Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Fast food tries for health food again...and fails.

This time it's Burger King's "healthy" kid's meal with a cup of Kraft mac and cheese and apple slices with caramel sauce. It doesn't take a nutritionist to see what's wrong with this picture.

Sure, I downed gallons of "The Cheesiest" as a kid, forsaking all others (they tasted funny). I recall once throwing a massive fit at a babysitter over some missing ingredient that ruined our entire dinner. I was an awesome kid. And I enjoy fruits and vegetables cut into a julienne for no apparent reason with some kind of dip.

But let's deconstruct. Kraft mac and cheese has about ten billion milligrams of sodium per serving. It's made with butter (or margarine, and I'm sure they're not buying Earth Balance) and milk, it's made with white pasta, and its cheese is the definition of processed food. Any protein is negligible, and there's nary a vegetable in sight. Even I preferred my Kraft adulterated with peas and maybe a cut up hot dog.

Instead, I'd use a whole wheat pasta, or even one made with an alternative flour--quinoa shells aren't bad--and definitely add a vegetable of some kind. Spinach is great, or any greens, as are peas. Diced tomatoes, broccoli--many options exist, depending on how picky the kid is. If you're lazy, you can buy Annie's (the bunny-themed brand) instead and mix their processed cheese product (still high in sodium, to be sure) with plain yogurt instead of milk and butter. The yogurt trick is one of my favorites.

You can, however, make a sauce from scratch--I actually like to make one sometimes with a simple roux (fat and flour wisked together over heat until creamy and browned a little), then garlic, and adding my cheese (whatever's around, really) and some of the pasta's starch-infused cooking liquid to sauce it up. No cream, just cheese.

Another option involves making a vegan "cheesy" sauce with nutritional yeast. There are a few recipes out there (oddly, I prefer the version from Vegan with a Vengeance recipe for fettuccine alfreda) so you can experiment, but the resulting sauces are, to me, a tasty and healthy answer to Kraft's processed, just-add-milk-and-butter powdered cheese product.

The apple slices are fine, though I'd question their quality--most places seem to rely on the Red Delicious, which is the worst apple ever grown. The caramel sauce--eh, surely you can eat a FRUIT without adding more sugar, but hey, even then, couldn't you just dust it with cinnamon or something instead? Maybe the cheese could be served with apples--a few slices of a good, real cheddar goes phenomenally well with a tart apple slice.

Even better would be oven fries. Either regular potatoes, new potatoes, or sweet potatoes, tossed gently with a touch of oil and a pinch of salt and roasted to perfection. Just like french fries, but better. And you can still have a little ketchup, provided it isn't your only other vegetable.

I mean, eat fast food if that's your thing, and you let your kid enjoy fries, but don't pretend like it's going to be a healthy option. You people know this--when are the fast food chains going to own it?

No comments: