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What’s in Fast-Food Beef, Fish, and Chicken? It’s Not Always 100% Meat



Share on PinterestThe beef in your fast food burger may not be exactly what it seems. Natalie Jeffcott / Stocksy

  • Beef, chicken, and fish products in fast food restaurants are not always made from 100 percent meat.
  • They can contain additional additives, such as a textured vegetable protein or a soy product, that make them cheaper to produce.
  • Health experts say these types of processed meat are less healthy than unprocessed meat.
  • If you are concerned about the quality of the meat a fast food restaurant serves, health experts recommend checking the ingredient list on the menu as it may offer unprocessed options as well as plant-based alternatives.

The New York Times recently took a deep dive into one of the big questions of our time:

Is the fish product in the popular sandwiches from the Subway restaurant chain actually tuna or … something else?

Journalist Julie Carmel’s investigative report was in response to a class action lawsuit filed in California in January against the fast food giant. The lawsuit alleges that the branded tuna sandwiches are “without any tuna as an ingredient”.

The lawsuit spread far and wide, and even elicited pop star Jessica Simpson – who once questioned the origins of Chicken of the Sea (is it chicken or tuna, after all?) – on Twitter.


The headlines generated around the tuna confusion played into the longstanding debate about what exactly is in the meat we consume in fast food restaurants.

How healthy are the highly processed items you could order from McDonald’s or Subway? Are they all they pretend to be as advertised?

In an email statement to the New York Times, a Subway spokesman wrote that “the allegations in the California lawsuit are simply not true.”

“Subway delivers 100 percent cooked tuna to its restaurants that is mixed with mayonnaise and used in freshly made sandwiches, wraps and salads that are served and enjoyed by our guests,” they added.

For its part, Carmel sent samples of subway tuna sandwiches to a commercial food testing lab. The results were a little inconclusive.

The laboratories found that there was “no amplifiable tuna DNA” in the samples they sent in and that they could not “identify” the species present in the sandwich products.

A spokesman for the laboratory told the New York Times that two conclusions can be drawn from this: either the tuna products are “so highly processed” that it is impossible to clearly identify tuna, or “there is simply nothing that is tuna” in of the samples sent.

Carmel cites a previous Inside Edition report that found positive tuna identification from samples taken from three subway locations in Queens, New York City.

Registered nutritionist Amber Pankonin, MS, LMNT, provided a little more context for Healthline.

When asked if claims that Subway may sell questionable meat products are a common fast food industry practice, Pankonin said, “It really depends on the brand who their supplier is and what they offer on the menu.”

She said that fast food brands with more than 20 locations in the United States are required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to publicly publish their nutritional information.

“There are fast food chains that could use a structured vegetable protein or a soy product as a filler in their beef burgers or tacos,” she explained. “If you have any concerns about this, I would recommend searching for ‘100 percent beef’ on the menu description and checking the allergen information.”

Pankonin has directed Healthline to easily accessible information that is easy to access if you are concerned about what foods you might be consuming in a fast food restaurant.

This includes official FDA menu labeling guidelines and publicly available information on sourcing beef from popular brands like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell.

Dana Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, a senior nutritionist at UCLA Medical Center, reiterated to Pankonin that the product really matters.

She told Healthline that it is “difficult to counterfeit a product that looks exactly what it is,” such as a meat pie-based hamburger.

“However, when it comes to a fried nugget, that is, a chicken nugget, the question can get a bit more confusing as the product often contains a number of additional ingredients such as: B. breading, starch, dextrose, which could either mask an alternative meat product or is actually more of the product than the “chicken” or the so-called named meat itself, “added Hunnes, who is also the author of the forthcoming book” Recipe for Survival “is.

What is the nutritional value of meat-based fast food items?

Hunnes said she generally consults people to limit or avoid meat consumption, adding that a plant-based diet is generally much better for overall health.

However, if you eat meat-based products, she said “unadulterated meat” is better because you are consuming “unprocessed meat product” which is in some ways a bit healthier than “processed meat product”. . ‘”

She said that many restaurants, even fast food restaurants, are offering more plant-based alternatives. Your personal opinion is that these offerings are more attracted and overall they are better for the environment.

Pankonin said it is now pretty easy to access nutritional and allergen information for your fast food items just by looking at menu labeling requirements. She said you should avoid items that may contain potential allergens for you.

“Nutritionally, the products that contain fillers are likely to be quite similar,” she added, reiterating that it really depends on the particular restaurant and its suppliers.

How Healthy is Fast Food Meat? There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

“In terms of cooking preparation and taste acceptance, they are [fast-food meat items] could be different. If fillers are added, there may be more moisture or flour in the product, which can affect the preparation and quality. And depending on how much filler is used, it can affect the taste of the product, ”said Pankonin.

She added that in fast food restaurants, “standardized products can provide consistency in terms of the estimation of nutritional values”. This is compared to shopping and making a burger from scratch at home; it depends on the “meat used and the portion prepared”.

“When I advise people what to order in fast food restaurants, it really depends on what their health goals are and whether they have any food allergies. I can help them evaluate the calorie and nutritional information to see if certain menu items fit into their overall eating plan, ”said Pankonin.

If you are concerned about the headlines about fast food meat, what are good menu options at your favorite fast food restaurant?

“Some of the plant-based alternatives will gradually be better than real meat in terms of health. I say gradual because they are still a processed food product and will contain salt,” said Hunnes.

“But they’re better for health in that their fats come from plant sources, which are generally better than fats from animal sources, and they can also contain fiber that meat doesn’t,” she said.

Pankonin reiterated that it is about your diet and health preferences.

“Again, I think it depends on health goals and whether there are food allergies. For example, if someone is allergic to soy they should be educated about meat fillers and also avoid some of the plant-based options on the menu, ”she said.

Pankonin said if you want to make a burger from the comfort of your home and want to lower the fat or calorie content, for example, you can try “making a burger mix” by “using beef and vegetables like onions and mushrooms”.

She said that some breakfast suggestions involve coming up with something to prepare and freeze in advance.

Try a breakfast sandwich that uses a whole grain English muffin, egg, and slice of cheese. This could be an easy alternative to your favorite breakfast sandwich before heading to the office.

She also said no-bake recipes are a great way to cut down on kitchen time. Pankonin also mentioned wraps, which can be kept in a cool box and taken to the family picnic or to the canteen, as good options.

In addition, she said that you can’t go wrong with sausage boards.

“They are basically adult lunchables, and I love them,” she said. “These are super easy to assemble and can be a great alternative to fast food. Put it in a bento box instead of a board and lunch is ready. “

Hunnes said that while it might seem cheaper to go to a fast food restaurant and order four burgers, four fries, and four soft drinks for your family or group of friends for $ 20, in reality you could causing a lot of damage to your overall health and “you can pay for it in the backend.”

“However, since most people don’t think that far ahead when choosing meals, just from a monetary and momentary point of view, you can absolutely make something similar, healthier, and possibly even cheaper at home,” Hunnes said.

She said the plant-based meat brands Impossible or Beyond Burger cost only $ 9-11 a pound. One pound can feed four people. Wheat rolls are only $ 3 for about $ 8, with lettuce, tomato, and onion setting you back another $ 4 and soda adding a little more, say, another dollar or so.

The total sum? That’s roughly $ 17 for your own homemade burger.

“It’s actually cheaper and a lot healthier to do at home,” added Hunnes. “And if you wanted to use real meat, it would probably be even cheaper, since most pieces of ground beef are maybe $ 5 a pound.”

Overall, we may not have solved the great tuna riddle of 2021, but a few things are clear.

Always investigate the dietary and nutritional background of the foods you consume, assess whether they contain allergens, and consider potentially cheaper and healthier options that you can make for yourself and your family.

Whole Grains Health

Protein Variety and Heart Health Are Linked, Study Finds



We’ve all found ourselves in the habit of eating the same three things over and over (…and over) again. When life gets busy, falling back on simple dishes that satisfy your tastebuds is the natural thing to do. But if you’re cooking up the same couple proteins on the regular, a new study published in the the journal Hypertension suggests that it may be time to introduce a few new varieties into your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

The study pulled existing data from over 12,000 participants who took part in a minimum of two rounds of the China Health and Nutrition Survey. Researchers sought to explore the relationship between hypertension—or high blood pressure—and the variety and quantity of proteins from eight major dietary sources consumed by participants. (Study participants were an average age of 41 years old.)

Researchers measured protein intake by looking at three consecutive days of eating, scoring each round based on the number of protein varieties consumed (including legumes, fish, eggs, whole grains, refined grains, processed and unprocessed red meat, and poultry).

The results? “Among ‘just the right amount’ consumers of protein, those eating the greatest variety of protein had a the lowest blood pressure,” explains John Higgins, MD, a sports cardiologist with McGovern Medical School at the UT Health Science Center at Houston. Notably, those who ate the least and the most amount of protein were at the greatest risk for developing high blood pressure, while those who ate the greatest variety of protein were 66 percent less likely to end up developing hypertension between the rounds of the survey .

“The heart health message is that consuming a balanced diet with proteins from various different sources, rather than focusing on a single source of dietary protein, may help to prevent the development of high blood pressure.” — Xianhui Qin, MD, study author

Although the survey results sound complicated—and, hey, they were—the takeaway is simple: “The heart health message is that consuming a balanced diet with proteins from various different sources, rather than focusing on a single source of dietary protein, may help to prevent the development of high blood pressure,” Xianhui Qin, MD, the study author, said in a press release. In other words: Mix it up! Spin the protein wheel of fortune and try something new.

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If you’re not quite sure where to start with upping your protein game, Dr. Higgins recommends looking at your consumption on a daily basis. “The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than about 5.5 ounces of protein daily, about one to two servings, from healthy sources such as plants, seafood, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and some lean meats and poultry,” he says. “The best proteins are lean proteins including beans, soy or tofu, fish, skinless chicken, very lean meat, and low-fat dairy products. Avoid proteins that say ‘hydrogenated’ on label or contain high levels of trans fats or saturated fats. “

Of course, there’s always room in your eating plan for less nutritional proteins, too—just try to incorporate these lean sources when you can, and ask your doctor if you have questions about what dietary habits are right for your particular health status and family history .

A delicious way to eat more varied proteins? This delicious quiche recipe:

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Whole Grains Health

The 10 Best Diet Books in 2022



Staff, Courtesy of Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky

The word “diet” has earned itself an undeniably negative reputation, often leading people to think of unsustainable restriction and unhealthy fads. However, if you’re looking to adjust your way of eating, whether you want to feel better, lose weight, or hit a new personal record, there are tons of great diet books out there that can help educate you on ways to improve your nutrition and get you feeling better than ever.

While the diets of the past have focused on restriction, newer ways of eating encouragement consuming more good-for-you foods to crowd out less healthy choices, leaving you feeling satisfied, not deprived. These diet books are also super educational, teaching you why you should eat certain foods, what they can do for your health, and the best ways to make them delicious. To help you on your nutrition journey, we’ve gathered the best diet books and healthy cookbooks available today.

Best Diet Books

    How to Choose a Diet Book

    If you’re looking to switch up your diet, the first thing you should ask yourself is why. What exactly do you want out of a diet?

    Second, consider your lifestyle. Do you need meals that are quick and easy? Do you like to take an hour or two to cook for yourself every night? How often can you grocery shop for fresh ingredients?

    Finally, consider whether you’re looking specifically for a cookbook or one that will provide you education on a particular way of eating without necessarily giving you recipes. While many cookbooks will have some content that discusses the origins of food and their nutritional benefits, these books are unlikely to go as in-depth regarding nutrition as less recipe-focused ones.

    How We Selected

    To find the best diet books among the many options on the market, we researched the most popular books available and considered their content, credibility, design, digestibility, and organization. We then looked at both expert reviews and more than 105,000 customer ratings, written by people who’ve bought these books on Amazon, to settle on the diet books you’ll find below.

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    Best vegetarian

    How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

    This is a great all-around cookbook, but it’s an especially great buy if you’re trying to lay off meat. This book contains everything from specific meal recipes to instructions for steaming veggies, truly teaching you how to cook from start to finish. There are recipes for every meal, as well as snacks and desserts, and it includes instructions for so many different dishes you could easily cook from only this book for an entire year and not get bored.


    Best for Longevity

    The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100

    This cookbook highlights recipes from specific areas across the globe—called blue zones—where people live the longest. While some of their longevity surely comes from other lifestyle factors, there’s no discounting the role diet plays in their long-lasting health and wellbeing. These recipes not only focus on ingredients, but the ways in which foods are prepared and how that relates to their overall nutritional value.

    The goal of the book is to increase longevity and quality of life while creating delicious recipes that you’ll want to eat time and time again.


    Best Mediterranean

    The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook

    The Mediterranean diet is consistently ranked as one of the healthiest diets in the world. It’s full of lean proteins, healthy fats, and tons of vegetables, providing a well-rounded, nutritious way of eating.

    This cookbook not only has 500 great Mediterranean recipes, but it also helps you learn which ingredients you should make staples in your grocery list. It also uses only ingredients that you can easily find at standard grocery stores, which makes the Mediterranean diet more accessible.


    Best for Runners

    run fast eat slow

    You’ve probably heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen”—and to some degree, the same holds true for personal records. While nutritious food won’t necessarily knock 30 seconds off your mile time, it can help you fuel your workouts so you get the most out of your training.

    This book was designed by Olympian Shalane Flanagan and is packed with recipes designed to help runners fuel their toughest workouts and recover after. As a bonus, the recipes included in this book just so happen to be delicious, too.


    Best Vegan

    The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook

    When first going vegan, it can be difficult to figure out how to make food that is both delicious and nutritious. This book has 500 recipes ranging from meals to snacks to desserts that use entirely plant-based ingredients. These recipes also offer alternate ingredient options, like eggs and dairy, which is great if you want to add more plant-based recipes into your diet, but aren’t ready to dive headfirst into veganism.


    Best for a full reset

    The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

    If you’ve been diet-hopping in hopes of finding a meal plan that can help you commit to a healthier lifestyle and enjoy some weight loss, Whole 30 is a great choice. It has you cut out sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, and some other specific foods for 30 days. The idea behind the diet is that it helps jumpstart weight loss while simultaneously getting you to reassess how you think about what you are eating to reach a place of freedom with your food.


    Best for weight loss

    The Obesity Code – Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss

    If weight loss is your goal, and you have struggled to find lasting success, this book could be a game-changer. It dives into the science of weight loss, helping you understand hormones, insulin resistance, and other reasons for weight gain. The book recommends intermittent fasting and a low-carb diet, and guides you on how to do them correctly, efficiently, and in the long term.


    Best for Learning about Food

    How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease

    A lot of eating plans focus on what you should eliminate from your diet, but this book places more importance on what you should be adding to your diet and why.

    It discusses foods that are scientifically proven to help you live a longer, healthier life, and the many ways in which food can help prevent disease. It focuses on whole body health—including both mental and physical health—and teaches you to focus on more than just weight and physical appearance when it comes to your food.


    Best for Anti-Dieters

    Not a Diet Book: Take Control. Gain Confidence. ChangeYourLife.

    The rise of anti-diet culture gave inspiration to this book, which helps you improve your relationship with food, tackle weight loss, and debunk fad diets to find a simple and easy way to lose weight and create habits that will keep the pounds from coming back. This book will help you build skills that enable you to live a happier, healthier life without focusing too closely on calories or numbers on a scale.


    Best for fasting

    Complete Guide to Fasting

    Fasting has gained popularity over the last decade and can be a great way to boost your metabolism, clear your mind, and promote weight loss. There are, however, rules you should follow while fasting so that you improve your health rather than endangering it. This book will guide you through intermittent, alternate-day, and extended fasting to ensure you choose the style that will work best for you and do it correctly.

    Before joining Runner’s World as an Editor in 2019, Gabrielle Hondorp spent 6 years in running retail (she has tested top gear from shoes, to watches, to rain jackets which has expanded her expertise—and her closets); she specializes in health and wellness, and is an expert on running gear from head-to-toe.

    This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at

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Whole Grains Health

Eating different kinds of protein protects against hypertension: New study



Despite all this talk that more Australians are toying with vegetarianism, and despite the endless drum-beating about red meat giving you cancer and a dodgy heart, we continue to have one of the world’s highest levels of meat consumption.

Analysis published in December found Australians eat about 95 kilograms of meat per capita every year. The global average is 35 kilograms.

The article, ‘The Evolution of Urban Australian Meat-Eating Practices’, argues our meat-eating habits are driven by a blocky culture, an association with social status, a perception that plant-based diets are inadequate and lame, and ignorance about cooking legumes and tofu.

On the other hand, the authors point to a survey that found almost 20 per cent of those sampled “identified as meat-reducers”.

Furthermore, the authors say, 87 percent “of the meat reducer segment reported consuming a meat-free dish as their main meal at least once a week”.

They point to another survey that found almost 20 per cent described themselves as “flexitarian”, which is cool.

But it may not translate to more lentils, nuts, whole grains, fish and dairy hitting the dinner table as new favorite sources of protein.

A new study found why we need variety

Chinese researchers found that “eating protein from a greater variety of sources is associated with a lower risk of developing high blood pressure”.

Good to know because blood pressure is literally out of control in Australia.

One in three adults – more than six million Australians – has high blood pressure.

Of those afflicted, only 32 per cent have their hypertension under control. That leaves about four million Australians as ticking time bombs.

In December, in the Medical Journal of Australia, Professor Alta Schutte, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at UNSW Sydney, called for a national taskforce to tackle the issue.

By improving the control of hypertension, the risks of coronary heart disease, dementia and cerebrovascular disease will be substantially reduced.

The Chinese study suggests changing your diet will go some way to solving the problem.

the study

“Nutrition may be an easily accessible and effective measure to fight against hypertension. Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is one of the three basic macronutrients,” said study author Dr Xianhui Qin, of the National Clinical Research Center for Kidney Disease at Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China.

The study authors analyzed health information for nearly 12,200 adults (average age 41), who had taken part in multiple rounds of the China Health and Nutrition Survey from 1997 to 2015.

Over three days in the same week, participants shared what they had eaten.

They were given a protein “variety score” based on the different sources of protein they’d eaten: whole grains, refined grains, processed red meat, unprocessed red meat, poultry, fish, egg and legumes.

One point was given for each source of protein, with a maximum variety score of 8. The researchers then evaluated the association for new onset hypertension in relation to the protein variety score.

New-onset hypertension was defined as blood pressure greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg/90 mm Hg, the use of blood pressure-lowering medicine, or self-reporting that a physician had diagnosed high blood pressure.

The average follow-up time was six years.

The results

More than 35 per cent of the participants developed new-onset high hypertension during the follow-up.

Compared to participants with the lowest variety score for protein intake (1), those with the highest variety score (4 or higher) had a 66 per cent lower risk of developing high blood pressure.

The amount of protein eaten was also a factor. Consumption was divided into five categories, from least to most intake.

The researchers found that “people who ate the least amount of total protein and those who ate most protein had the highest risk for new onset of hypertension”.

The researchers didn’t ask why a variety of proteins was more healthy. But nutritionists, doctors and health writers have banged on about it for years.

Lean red meat is high in quality protein but provides no fiber or healthy fats. Processed meats are high in saturated fats and salt and are the worst.

Fish is high in long-chain fatty acids, which are good for the brain. Lentils and whole grains are high in fibre.

Hand on heart, a bit of each during the week might stop you from carking it in the street. Which is just undignified and unmanly.

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