Once upon a time, back when Ray Kroc was still pushing milkshake machines, a hamburger and fries meant a wad of freshly ground chuck and a peeled, sliced, and fried potato. Now, these two iconic foods—like nearly everything we consume—has taken on a whole new meaning. Sadly, many of our favorite foods today (especially fast foods) weren’t merely crafted in kitchens, they were also designed and perfected in labs. We uncovered the ugly truth in the course of our research for the Eat This, Not That! and new Cook This, Not That! series. What we found was not pretty.
Before you mindlessly chew your way through another value meal, take these mini-mysteries (conveniently solved below) into account. Sometimes the truth is tough to swallow.
What’s in a Chicken McNugget?
You’d think that a breaded lump of chicken would be pretty simple. Mostly, it would contain bread and chicken. But the McNugget and its peers at other fast-food restaurants are much more complicated creatures than that. The “meat” in the McNugget alone contains seven ingredients, some of which are made up of yet more ingredients. (Nope, it’s not just chicken. It’s also such nonchicken-related stuff as water, wheat starch, dextrose, safflower oil, and sodium phosphates.) The “meat” also contains something called “autolyzed yeast extract.” Then add another 20 ingredients that make up the breading, and you have the industrial chemical—I mean, fast-food meal—called the McNugget. Still, McDonald’s is practically all-natural compared to Wendy’s Chicken Nuggets, with 30 ingredients, and Burger King Chicken Fries, with a whopping 35 ingredients.
Bonus tip: For the nutritional breakdown of each of these “chicken” meals, and thousands others, download the brand-new Eat This, Not That! iPhone App! It’s like having your own personal nutritionist always at your fingertips!
What’s in a Wendy’s Frosty?
Wendy’s Frosty requires 14 ingredients to create what traditional shakes achieve with only milk and ice cream. So what accounts for the double-digit ingredient list? Mostly a barrage of thickening agents that includes guar gum, cellulose gum, and carrageenan. And while that’s enough to disqualify it as a milk shake in our book, it’s nothing compared to the chemist’s list of ingredients in the restaurant’s new line of bulked-up Frankenfrosties.