I have been traveling all week to fill in for another doctor and there happens to be a Chipotle down the road from the office. Hallelujah! I am pretty good about packing food to take so I don’t get hangry, but Chipotle can be a nice place to grab food, sit down, and eat outside. Now to get to the point. Why would I order chicken at Chipotle when I very rarely eat chicken at home? There are a couple things I like to consider when eating out:
- What basic food options are available?
- What is the meat quality?
When eating out, I am always looking for basics, whole foods, simple ingredients. You can’t get everything perfect at a fast food restaurant, but that doesn’t mean I dive into a McDonald’s cheeseburger by any stretch of the imagination. Chipotle has veggies, meat, healthy fats, in-house prepared additions, and tries their best to pick non-GMO, higher quality sourcing options. So, as far as basic food options, I can get a filling, whole food meal. That takes care of WHERE will I eat.
The second concern now that I am WHERE I’m going eat, is WHAT am I going to order? I am not afraid of fat by any stretch of the imagination, and healthy fats are abundant in my diet, including the fat from grassfed meat, skin from chicken and salmon, rendered fats for cooking, etc. However, when I am dining out, unless it specifically says that the cow products are grassfed, I try to order chicken. Chicken is much higher in omega-6 fatty acids than grassfed cows even if it is pastured and fed appropriately. Grassfed cows actually have tons of omega 3 fatty acids, which are healthy, anti-inflammatory, and much more effective than supplementation. However, if the cow has eaten grains, you can chuck those omega 3’s out the window. Now we are looking at 2 foods that are both heavier on the omega 6 fatty acid side of the equation. So, we will call it a tie.
Now that I have established neither option has eaten appropriately, I look for the leaner option and that is typically chicken. Why would I care about the leaner option? Because adipose tissue (aka fat, marbling) tends to be a storehouse for toxins that have not been mobilized and excreted. This means, if the animal ate what it wasn’t supposed to, it’s fat products are far from healthy. It is no longer a meat product with abundant health benefits. It is now sort of inflammatory, potentially toxic, and should be looked at for it’s macronutrient value alone (protein). Chicken in the US has gradually made it’s way toward white meat, meaning that it’s fairly lean. Even if the chicken isn’t pastured, I am not getting much of the toxic load associated because I am not ingesting it’s fat, like skin, dark meat, and schmaltz. If I eat a leaner meat, it’s choosing the better of two inappropriately fed animals in my opinion.
I make sure to bridge the nutrient gap with healthy plant fats like avocado. I will order lettuce, chicken, fajita veggies, mild salsa, and a heaping dose of housemade guac. You may also notice that I don’t even really have a drink sitting around. I will discuss drinking water during meals at a later time, but for now, weigh your chicken vs beef options when choosing fast food. If the chicken were breaded, I would choose the beef. It’s all about priorities.