The Salad Vs. The Big Mac

October 23, 2014   27 Comments

I travelled last week to Atlanta and found myself hungry in an airport. Oh dear.

Salad vs Big Mac

You would think that as a guru of snacks that I would be prepared for such a moment with a purse full of almonds, KIND Bars, and raisins, but noooooo! My purse was empty. I blame my dog.

Yes, even healthy eating gurus find themselves standing in front of fast food venues wondering what they should have for dinner.

My airport in Hartford, CT is very small and therefore it doesn’t have many choices. I stood in front of McDonald’s, Fresh City, and a pizza place weighing (ha!) my options. Fresh City serves salads and wraps made to order.

This is a question of budget more than anything. Fresh City averaged $8-$9 for a meal while McD’s was at $4 (because I would only have the burger – no fries or soda). Was I going to pay twice as much for a healthy choice? Also, wasn’t I going to be hungry if I chose the salad by the time I arrived in Atlanta?


The salad that caught my eye was called the “Tuscany”. Perhaps it was because I would rather be taking a plane to Italy versus Georgia (sorry Georgians!).

Here are the ingredients:

Field greens, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and our own balsamic vinaigrette.

and it was advertised as 288 calories. We all know what is in a Big Mac and it has 550 calories.

It was right then when I pictured one of you, dear readers, watching me make this important decision. I decided to splurge and get the salad.

After I ate it, I felt hungry again almost immediately and contemplated eating something else. Then, I sat for a while and the feeling went away. You know how it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to recognize that you are full?

I got up and successfully strutted by a sign that said “50% off Dunkin’ Donuts after 4 PM” (it was 6 PM). I had some pretzels on the plane but other than that, I didn’t eat and didn’t get hungry.

I share this story because cheap filling food is hard to resist if you are on a budget and old habits are hard to change. The good news here is that the airport has a “freshly made” salad place instead of a Popeye’s Fried Chicken for a choice.

Even better, I decided to nurture myself and choose something much more healthy for my body if not my pocket book.

Finally, how do you think I felt after eating the salad versus the Big Mac? McDonald’s has been giving me a stomach ache for the past 10 years. Why was I even contemplating it?

Healthy food may be more expensive, but you are worth it. Yes, you are!

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 27 )

While your 288 calorie salad was certainly a wise choice, I would like to remind everyone that salad in a restaurant is not always the best choice,particularly if they don't provide the nutritionals. One of my favorite restaurants near my office is Kona Grill. Their food is delicious and fresh. However,in looking into their stats, I found at least 3 salads with over 1,000 calories and up to 91 grams of fat! They sounded harmless....grilled asparagus, chicken and pear...but think again!

Lisa, that was so cool to read your wise choice. I would rather consider real recognizable ingredients of whole foods over ''pink slime'', plastic cheese''food'', crappy bread, unknown sauce ingredients ANYDAY! A good way to lower salad calories is just go easy on dressing. And did you see Chipotle's in Atlanta Airport?! They carry their latest creation, the sofrito wrap, made with seasoned tofu I've heard a lot about how delicious it is and healthy too. Would be interested in your opinion on that choice. That took real willpower fighting an old habit and hunger--great job!

I have three small children and I always feel like my fast food choices are questionable, we often go to McDonalds and I'm always struggling with making a good decision while there since the little one's get burgers and fries and I usually hold back and get a salad but why do those fries have to be soo good??

What you said about waiting 20 minutes really struck a chord with often, I eat something and then continue plowing away, eating a second helping I probably don't really want, eating more bread, or jumping all the way in and going for dessert. I need to give my stomach time to get the message to my brain more often!!

Good choice. There are very few fast food choices for vegetarians, so sometimes I have a bean burrito from taco bell. I cringe, hold my breath and worry that the refried beans are loaded with animal fat. When I make them at home, I just thin them with water and add spices. Does anyone know what they add?

Otherwise, it's a salad or baked potato from wendys.

You were contemplating the Big Mac because you were hungry.

It happens to all of us! You made a good choice.

Oh, one more tidbit--for those of us who feel nostalgic about a McD burger and still yearn for that flavor combo but want to be healthy too, here is a fabulous site for authentic DIY McD's from the 50's, 60's, and 70's.

I still remember our sole McD's in Hamden, Ct., as a gathering place for double-dating in souped up '57 Chevys so my nostalgia goes way back.

Today, however I avoid FF almost always, but no one's perfect. If I'm out and about, unprepared and hunger strikes while surrounded by FF joints, I think ''real food'' and like Sherry I opt for a baked potato from Wendy's and add broccoli, no cheese. But I'm dying for Chipotle's sofrito to be offered in Ct. I think it might be another decent choice.

Love Fresh City! There was one by an old workplace, but none close by now. :-(

You go, Snack Girl. Fast food may be cheap in the short term, but you pay a dear price in the long run.

Thanks for saying we are worth good food, now we have to get the budget to understand this!

Sorry, but unless this was a VERY limited McD's why didn't you select one of their salads w/grilled chix; the apples/grape/walnut salad; or the yogurt parfait? Those are what I opt for when faced w/McD's. They also have an excellent oatmeal with fruit. I typically combine a basic salad with the fruit/nut version and get the Newman sesame dressing. Delish & filling esp. if you have the parfait too (which is also a nice plane treat). Add an unsweetened iced tea and it's a meal.

A Big Mac has not been an option for me for several years. Wraps, side salads, grilled chicken sandwiches are better choices with water or unsweet tea at McDonald's. More often than not, people just don't have $8 to spend on a salad.

sherry: (or you can just take my word that they're vegetarian but you might not wanna know beyond that)

I'd have expected the salad to need more protein to keep you full, but hey, if the cheese and the fat from the dressing cut it for you, cool.

Lisa - You've been such a help to me in encouraging healthier eating habits, it's nice to think that I might have played even a tiny, unconscious part in helping *you* make a healthy choice! You've put your finger right on one of the biggest challenges for many of us trying to stick to healthier eating: what to do when traveling. That's a problem not just in airports, but once you get to a destination where you don't know the local restaurants very well and/or where the local delicacies are already calling your name. I'm wondering how you dealt with the Southern barbecue temptation once you got to Georgia!

Awesome and delicious choice ! Filling too if you get it topped with a protein. Bravo!

I agree with Jeanne - McD's Southwest Salad with grilled chicken is filling and tastes great - it is our go-to meal when travelling.

Hi Lisa, I totally know your dilemma, especially when at BDL airport in Hartford. I Have also eaten at that Fresh City, and I agree, while it is a bit pricey, the benefits of eating healthy make it so worth it! Any chance you will be in the Hartford area for a book signing???? Hope so, I would love to meet you!

U am a grandmom - have never had a Big Mac - I usually got a jr whopper at Burger King ever since they took away the cafeteria at work Love Wendys salads - I agree at Mc Donalds I get the oatmeal. Boston Market get a veggie plate of sweet potatoes and two other veggies - as you can see I am not fond of beef since it is one of the hardest foods to digest. Kind of go crazy for Bob Evans carrots, Never liked bread - except good corn bread,

I would have made the same choice, hands question. The only time I go to a FF place is in a pinch I will go to Wendy's for their steel cut oatmeal which is served all day (if your location serves breakfast as a lot of them don't), or I will get their side salad with no dressing, I am a huge snack/meal packer though so this usually never happens. I have 2 kiddos and one with severe allergies to soy, nuts and food dye so I have to cook/prepare everything...grab and go stuff is always ready, washed or cooked. It takes a lot of time but it's so worth it.

Love this. Absolutely love it.

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