Drive thru

Don’t believe the GMO experiment is on? Try this: Flight delayed. Starving. B-rated airport at best… and all you have around you are fast food restaurants. Ugh. Is there anything you can eat that’s healthy? Sure, some things would vaguely fit into the category, if your qualifier is simply ‘not deep fried’. But, what if you’re sick of being a guinea pig for Monsanto, Dupont and Cargill’s genetic engineering experiment and the 80 percent of processed foods that contain GMOs? Think your Taco Bell Bean Burrito or veggie sub are GMO-free? 

We looked at menu items from fast food chains common in airports and highway rest stops: McDonald’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Boston Market, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Subway, Panera and Au Bon Pain.

What we’re avoiding:

Anything derived from genetically modified corn or soy, which is in dozens of items from the obvious corncobs and chips, soy protein or soy sauce, to the clandestine ingredients like dextrose or lecithin. We’re also avoiding GMO canola and cottonseed oil. If you’re eating non-organic meat, eggs or dairy products, as you would in any fast food restaurant, you are also eating the GMO grains they were fed. So all items also had to be vegan in order to qualify.  All sodas and HFCS sweetened soft drinks contain GMOs and the diet ones have questionable ingredients as well, so stick with water or fresh juices, if available.

The results:

-Breads are safe, right? Among a gnarly list of ingredients that were GMO, including soy lecithin, dextrose, corn starch and a surprisingly high incidence of high fructose corn syrup, the ONLY bread we found that was GMO-free: Panera’s rye. Bagels are even worse than most breads or buns, and those burrito wraps… you don’t even want to know.

-All salad dressings contain GMOs in various gelatinous forms. But your best bet is still salad, and thanks to the need for fast food restaurants to seem healthy, there are a few on virtually every menu. Skip the dressing (at Subway you can get vinegar, but watch the oil blend), croutons, taco shell strips, meats and cheese; and if you’re lucky, find a lemon wedge to dress it up. At Taco Bell, you can add the guacamole, although it’s sketchy for other reasons.

-Soups, even the healthy sounding ones at Au Bon Pain and Panera are laden with all sorts of unsavory ingredients, and all of them include GMOs.

-None of the French fries we reviewed are GMO-free, but you’ll have a new appreciation for Wendy’s plain baked potato as that’s your only tuber option. Skip the butter and discover how black pepper can really change a meal. And save room for dessert, because Wendy’s Mandarin orange slices’ only other ingredients are sugar and water!

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

image: Ian Muttoo