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A former pro fitness competitor, who now follows the IIFYM diet, recently posted the above Big Mac / Salad comparison photo online. It may look fantastic and exciting at first glance, (“WOW, a Big Mac is just as healthy as a salad!”), but there’s actually A LOT wrong with this photo and the message behind it. Before I get into that, however, let me first share the background info:

The IIFYM diet: IIFYM stands for “If it fits your macros” aka macronutrients. All foods fall into one of three macronutrient categories; Carbs, fat or protein. Alcohol, by the way, has it’s own category because it also supplies calories, but technically it is not a macronutrient because we do not need it for survival (enter joke here!). This diet suggests that it doesn’t matter which foods you eat, just so long as you consume the right number of each macronutrient each day. But here’s the catch: you must consume a certain number of grams of fiber each day as well. Which means that most of your allotted carbs for the day must come from fiber containing sources such as vegetables, fruit and whole grains. How ever many carbs are left over once the fiber requirement is met are free to be used in any way you like. Meaning, if you have enough carbs left over for a Pop Tart, then there are no rules holding you back at that point from eating one. People who choose to follow this diet usually hire a coach or use a program online to figure out their macronutrient numbers, but then it’s up to them to keep track of each and every morsel that goes into their mouths on a daily basis. This diet was originally created by bodybuilders who became sick and tired of the traditional “bro science” chicken breast, broccoli and brown rice type regimen. They yearned for more flexibility in their food options and therefore came up with this system.

Now, by posting the above “Burger vs. Salad” picture, this person was basically saying that these two meals have very similar macronutrient profiles, therefore, why torture yourself by eating a salad when you can have a Big Mac, instead?

 Here are the reasons eating a Big Mac is not the same as eating a salad, even if their macronutrients and calories are similar:

  • Fiber – A Big Mac offers 3 grams of fiber where as the salad is more likely to have around 12 – 20 grams of fiber, depending on the specific ingredients and their portions. Fiber offers countless health benefits: It decreases risk of stroke and heart diseases; It assists with blood sugar control; It also assists with weight loss and weight maintenance, due to the fact that fiber increases the feeling of fullness, which then results in less eating. But the list goes on.
  • Vitamins and Minerals (aka micronutrients) – As you can imagine, a colorful mixed salad such as the one pictured above, offers a broad spectrum of almost every vitamin and mineral you can think of, which are essential for nearly every function in your body, including: healing wounds, providing antioxidants, promoting immune health, and maintaining healthy skin, eyesight and bone strength, just to name a few. On the McDonald’s website, it seems the only micronutrients offered by the Big Mac are iron and a small amount of calcium.
  • Mystery ingredients – Some of the ingredients included in the secret sauce and bun of a Big Mac include: High Fructose Corn Syrup (which has been linked to diabetes), Soybean Oil and soy protein (low quality oil and protein that may affect hormone levels), Calcium Sulfate (may cause gas and swelling of the abdomen), Ammonium Sulfate (a preservative – it’s also used in lawn fertilizer), Azodicarbonamide (aka the Yoga Mat Compound), Mono and Diglycerides (most likely the source for the transfat listed on the nutrition facts on the Mickey D’s website), Monocalcium Phosphate (may increase risk of heart disease) and Calcium Peroxide (a food additive banned in Europe, Australia and New Zealand).

In other words, a big beautiful salad will contribute to living a longer, healthier life and a Big Mac will not.

  • Environmental affects – According to the documentary, “Cowspiracy,” ONE quarter pound beef burger costs us approximately 660 gallons of water! This is mostly due to the tremendous amount of it used to grow the crops that feed cows until they are old enough to be slaughtered. That, along with all of the water used on the farms, themselves.

To be honest, I ran across this post in the evening hours, which in turn, kept me awake thinking about it that night. I was so angered that this fitness professional who has a ton of followers, would post this blindly with no real explanation of what the IIFYM diet really entails and what a day’s worth of food really looks like for a person following the program. No wonder this country faces an obesity epidemic.

The bottom line is, most people who saw that post do not follow the IIFYM diet, but are still seeing a fitness pro spreading the message: Eating a Big Mac is the same as eating a salad.

I am all for living a balanced life and having a good treat now and then, but the world does not need any more encouragement to go out and eat low quality fast food, and that’s exactly what this photo is doing.

And for the record, here is the real nutritional profile for a Big Mac, according to McDonald’s website:

  • Calories – 530
  • Fat – 27g, 1 g listed as a Transfat
  • Sodium – 960 mg.
  • Carbs – 47 g
  • Fiber – 3 g
  • Protein – 24 g






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Kathi korn

Wonderful article. Great explanation of the differEnces between the two. Love Your website. Look forward to future articles


Audrey Dunham

Thanks very much, Kathi!


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