Route to Recovery

A trip through the epicenters of the recession

Healthy food on the road? You must be joking

November 16, 2009


BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Just about anyone who has ever used America’s interstate system and cares about what they eat can tell you that it is very difficult to find decent, healthy food on the road.

Junky fast food is about your only option. Burgers, fried chicken, greasy subs, pizza, burgers again… In a seemingly endless loop on long journeys, the same few establishments turn up again and again and again alongside the interstate.

A dreary selection of mass-produced, unhealthy and boring choice: High in calories, lots of cheese, fries and high-sugar soft drinks – though you can have the diet option to feel better about yourself. This is the industrialized food industry at its worst.

Healthy eating? Tasty eating? Try somewhere else.

When you spend a lot of time on the road, as we have on this trip already and will do for a number of days to come, you tend to notice these things, and then comment on them out loud. Particularly around lunchtime.

As it happens, this just happened to be the time of day this conversation came up. As the interstate exits rolled past, we looked at the same unappealing choice of the same fast food rolling by. Did we complain? You don’t know the half of it.

Eventually, made cantankerous by a very early start and urged on by our growling stomachs, we decided this was worth a blog and decided to stop at a fast food restaurant so Carlos could take pictures to go with the blog.

We agreed that we would stop at the next fast food restaurant we saw, which happened to be McDonald’s. They appear to have more places to eat along the highways of America than anyone else, so perhaps the law of averages made it more than likely it would be them. Carlos didn’t want McDonald’s, as he had promised he would not eat their food on this trip. He broke his promise.

We went through the drive thru and ordered a Big Mac each with small fries and a small diet soda.

Sitting out in the sun while we munched half-heartedly on our food, we looked at the nutritional information on the fries and the burger. The Big Max weighed in 540 calories, the small fries at 230. Nearly 800 calories – the recommended daily intake for an adult is about 2,000 calories – without bigger fries or a full-on soft drink.

That seemed a lot to us, despite knowing in advance it was bad for us and high in calories. Not to single out the fast food chain represented by a clown, all the others along the road would no doubt provide the same type of artery-clogging junk.

We just wish it were otherwise.


I travel a lot and make Subway my regular lunch stop. 6″ turkey sub is only 280 calories. Get sun chips or baked lays with a water and you can drive another 4 hours without that nasty bloated feeling you get from a Big Mac. I personally east the sandwich and save the chips until I want a snack in a couple of hours.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

Sounds like you guys wanted a fast and easy lunch, so you got what you were looking for.
Cracker Barrel resturants serve homestyle meals every day. Those are scattered all along the interstate system throughout the Southeast. In Birmingham, you’ll find that Golden Rule BBQ (numerous locations) serve vegetable plates, salads, broiled and grilled fish, chicken,etc.
There are a number of other options around Birmingham and the Southeast to locate a good meal. Sounds like you should have used your GPS for more than just directions.

Posted by Ed | Report as abusive

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