Healthy Fast Food, Iodine In Salt, The Best Types Of Milk & My Fave “Cheat” Foods

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Hello, Health Investor!

As I announced in a previous episode, I’m gonna start doing “Q&A-style” episodes every so often, which I’m super excited about!

I must say—I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of questions I got on Instagram prior to this first Q&A. I won’t be able to answer ALL of your questions in this episode, BUT keep the questions coming! Cause I’ll definitely get to all of them eventually!!

To ask a question, just DM me on Instagram (@thehealthinvestment) or email me (brooke@thehealthinvestment.com). If you follow me on Instagram already, you know I usually post one of those little “question stickers” before ANY episode—so keep an eye out for those!

But, never hesitate to reach out—even if I haven’t explicitly asked for your questions on the ‘gram. I’m alllllways here for you, and I read and reply to every single direct message and email I get! You’re NEVER a bother.

In today’s episode, I’m going to answer the following questions:

  • Which fast food places and choices are healthiest?
  • What’s the difference between salt WITH iodine and salt WITHOUT iodine? Which is best?
  • When it comes to the types of milk—2%, non-fat, whole, non-dairy—which are best for kids and adults?
  • And finally…what is my favorite “cheat” treat?

Quickly, before I start answering them, I want to share an Apple Podcast review with you.

KDMara gave The Health Investment podcast 5 stars and wrote:

Informative podcast with “doable” lifestyle hacks. Brooke is so knowledgeable and funny. Her style is light and positive, but that doesn’t take away from the accurate and science-based information she provides. She offers such good advice on how to easily transform your diet into the healthiest one it can be. She’s not into fads, but is grounded in the latest research. This is one to subscribe to and to recommend to your friends and family, especially those who haven’t made the switch to a “real foods” approach.

WOW, wow, wow. What a kind, thorough review. I’m so grateful to you, KDMara!

After releasing my 15th episode, The Health Investment Podcast had over 2,000 downloads—which is incredible!

You’ve helped to make that happen through reviews!! Apple Podcasts makes the highest-reviewed podcasts the most visible, so each and every review helps new listeners find my show…which means I can help more people optimize their health!

That’s my ultimate goal, so I REALLY appreciate you helping me make that happen!

Alright, are you ready for my FIRST EVER Q&A episode?? Here we go…

Question #1: Which fast food places and choices are healthiest?

So, this is an interesting one, and my response is nuanced.

It’s also kind of a two-parter.

First, let’s tackle the first half: which fast food places are healthiest?

For my answer to make sense, I need to define my version of “healthy” for you.

I always prioritize foods that are:

  • Refined grain-free
  • Refined sugar-free
  • Mostly UNprocessed
  • “Organic” (in the case of produce) and “pasture-raised” or “100% grass-fed” (in the case of animal protein)
  • Free from crappy additives like vegetable oils, preservatives, dyes, gums, and other weird additives

As you can imagine, when it comes to mass-producing food, meeting allll of those criteria ain’t cheap! So, MOST fast food establishments don’t sell items that check all of those boxes.

However, there ARE a few popping up that are better than the rest. For example, there’s Hu Kitchen in NYC. You may have seen Hu (spelled “h-u”) products at Whole Foods or other specialty stores; their chocolate is very popular (and delicious I might add)!

“Hu” is short for “human,” the company’s founders are VERY quality- and ingredient-focused. They aim to provide products that are optimal for us—humans!—as their name suggests. So everything at Hu Kitchen is made without gluten, GMOs, dairy, cane/refined sugars, canola/vegetable oil, soy, hidden gums, carrageenan…I mean the list goes on. 

BUT, like I said—as of now, they only have one store—in NYC!

Then, I’ve heard about a place called True Food Kitchen, which was founded by integrative physician Andrew Weil. I’ve never eaten there, but people really rave about it. According to the website, its menu items are based on principles of the anti-inflammatory diet, which sounds awesome!

Again, I’ve never eaten there, but it seems as if it’s a place with a mission centered on healthful menu items and ingredients, which is really cool. 

So, there ARE some amazing fast food places popping up out there—you probably know of others that I don’t!—and at these places, quality really seems to be the priority for ALL of their menu items. BUT…the problem is that these establishments are few and far between.

That leads us into the second half of the question: Which fast food choices are healthiest?

There are tons of fast-casual places—like Chipotle, Sweetgreen, PokeSpot, Shake Shake, In ‘n Out—you know the ones. 

Those places have quality standards above those of McDonald’s, but they’re also not Hu kitchen, right? They’re very middle-of-the-road because you may be able to create a dish that’s free from refined grains and refined sugar, BUT a lot of their sauces, dressings, etc., may still be heavily processed. And their ingredients may not be organic. And they’re probably not using 100% grass-fed animal protein or pastured animal proteins. And there’s pretty much 100% chance that they’re cooking with and frying things in canola and other vegetable oils because those are super cheap.

BUT, no one—or VERY few people—are going to move through life avoiding fast food altogether. I’m certainly not interested in a life where I restrict myself from ALL fast food!

So I guess what’s important to think about is when you’re eating fast food, you’re never gonna be eating the healthiest thing. Because again—you have nooooo idea about the quality of ingredients the place is using.

When the most nourishing, healthful meals are your goal, you’re gonna have to prep them yourself. That’s just how it is. Maybe in the future Hu Kitchens will pop up allll over the place, but that’s not the current reality.

BUT, if you’re eating fast food on the rare occasion, and you’re looking to make the healthiest choices when you do, I’d say your best bet is to try to avoid fried things, refined grains, and refined sugar.

And really, that’s not an impossible thing to do at MOST places these days.

At a poke place, for example, you could get a base of rice (because rice is a whole grain, not a refined grain)—or you could even get cauliflower rice—and then add a bunch of toppings. But maybe you’d just skip the commercial dressing and ask for olive oil, salt, and pepper instead.

At Chipotle, you can skip the tortilla. Instead of getting a burrito, you could get a burrito bowl—and you could even skip the rice if you wanted and ask for double protein. Then, on top of whichever base you chose, you could add lettuce, cheese, some type of salsa, guacamole…all of that yummy stuff.

At In ‘n Out and Shake Shake, you can request your burger “protein style,” which means it’s served in a lettuce wrap. Or, my new fave at In ‘n Out is their secret menu item, the “Flying Dutchman,” which is just two slices of cheese sandwiched in two beef patties. Then, I always ask for pickles and grilled onions.

What it comes down to is this: VERY few fast food places are “healthy,” but there IS a way to eat healthIER fast food.

And if it’s a rarity for you, don’t sweat it! What you eat MOST of the time matters way more than what you eat SOME of the time. So if you’re getting McDonald’s on a road trip and want chicken nuggets and fries…just go for it and move on with your life.

You just want to be sure that fast food doesn’t become a habit out of convenience. And, if there’s a point in time when you have to eat it more than you’d like, again—just make the best choices given what you’ve got.

Question #2: What’s the difference between salt WITH iodine and salt WITHOUT iodine? Which is best?

This was a really fun one for me because I, too, had always wondered about the difference. So, to the person who asked this: THANK YOU! Now, we’re all gonna know!!

I started doing a lot of research, and I ended up on the website of my favorite salt company: Redmond Real Salt

If you Google “Redmond Real Salt iodine,” the first result that pops up will probably be the page I’m about to read. (I’ll also put a link to this in the show notes.)

Redmond’s website explains the answer SO well that I’m just gonna read it. Storytime!

If you had been on a certain bridge in Sarajevo in late June of 1914, you might have been unfortunate enough to witness the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. If you were particularly savvy, you might have predicted that the assassination would change the world forever–it was the spark that ignited the first world war–but you probably wouldn’t have guessed that it would also change salt forever.

A few years later, the United States military noticed something about the young men from America’s Midwest: many of them were unfit for service because of enlarged thyroid glands. A panel established to determine the cause discovered that soil in the Midwest (and therefore much of the region’s population) had become iodine deficient. Without iodine we humans tend to develop goiter, and as any general knows, men with goiter make poor soldiers.

So a group of Very Smart People set about finding ways to supplement our diet with iodine. (We could have started eating more fish, seaweed, cow’s milk, onion, garlic, pineapple, or artichokes, but Very Smart People have always thought that relying on nature is old-fashioned.) Eventually, these Very Smart People discovered that potassium iodide could be added to table salt, and as long as they also added sugar (dextrose) to prevent the iodide from yellowing the salt, the population wouldn’t be able to tell much difference.

Unfortunately, another group of smart people has more recently examined the usefulness of iodized table salt and found it to be less effective than the Very Smart People had hoped. Dr. David Brownstein and others have discovered that the iodine added to salt is at best about 10% bio-available — which means that if you consume 100 micrograms, your body will only be able to use 10 micrograms. Iodine that occurs naturally in food is almost 100% bio-available.

I know, you’re thinking I’m dodging the question. Here’s the answer. Real Salt does contain naturally-occurring iodine, but not enough to satisfy the recommended daily allowance of 150 micrograms. Real Salt doesn’t provide the recommended daily allowance of protein, either. Or fat. Because nature intended salt to provide our bodies with sodium chloride and trace minerals!

So, instead of using chemically-processed, unhealthy salt in order to get iodine, we like to stick with Real Salt and get naturally occurring iodine from other delicious sources like kelp, yogurt, eggs, strawberries, and mozzarella cheese. Yum!

Told ya that was a good story!

So, bottom line: When you see regular ol’ table salt that says “WITH IODINE” or something like that on the front of the package, the salt likely also has SUGAR in it—yuck!! And, table salt doesn’t have REAL, naturally occurring iodine in it—it has potassium iodide.

As explained in that little story, we do NEED iodine, but we can get it from sources other than salt.

I personally use Redmond Real Salt—almost exclusively—and so do a lot of the nutrition-conscious doctors and researchers out there. You can buy it on Amazon or Thrive Market, and it’s not expensive at all. 

Dr. James DiNicolantonio is one of my favorite people to follow on Instagram (you can find him @drjamesdinic); he wrote a book called The Salt Fix.

I know he uses Redmond Real Salt because he writes and tweets about it all of the time. But I was curious to know if he uses other types. In an interview with Wendy Myers (I’ll put a link in the show notes), he said, “There’s been numerous studies that have come out recently, where they’ve tested 14 batches of modern day sea salts, and 13 out of the 14 will contain micro plastics. Mainly, the plastics that are used to make plastic water bottles, which makes sense, right?”

So that was interesting to me because I’d never thought about modern sea salt containing micro plastics (from litter in the ocean).

For that reason, he goes on to say that ancient sea salts are a better bet than modern sea salts. Good to know!

Question #3: When it comes to the types of milk—2%, non-fat, whole, non-dairy—which are best for kids and adults?

This is another tricky one.

First of all, I don’t feel comfortable speaking about what kids should/shouldn’t be eating/drinking. I’m not a doctor or dietician, and I definitely haven’t read enough about proper dairy consumption for kids. So I’d recommend that you listen to this next part about some of the truths about dairy and non-dairy milk, and then ask your pediatrician.  

When it comes to adults…here’s what I’d say about dairy:

Some people tolerate dairy just fine and some people don’t, which is why alllll of the alternative milks like cashew milk and almond milk and soy milk and walnut milk have popped up.

One thing I’ve noticed about these alternative milks is that many of them have preservatives and binding agents (like gums) and even added sugar. I tend to avoid those additives, so I’m pretty cautious before buying any nut milk.

I think there was a wave a few years ago when Starbucks and Peet’s and all these chains started having soy milk or almond milk as an option and a lot of us jumped on board and thought, “Oh this must be healthier because I’ve seen it in the news and I’ve heard my friends talking about it.” I know I used to get almond milk without thinking twice; I just assumed it was healthier

But then I looked at the ingredients and nutrition facts and that’s when I noticed the additives I mentioned before—like the gums and the added sugar. I mean, some of these alternative milks contain A LOT of sugar, especially the “unsweetened” varieties. 

The point I’m trying to make is if you don’t tolerate dairy and you still want to drink some type of milk, just be an informed consumer. Flip the carton over and take a look at the Nutrition Facts and Ingredients labels!

There are a few alternative milk brands that I really like. One is called Malk (spelled M-A-L-K); they make a great unsweetened almond and cashew milk. I also like the brands Forager and Elmhurst. But companies change their formulations all the time, so who knows if they’ll stay as pure as they are now, ya know? If you buy those brands, still be sure to read the labels for yourself! 

When it comes to dairy…if you’re someone who tolerates dairy and wants to add actual cow’s milk to your coffee, I think the main thing to keep in mind is that full fat milk has the least amount of lactose, which is a type of sugar. (All of the -ose words—dextrose, fructose, sucralose, etc.—are types of sugar!)

The less fat in any milk, the more sugar. So just keep that in mind.

Therefore, whenever I’m going to have milk from cows—so, real dairy!—I opt for heavy cream or whole milk over the lower-fat varieties. Ultimately, I’m always working on keeping my sugar consumption low.

Finally…what is my favorite “cheat” treat?

I want to start by saying I actually never view anything I eat as “cheating” because I think the word cheating comes from this mindset of restriction, and the more I restrict anything—this  probably goes for you, as well!—the more I crave it and the more I want it.

Earlier, I mentioned that what you eat most of the time matters a lot more than what you eat some of the time, so that’s why I don’t use the word “cheat” anymore. I don’t attach feelings of shame or guilt to food because I truly believe that the more power you give any food, the more power it’s gonna have over you. 

And your stress level and mindset matter just as much as the foods you’re putting in your body. So if you’re super stressed about “cheating,” you’re likely to spiral into a negative mindset of failure and feel shame and guilt, which will probably stress you out more…and that’s not good!  

That being said, I do think it’s important to prioritize nourishing, wholesome, satiating foods most of the time because those are the foods that are gonna make you feel amazing! They’re gonna give you energy, they’re gonna help your digestion, they’re gonna make your skin look clear and bright…I mean, REAL, nourishing food is where it’s at!

The things I love to eat every now and then that aren’t the MOST nutritious are nachos, french fries, and chocolate chip cookies. I don’t even want to say those are my three weaknesses—because again, the word “weakness” assumes that I’m weak or wrong for enjoying those delicious things! And I refuse to live my life thinking that eating nachos every now and then makes me weak!

So I won’t say those three things are my “weaknesses,” but I WILL say that if I see a chocolate chip cookie in a cafe I’m probably going to get it. Or, if there are amazing looking fries at a restaurant, I’m probably gonna share some with the table.

Nachos? I could pretty much eat an entire plate of nachos any day, any time allll on my own because they’re the absolute BEST (in my opinion). They have the crunch, they have salty cheese, usually they have guacamole—and who doesn’t like guacamole?? I mean nachos are amazing.

Okay…that wraps up this first Q&A! Thanks for sending in your questions—can’t wait to answer more in the future!


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