App of the Week: make the right meal choice with Fast Food Calories

This free fast-food app tells you what you need to know about the nutrition content, or lack thereof, of restaurant fare.

Fast Food Calories app
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I think we can all agree that trying to find healthy choices at fast-food restaurants is a fool's errand. Not only will you not feel particularly healthy afterwards, you'll be downright annoyed that you purposely missed out on all the fun that was oh so close.

Yes, I suppose as an exercise in self-control, you could go to a fast-food restaurant and not dive head first into a trough of fat and calories, the same way you could go to the Formula 1 Grand Prix on Yas Island and read a book, or go to Ferrari World and just sit on a bench all day - you can do these things, but what's the point?

Each day we are asked to be, or at least pretend to be, adults, making serious, stern-brow decisions between 8am and noon, and again from 1pm to 5pm.

Lunchtime, then, is like recess for our voracious inner children. The minute we belly up to a fast-food counter, we're all eight year olds with Dh100 in our pocket - and we're going to go berserk.

Our only hope is to arm ourselves with prior knowledge of what, exactly, we're about to do before we're forever left to our own devices, lost in a sea of combo meals.

The app

So the next time you're clear-headed and not particularly hungry, I suggest downloading Fast Food Calories (free; iPhone, iPad), a smartphone app that makes you face the harsh, cold realities of hot pizza and sizzling steak burgers.

The details

The moment you tap open Fast Food Calories, you're presented with a rolling icon list of all the usual suspects (KFC, Burger King, McDonald's, Subway) and even not-so-usual ones (Red Lobster, TGI Fridays, Chili's). In all, the app boasts 20,000 menu items from more than 100 top fast-food restaurants.

Once you pick your well-branded poison, you'll find most of the restaurant's menu items categorised into food groups (beef burgers, chicken burgers, side items). Tap one of those and you'll find your particular menu item listed alphabetically with the sad facts converted into the dry poetry of nutrition statistics (Whopper: 670 calories, 40 grams of fat).

But read on and you'll find the entire, ugly truth in bright, retina-display detail - a Whopper also has 11g of saturated fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 980mg of sodium and 0g of dietary fibre.

Presuming the prognosis leaves you unfazed (it did for me last Tuesday at 2.15pm), you can then add the menu item to your food diary, where it will keep track of what you picked and when you picked it for up to a year.

Fast Food Calories can't give you the will to resist temptation during lunch, but over the long term it might at least arm your adult-supervised dietary intentions with the facts they need for a fighting chance.

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