Fast Food Alternatives

Transitioning your family away from fast food to a more healthful diet is easier if you learn how to prepare these fast food alternatives.

| May/June 1981

  • 069 fast food alternatives
    Your fast food alternatives can indeed include healthy variations of old favorites like burgers, fried chicken, and French fries.

  • 069 fast food alternatives

Although recent studies have attempted to prove that "fast foods" can occasionally provide nutritious substitutes for home-cooked meals, it's a fact that regardless of the synthetic vitamins that are sometimes packed into the commercial products, the "convenience" meals are likely injected with any number of not-so-healthful chemical additives and preservatives. Unfortunately, a good many folks (especially young'uns) have been literally brought up on such fare and have an acquired taste for it (even if their families have since "converted" to unprocessed food diets).

However, you can wean your children (or yourself) from such "junk foods" as ready-made burgers, fries, and tacos by simply preparing some nutritious "fast food" right in your own kitchen. The homemade goodies will be crammed with nutrition, they'll cost less than the store-bought varieties, and—best of all—you'll know exactly what goes into them.

I started experimenting with fast food alternatives when I decided to put our hyperactive son on a diet that allowed no white sugar, no preservatives, and no food coloring. To vary the boy's meals and satisfy his longings for the "standards" he loves (but which contain the very chemicals that seem to trigger spells of bad behavior), I devised several recipes based on nutritious whole foods that wouldn't aggravate his condition. Now he can down one of my homemade "Big Macs" (and all the trimmings) without suffering any ill effects, and as a bonus our whole family is able to resist "the lure of the Golden Arches."


You may be surprised to know that burgers don't have to be made of good old U.S. Grade A char-broiled beef to satisfy a hearty appetite. In fact, you can whip up delicious patties from soybeans. The protein-packed beans can be used either cooked or sprouted to make a soy burger that should appeal to the most confirmed fast-food fanatic.

Soybeans do take a long time to cook, but they don't need much tending to. Simply soak 1 cup of the legumes, overnight, in enough water to cover them. On the following morning, cover the pan and boil the beans (in the same water) for about three hours. After they're cooked and thoroughly tender, let the "beef to be" cool down a bit ... then drain off whatever water is left (save it for your soup pot), mash the beans, and mix in about 1/2 cup of uncooked oats. Flatten the mixture into thick patties (the recipe will produce four to six, depending on size) and the burgers will be ready to fry in a tablespoon or two of hot oil.

You can also make sprouted burgers (which offer even more nutrients than do those made with ungerminated beans, since the shoots are bursting with vitamins and minerals) by first sprouting 1/2 cup of soybeans together with 1 cup of pinto beans. After 3 or 4 days, simmer them in water (to cover) until they're tender (it'll take about 15 minutes). Then chop up the cooked sprouted beans and combine them with 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of milk, and 1 1/2 cups of bread crumbs. Shape the mixture into four or five patties, roll each one in whole wheat flour, and fry them in vegetable oil.

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