Fast-food meal deals: bargain or bust?

LOS ANGELES Many Americans go to fast-food restaurants for their favorites. But are we paying too much?

"The fast-food environment has been great advertising the dollar menu items and a lot of food that seems like a smaller price," said Shelly Lumus, Lindora Weight Loss Center. "But the bargain is not so great financially, and it's really not great for our health."

Lumus did a cost and nutrition analysis of three popular fast-food combinations, and then compared them to reasonably similar meals prepared at home.

For example, a meal deal at /*McDonald's*/ offers two Big Macs, large fries and a large soda for $7.19. The meal has 1,890 calories with a big dose of fat and more salt than you need in one day.

"It's got 2,450 milligrams of sodium. We only need 2,400 milligrams a day," said Lumus.

If you grill two lean turkey burgers on whole-grain buns with a small portion of baked French fries and diet soda, you'll pay $3.27, which is less than half the McDonald's meal. The choice will also slash calories to 610 and slash your sodium intake in half.

The /*Del Taco*/ chicken taco, bean and cheese burrito, fries and a soda for weighs in at 1,000 calories and costs $3.78.

"Lean chicken, low-fat cheese, black beans in the burrito, whole-wheat tortilla," said Lumus about a home version of the Del Taco meal. "We just cut the fat in half, again."

The home-cooked burrito has 693 calories and the fat would be cut to about 15 grams. The cost would be about $2.33.

/*KFC*/ sells a variety big-box meal for $6.99 plus tax. The meals offer popcorn chicken, corn on the cob, coleslaw, biscuit and a big soda for about 1,300 calories and sodium nearing 3,000 milligrams.

However, a couple of baked chicken breasts, broccoli, baked French fries, whole-grain roll and diet soda, costs just $2.70, with less than half the calories and a fraction of the salt.

Since many cite lack of time as their fast-food defense, it's time to make a plan. Lumus suggests mapping out a week of meals, getting only those products at the grocery store. After dinner each night, pack the next day's lunch while feeling full and unhurried.

"You can do it and it can actually be a lot more effective," said Lumus.

Click here for a look at the cost comparisons of the three fast-food meals against the meals made at home.


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