice is more reasonable. It provides 490 calories, which is doable, even for older women. The 18 grams of fat is still high for a breakfast meal, but manageable. You'll have 45 grams of fat left to split between lunch and dinner.

Beyond fat and calories, consider a few other nutrition issues as you choose lunch and dinner.

For women, breakfast sandwich meals provide half your day's protein. And mounting evidence shows diets high in animal protein trigger calcium loss from bones, increasing osteoporosis risks. Sodium is even harder on your bones. And any sandwich-hash browns combo provides half your sodium for the HTC day. In addition, these meals provide almost no fiber, important for preventing many chronic conditions from cancer to constipation. So you have a lot to make up for.

Wendy's new stuffed pita pockets can help. When you choose the low-fat dressing, the sandwiches average 300-400 calories with only five to seven grams of fat. However, those that include chicken average 32 grams of protein (75 percent of you daily needs), so you might want to choose the garden veggie or classic Greek when you've had lots of protein for breakfast. They're still high in sodium (close to 1,000 mg each), so you might try vinegar and oil dressing and lots of fresh pepper to take care of your bones.

Fill your hunger gaps with vegetarian meals, fresh fruit, vegetables and some low-fat dairy foods.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 4/08/97

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