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Healthy Fast Food – Is it really the healthy option?

Fast food chains have started to capitalise on the healthy eating or healthy options movement which many people are more inclined towards these days as what we eat and how we eat has become more of a focus, of course they don’t want to miss out on a piece of the action so they have started to market and offer (and have done for some time) “healthier” fast food options on their menus.

At face value you would look at something like the Crispy chicken & Aioli McWrap® and think it would be a better option than a Big Mac® because all it contains is a wrap, Chicken, lettuce, Tomato and Aioli right? There is definitely more than just 5 simple ingredients you can see in the picture which makes up this option from their Real Choices menu. I’m not targeting this product for any particular reason other than I personally was drawn to it as an option for dinner one night when we have been busy and it was late – but instead I looked into the nutritional details of it before making that choice – we as consumers have every right to do this and all the data is readily available for us if we want to spend the time taking care about what we put in our mouth and eating to nourish our body from the inside out.

Just as a comparison on nutritional information the difference between one of these wraps and a Big Mac® isn’t all that much! In fact – there is more protein and less total fat per 100g in a Big Mac® than there is in a Crispy chicken & Aioli McWrap®. Now of course the serving size of each of these items is different – but comparing apples with apples is why I am using the per 100g information for comparison.

Just on a side note – all the nutritional information I have used has come straight from the www.mcdonalds.co.nz website and all the information I have used for clarification on some of the ingredients / additives and preservatives has come from www.thetrustedtrolley.com.au

Chicken & Aioli McWrap

Big Mac vs Chicken & Aioli McWrap

Below is the list of ingredients straight off the McDonalds™ website for the Crispy Chicken & Aioli McWrap®

CRISPY CHICKEN PATTY: Chicken, Water, Wheat Flour, Breadcrumb [Wheat Flour, Water, Canola Oil, Yeast, Salt, Dextrose, Acidity Regulator (263), Enzymes], Vegetable Oils (Canola, Palmolein), Spices & Spice Extract [Mustard, Black Pepper, Turmeric, Paprika, Capsicum], Mineral Salts (450, 451, 452), Raising Agent (500), Salt, Thickener (1422), Yeast Extract, Emulsifier (433), Flavours (Wheat, Soy), Wheat Gluten, Egg Powder, Anticaking Agent (551), Starch (Rice, Potato), Soy Protein, Maltodextrin, Vegetable Powder (Onion).

TORTILLA: Wheat Flour, Water, Canola Oil, Salt, Preservatives (223, 282), Raising Agents (341, 500, 541), Cornstarch, Emulsifiers (471, 481), Soy Flour, Acidity Regulator (297), Sugar, Wheat Gluten, Flavour, Wheat Bran.

DICED LETTUCE MIX: Iceberg Lettuce, Cos Lettuce.

TOMATO: Tomato.

GARLIC MAYONNAISE: Canola Oil [Antioxidant (306-Soy)], Water, Glucose Syrup (Wheat Derived), Egg Yolk, Whey Protein, Minced Garlic (Acidity Regulator (260)), Vinegar, Dijon Mustard (Acidity Regulator (260)), Oat Fibre, Acidity Regulator (575), Mustard (Acidity Regulators (260, 330), Colours (150c, 160a)), Salt, Flavour Enhancer (635), Flavourings (Milk), Emulsifiers (Soy Lecithin, 435), Colour (171), Mineral Salt (508), Preservatives (202, 211), Thickener (1442), Vegetable Gum (415).

Contains gluten, milk, egg, soy and sulphites.

CHICKEN PATTIES are cooked in McDonald’s Vegetable Oil blend and may be cooked in the same vat as products containing milk.

Some of these ingredients above will be familiar – and some not so much – for example, what do all the numbers mean? Using the trusted trolley website I will shed some further light on these mystery ingredients/additives (numbers) for you below. It will be interesting to see if you would be interested in buying one of these after reading this and bearing in mind that what I have listed below is on top of the other ingredients already listed! I urge you to look up these for yourself to read the full details on each additive here as I have only used part excerpts about them.

CRISPY CHICKEN PATTY

450 – Potassium Pyrophosphate

Sodium and potassium pyrophosphates are the salts of sodium and potassium with phosphates. These are all produced synthetically from their respective carbonates and phosphoric acid, to produce a mineral salt that is used as an emulsifier, bread enhancer and buffer in foods. Linked to kidney stones in susceptible people.

451 – Potassium Triphosphate

Trisphosphates are inorganic chemicals that are the sodium and potassium salts of phosphoric acid. These are prepared synthetically from their respective carbonates and phosphoric acid, to produce a mineral salt that is used as an emulsifier, stabiliser, and buffer in foods. It is also used as a water-retaining agent during processing. Has been linked to kidney stones in susceptible people.

452 – Polyphosphates

Polyphosphates are the salts of sodium, potassium, calcium, and ammonium with phosphate. These are all produced synthetically from their respective carbonates and phosphoric acid to produce a mineral salt that is used as a stabiliser, sequestrant, and emulsifier in food. It is also used to help retain water during processing and storage. Linked to kidney stones in susceptible people.

500 – Sodium Carbonate

Sodium carbonate is the sodium salt of carbonic acid, which is carbon dioxide dissolved in water. It is more commonly known as washing soda or soda ash. It is synthetically produced in large quantities from table salt, and produces a white powder that is used as an acidity regulator, anti-caking agent, raising agent, and a stabiliser in foods. Sodium bicarbonate is produced by the reaction of calcium carbonate, sodium chloride, ammonia, and carbon dioxide in water. It produces a fine, white powder with the common name of baking soda, bicarb soda, and sodium bicarb. It is used as an acidity regulator, anti-caking agent, raising agent, and a stabiliser in foods. No adverse effects are known.

1422 – Acetylated Distarch Adipate

Acetylated distarch adipate is prepared by treating starch with adipic anhydride and acetic anhydride to form white or nearly white powder, granules, or flakes (if pregeatinised) that improve stability at high temperatures. It is used as a thickener, stabiliser, emulsifier, and binder in foods. Thickeners can be a problem for coeliacs and others who are very sensitive to gluten. Also called modified starches, thickeners 1400-1450 may contain trace amounts of gluten if they have been derived from wheat. Further research is needed on its long-term safety. Through our research our team cannot determine 100% its safety rating therefore we list it to be suspect. Please consider your specific needs and experiences when purchasing products that contains this ingredient.

433 – Polysorbate 80

In Europe and America people eat about 100 mg of polysorbate 80 in foods per day. Influenza vaccines contain 25 μg of polysorbate 80 per dose. In general, polysorbate 80 is well tolerated, although a small number of people may be sensitive to this substance and it may be harmful to people with Crohn’s disease. This additive varies greatly in the severity of the associated health concerns. Further research is needed on its long-term health effects. Through our research our team cannot determine 100% its rating therefore we list it to be suspect. Please consider your specific needs and experiences when purchasing products that contains this ingredient.

551 – Silicon Dioxide

Silicon dioxide more commonly known as silica, is an oxide of silicon (sand or quartz) and is the most abundant mineral in the Earth’s crust. It is formed by exposing silicon to air (oxygen), forming a thin crust of silicon which produces several different forms depending on the temperature and conditions used. It produces a white powder that is insoluble in water, and is used as an anti-caking agent, anti-foaming agent, as well as a filtering agent to remove protein and yeast in beer. It is also used as a vitamin supplement (for hair, nails and connective tissue and helps in reducing inflammation). No adverse effects are known in food use.

TORTILLA

223- Sodium Metabisulphite

When sulphur dioxide is added to water, sulphurous acid is produced and it’s this acid that imparts its use as a preservative. Sodium metabisulphite is a salt of sulphurous acid. It’s anti-microbial, an anti-oxidant, and an anti-browning agent which prevents the enzymatic and bacterial spoilage of food, and improves the overall appearance of food, making it look fresher than it might be. It works best in acidic foods and is also used as a bleaching agent in flour. Sulphates and sulphites are banned from use in fresh fruit and vegetables. Asthmatics should avoid. May cause gastric irritation, nausea, nettle rash and swelling and may also cause behavioural problems. Through our own personal research and experience our team will not recommend this additive.

282 – Calcium Propionate

Calcium propionate is the calcium salt of propionic acid. It is used as an antimicrobial agent in bread to prevent germination of some types of bacteria which causes sticky yellow patches to occur. It is well known that very high levels of propionic acid are neurotoxic. Can cause behavioural and learning problems, skin irritation, headaches, and migraines and may trigger asthma. Reported symptoms also include: gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach aches, irritable bowel, diarrhoea; urinary urgency, bedwetting; eczema and other itchy skin rashes; nasal congestion (stuffy or runny nose) ; depression, unexplained tiredness, foggy brain; speech delay, impairment of memory and concentration; tachycardia (fast heart beat); arrhythmia; seizures; growing pains; loud voice (no volume control); adult acne.

341 – Calcium Phosphate

Calcium phosphate is the calcium salt of phosphoric acid, a natural mineral inorganic acid, that is mined primarily in the USA. The pure extracted phosphoric acid is a white crystalline solid, which is melted to form a colourless, viscous liquid that is used in foods as an acidity regulator, antioxidant, anti-caking agent, and flour treatment agent. It is very inexpensive and often used as a substitute for other natural acids, as only a small amount of phosphoric acid is needed to get the same result as other organic acids.

500 – Sodium Carbonate

Sodium carbonate is the sodium salt of carbonic acid, which is carbon dioxide dissolved in water. It is more commonly known as washing soda or soda ash. It is synthetically produced in large quantities from table salt, and produces a white powder that is used as an acidity regulator, anti-caking agent, raising agent, and a stabiliser in foods. Sodium bicarbonate is produced by the reaction of calcium carbonate, sodium chloride, ammonia, and carbon dioxide in water. It produces a fine, white powder with the common name of baking soda, bicarb soda, and sodium bicarb. It is used as an acidity regulator, anti-caking agent, raising agent, and a stabiliser in foods. No adverse effects are known.

541 – Sodium Aluminum Phosphate

Sodium aluminium phosphate (SALP) is a chemical used in food processing. It is synthetically produced from aluminium, phosphoric acid and sodium hydroxide. As a food additive is has the E number E541. SALP has two forms: an acid form used in baking powder, and an alkaline form used as an emulsifier in processed cheese. It is used in baking powder because most of its action takes place at baking temperatures, rather than when the dough or batter is mixed at room temperature. Aluminium impairs the calcium and phosphorous uptake by the body. Concerns about skeletal abnormalities. Possible links to osteoporosis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Through our research our team cannot determine 100% its safety rating therefore we recommend to avoid this additive.

471 – Mono & Di-Glycerides of Fatty Acids

Mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids (glyceryl monostearate, glyceryl distearate) are produced from glyceryl and natural fatty acids, primarily from hydrogenated soya bean oil. This additive produces a white or cream coloured waxy solid which is used as an emulsifier in food.

481 – Sodium Stearoyl lactylate

Sodium stearoyl lactate is an organic compound produced by combining stearic acid and lactic acid, with sodium hydroxide. The end result is a sodium salt which can be a white or slightly yellow powder, or a brittle solid with a characteristic odour, that is soluble in ethanol, but insoluble in water.

297 – Fumaric Acid

Fumaric acid is a natural acid widely found in plants (genus Fumaria officianalis) and in nature. It can be made by the catalytic oxidation of benzene or by bacterial fermentation on glucose. It produces a white odourless crystalline powder that is the strongest organic food acid in tartness and sourness. It acts as an acidity regulator, anti-oxidant, flavour, and a raising agent in flour based, baked goods. It is very inexpensive and often used as a substitute for other natural acids, as only a small amount of fumaric acid is needed to get the same result as other organic acids. No known side effects.

GARLIC MAYONNAISE

306 – Tocopherol Concentrate (natural)

Extracts obtained from soya bean oil, wheat germ, rice germ, cottonseed, maize and green leaves are rich in naturally occurring vitamin E and are used in food as antioxidants as well as sources of vitamin enrichment. These tocopherols include alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherols. Vitamin E is an essential requirement for red blood cells and aids supply of oxygen to the heart and muscles. It also acts as an antioxidant in the body by reducing radical species e.g. oxygen radicals and breaking the propagation chain of lipid oxidation.

260 – Acetic Acid (Glacial)

Acetic acid is a natural acid produced by bacterial fermentation and oxidation of natural products or ethanol. Commercially it’s produced by the oxidation of acetaldehyde. It acts as a preservative, acidity regulator (acidulant), and anti-microbial agent, and is highly effective against bacteria and fungi. It is also used as a flavour enhancer to impart a biting, sour or tangy taste.

575 – Glucono Delta-Lactone

Glucono-delta-lactone is a natural ester of gluconic acid, which is formed by the fermentation of glucose. This process is done by evaporation, and produces a white, odourless, crystalline powder that is used in foods as an acidity regulator, sequestrant, and leavening agent. It can also be used to add a tangy tasted to foods, and as an artificial sweetener base. No known adverse effects in food.

330 – Citric Acid

Citric acid is an organic acid found in fruit, vegetables and household products. It is used commercially as a preservative. It is found naturally in many fruit juices and in a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits.

Citric acid does not cause allergic reactions in people who have a citrus allergy. This is because it is commercially produced from sugar, not fruit.

Citric acid intolerance is an uncommon condition. This is unrelated to a sensitivity to Aspergillus niger (A. niger), a type of fungus that is used in the commercial production of citric acid. Note: it is possible that A. Niger and sulphites are not completely filtered out during the citric acid production process, which may affect some people.

When a sufferer ingests or comes into contact with citric acid, symptoms similar to a food allergy can occur. Citric acid intolerance is triggered by ingesting or coming into contact with products that contain citric acid (E330) either naturally or introduced.

Potential symptoms may include abdominal pain (stomach cramps), anaphylaxis – rarer, aphthous (oral) ulcer, atopic dermatitis (eczema), bloating, diarrhoea / diarrhoea, nausea, pruritus (itch), skin crusting, skin dryness, skin rash – red, sore throat / mouth urticaria (hives) – rarer, vomiting.

150c – Colour – Caramel III

Caramel is derived from the caramelisation of sugar (by the controlled heat treatment with the presence of alkalis or acids) and yields colours ranging from beige to dark brown. It has been linked to gastro intestinal problems and hypersensitivity. Further research is needed on its long-term safety. Through our research our team cannot determine 100% its safety rating therefore we list it to be suspect. Please consider your specific needs and experiences when purchasing products that contains this ingredient.

160a – Colour – Carotene

Carotene is a natural colour which is commercially extracted from carrots, and can also be isolated from green leafy vegetables and tomatoes. It yields an orange-yellow colour. Carotene is converted to Vitamin A in the body.

635 – Disodium 5 Ribonucleotides

Made from 627 and 631. Check imported foods. May be associated with itchy skin rashes up to 30 hours after ingestion and rashes may vary from mild to dramatic. The reaction is dose-related and cumulative, some individuals are more sensitive than others. Gout sufferers, asthmatics and aspirin sensitive people should avoid it. A mixture of 98% Monosodium Glutamate (621) and 2% 635 has four times the flavour enhancing power of monosodium glutamate (MSG) alone. Can also cause hyperactivity, sleeplessness, and mood changes. It is banned in some countries but common in Australian foods.

435 – Polysorbate 60

Polysorbate 60 is a synthetic compound that is produced from ethylene oxide, sorbitol and stearic acid. It is used as an emulsifier, and thickener in foods. It is a suspected carcinogen. Further research is needed on its long-term safety. Through our own personal research and experience our team will not recommend this additive.

171 – Colour – Titanium Dioxide

Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring mineral extracted from Ilmenite and yields a white colour. This additive varies greatly in the severity of the associated health concerns. This additive varies greatly in the severity of the associated health concerns. Further research is needed on its long-term safety. Through our research our team cannot determine 100% its safety rating therefore we list it to be suspect. Please consider your specific needs and experiences when purchasing products that contains this ingredient.

508 – Potassium Chloride

Is a natural mineral salt composed of chlorine and potassium. Commercially it is usually extracted from salt water. It is usually used as a salt replacer in foods, as it has the ability to help replace lost potassium in the human body, which is an essential mineral. Large quantities can cause gastric ulceration and circulatory collapse, nausea and liver toxicity. Not recommended for children.

202 – Potassium Sorbate

Sorbic acid and it’s mineral salts, Sodium sorbate (201), Potassium sorbate (202) and Calcium sorbate (203) are naturally derived from the berries of the Mountain-ash tree (Sorbus aucuparia). They are commercially produced in varying chemical pathways to produce a white crystalline powder that is used as a preservative to inhibit the growth of moulds, yeasts and fungi. It is not effective against bacteria. It’s optimal pH values are below 6.5. The main differences between the salts is their varying solubility in water, and they are preferred over Sorbic acid itself. This is why some salts are used in different products, especially Calcium sorbate used mainly in dairy products and rye bread. There are links to asthma and can cause possible liver damage, behavioural problems. Avoid if you have kidney or heart problems.

211 – Sodium Benzoate

Sodium benzoate is the sodium salt of benzoic acid. Benzoates are commonly found in natural foods (cinnamon, cloves, and mushrooms), but especially in fruit, largely berries (Cranberry). It is widely used as a preservative that inhibits the growth of yeast, fungi, and bacteria in acidic foods where the pH of the foods and beverages are below pH 3.6. Commercially it is synthetically made from toluene. Known to causes nettle rash and aggravate asthma. May cause hyperactivity and behavioural problems. Further research is needed on its long-term safety. Through our own personal research and experience our team will not recommend this additive.

1442 – Hydroxypropyl Distarch Phosphate

Prepared by treating starch with propyleneoxide and phosphoric acid. The resulting starch is more stable against acid, alkaline and starch degrading enzymes. It also provides better colour and shine to products and has very good freeze-thaw properties. It may slow down the degradation of food in the intestine.

415 – Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is a natural polysaccharide that is produced by the process of fermenting glucose or sucrose with a micro-organism Xanthomonas Campestris. After fermentation, it is precipitated, dried and milled to produce a powder that is readily soluble in water. Xanthan gum is thick enough at rest to keep a product homogeneous, but with vigorous shaking thins to a pouring consistency, which will thickens again back at rest. This is especially seen in ready-made salad dressings. Xanthan gum is very soluble in a wide range of temperatures and pH.

As you can see and based on the information I have taken word for word straight off The Trusted Trolley website – there is definitely a lot more to these foods than we would like to think. A simple rule I like to follow is if it is a food that has a label or is mass produced in any kind of way – then it’s best to avoid if you’re wanting to adhere to a healthy / clean eating type of lifestyle. Its pleasing to see that at least the tomato and the lettuce don’t have anything else added to them.

It’s made me think twice about the fast and easy options out there that’s for sure!

Kelly

  • Kelly Wilcock

Kelly is a pacific Island sales consultant for a NZ owned manufacturing company and outside of her work she is passionate about health, nutrition and well being. Interested in studying to become a nutritionist, to help people on a professional level to improve their relationship with food, Kelly is on her own health and wellbeing journey. Sharing experiences, advice and product reviews Kelly is of the opinion that if she can help one other person other than herself whilst on this journey, it makes it all the more worthwhile.


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