A Burn the Fat Blog Archives Classic. Originally published March 15th, 2010.
What’s on the menu at fast food restaurants lately? Ironically enough, the answer increasingly is… “health food!” Even more incongruous, many fast food joints are advertising their food for weight loss. Healthy weight loss food at Taco Bell and McDonalds? Is this a positive move to be applauded, is it a big corporate money grab or is it a double edged sword? Here’s my two cents:
Almost everyone remembers the Jared weight loss campaign for Subway.
He was the guy who lost 245 pounds during which time he ate at Subway regularly. He simply picked the lower calorie items on the menu. Jared later became a spokesperson for Subway in their nationwide advertising campaigns which became known as the Subway Diet. (He later went to jail for being a child-molesting scumbag… but never mind)…
During that campaign, Subway sales doubled to 8.2 billion. How much the increase came from the weight loss ads is unknown, but there’s little doubt that using weight loss as a marketing platform was a boon for Subway.
Subway moved on later to $5 footlong subs, which worked wonders for their bottom line during recessionary times. But other fast food chains picked up the weight loss torch where subway left off.
Then there was the Taco Bell “drive through diet…”
With its own dedicated website and advertising campaign, the drive through diet flaunts their own “Jared”: Christine!
The restaurant seemed to be walking on FTC-strewn egg shells… er… taco shells, being very conservative with their claims. They say Christine’s results aren’t typical, she lost the weight (54 lbs) over 2 years by reducing her calories to 1250 a day, and part of her success was simply from choosing Taco Bell’s new lower calorie “Fresco” items.
These include “7 diet items with 150 to 240 calories and under 9 grams of fat.” For example, there’s a chicken soft taco with only 170 calories, 4 grams of fat, 22 grams of carbs and 12 grams of protein.
By swapping some of these items with their regular (and higher calorie) menu items, you’d take in fewer calories and less fat. If all else remained equal, this could help you lose weight. For people who refuse to give up eating at fast food restaurants, this is arguably a positive thing.
Take my brother for example, He’s not a total junk food junkie, thanks partly to my influence and the influence of our parents. I have vague memories of my health-nut mom feeding us wheat germ and cod liver oil (by the spoonful) when we were candy-munching kids in California. She once tried to feed us eggplant pizza as a sneaky way to get us to eat vegetables. That ploy didn’t work – we were young but we weren’t stupid – we knew it wasn’t Pizza Hut! (I hate eggplant to this day).
Many years ago, I even managed to get my brother going to the gym and whaddya know, he’s been going ever since. But despite the positive role models he has, left to his own devices, he WILL make a beeline to Taco Bell and McDonalds and so will the friends he hangs out with.
I went to McDonalds with him a few months ago (I was trapped in the car with no choice), and he was about to order a bacon cheeseburger. I glanced at the menu and said, “That’s 790 calories!” I glanced down at his belly, then continued, “Look, they have chicken wraps. Why don’t you have one of those?” Without questioning me he said, “Ok,” apparently happy just to get any McDonalds fix. I couldn’t talk him out of the soda, but I’m working on it okay? At least I got him to stop getting refills.
Right there at the counter they had the nutrition information sheets:
McDonald’s honey mustard grilled chicken wrap: 260 calories, 9 grams fat, 27 grams of carbs, 18 grams of protein.
That saved him 530 calories. Am I happy there is something with 260 calories on the menu and not just 700 calories across the board? Absolutely. And do I applaud the fast food restaurants for offering lower calorie choices? You bet, although I’d like to see more one-ingredient choices like baked potatoes, baked sweet potatoes and whole fruit…plus some decent salads).
The big mistake almost everyone is making, even fitness and nutrition professionals who have been blogging about this lately, is that while they are agreeing that it’s nice to have low calorie items on the menu (especially with calories posted), they are calling these low calorie fast food items “healthy choices.”
Some journalists and bloggers have jumped into the fray and cleverly countered…
“These new fast food menu items are NOT healthy, they’re only ‘healthi-ER.'”
I think they are both mistaken.
This food is not healthy nor is it healthier. It’s only lower in calories.
The only way you could say these lower calorie fast food items are healthier choices is in the sense that they can help to reduce total daily caloric intake, if all else remains equal. That could help people lose weight and if they lose weight the weight loss could improve their health. Eating smaller portions of refined carbohydrates or sugars might also be healthier, from a glycemic point of view.
But what if your definition of healthy food is dependent on nutrition, nutrient density and absence of artificial ingredients?
Let’s take a look at that very low calorie chicken wrap. Do you really think it’s healthier just because it’s got 1/3 the calories of a bacon cheeseburger?
Here’s the ingredients straight from McDonald’s website:
McDonald’s Grilled Chicken Breast Filet (wrap): Chicken breast filets with rib meat, water, seasoning (salt, sugar, food starch-modified, maltodextrin, spices, dextrose, autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolyzed [corn gluten, soy, wheat gluten] proteins, garlic powder, paprika, chicken fat, chicken broth, natural flavors (plant and animal source), caramel color, polysorbate 80, xanthan gum, onion powder, extractives of paprika), modified potato starch, and sodium phosphates.
CONTAINS: SOY AND WHEAT. Prepared with Liquid Margarine: Liquid soybean oil, water, partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils, salt, hydrogenated cottonseed oil, soy lecithin, mono- and diglycerides, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (preservative), artificial flavor, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, beta carotene (for color). And don’t forget the 800 mg of sodium.
HOLY CRAP! Shouldn’t chicken breast be just one ingredient… chicken breast?! Isn’t that generally what healthy, whole food is – one ingredient?
This is not food. It’s more like what Michael Pollan would call an “edible food-like substance.”
What about the honey mustard sauce? First ingredient after water is… SUGAR!
The flour tortilla ingredients? Enriched bleached wheat flour, also made with vegetable shortening (may contain one or more of the following: hydrogenated soybean oil, soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, hydrogenated cottonseed oil with mono- and diglycerides added), contains 2% or less of the following: sugar, leavening (sodium aluminum sulfate, calcium sulfate, sodium phosphate, baking soda, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate), salt, wheat gluten, dough conditioners, sodium metabisulfite, distilled monoglycerides.
Trans fats? Sugar? Aluminum? Stuff you can’t pronounce and have to look up to find out it’s preservatives and disinfectants?
Don’t confuse the issues: weight loss and health…. Calories and nutrition. There IS a difference!
This my friends, makes “healthy” fast food a double edged sword.
There are people I care about, not just my clients, but my own family, and I want the best for them all. But my brother, and many other people, aren’t going to completely give up fast food. If I can get him to make better bad choices that could help him keep his weight under control. If that works, then I’m pleased that the fast food restaurants have such choices to offer.
But if you wanted to make a best choice – a healthiest choice – you’d forget about “driving through” anywhere on a daily basis, and you’d save the junk for your planned treat meals (although, frankly, I can think of far better ways to spend my “free” calories).
The Subway diet, the Drive Through diet, The Cookie Diet, Kentucky grilled chicken or the Weight Watchers approved McDonalds menu (yes its true, what a pair that is!) Don’t kid yourself – it’s not only not healthy, it’s not healthier – it’s lower calorie junk food.
“Welcome to our restaurant sir. Would you like a large plate of dog poo or a small plate of dog poo?”
“No thank you, I will take neither. No matter what the serving size, crap is still crap.”
Founder & CEO, Burn the Fat Inner Circle
Author of Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle
Author of The BFFM Guide to Flexible Meal Planning For Fat Loss
Already have the Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle books? Awesome! The next step is to join the Burn the Fat Inner Circle, our members-only online community and support site: www.BurnTheFatInnerCircle.com
About Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto is a natural bodybuilding and fat loss expert. He is also a recipe creator specializing in fat-burning, muscle-building cooking. Tom is a former competitive bodybuilder and today works as a full-time fitness coach, writer, blogger, and author. In his spare time, he is an avid outdoor enthusiast and backpacker. His book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle is an international bestseller, first as an ebook and now as a hardcover and audiobook. The Body Fat Solution, Tom’s book about emotional eating and long-term weight maintenance, was an Oprah Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine pick. Tom is also the founder of Burn The Fat Inner Circle – a fitness support community with over 52,000 members worldwide since 2006. Click here for membership details
My husband loves Taco Hell/Smell/Bell, and McDs. I go with him, but I only order select things like (when I’m in the mood to cheat) a 7-layer burrito (to me, this is the ultimate indulgence) at Taco Smell and a Mediterranean grilled chicken sans dressing salad at McDs. Love that salad. And yet, when I mentioned it on twitter, I got ripped a new one over the processed chicken by someone who only cared about how the food was produced not that it was the only healthy choice they serve today. Go figure.And I’m sorry, but 9g of fat for any meal is about 7 too many. Am I alone on this stance??
Love this!!!!!!! I reposted on my facebook page. Been following you for over 10years
Disgusting…. It’s easier and less expensive over the long run to brown bag it with bona fide healthy food. Fast food is for lazy people……
it’s garbage. Mark Sisson at MDA did a great letter to Taco Bell.
“That’s the funniest thing I’ve read lately, great way to sum it up.“Welcome to our restaurant sir. Would you large plate of dog poo or a small plate of dog poo.”“No thank you, I will take neither. No matter what the serving size, crap is still crap.”
What a super article! Hats off!!
Christina,I posted that line in my status as well. It is so sad that my wife and kids love that junk. I wasn’t home from the gym in time to make dinner, so that’s what they ate tonight. YUCK!
I think it’s appalling that people like Weight Watchers are backing McDonalds “healthier choices”…although if people fall for the advertising, long-term they stand to make more $$$ from helping them to lose all the weight they stack on when they walk through the McDonalds doors, see the “healthier” options and eat the cheeseburger instead! I concur – crap is still crap….
Tom, I have to disagree with you on the eggplant. It’s one of my favourite foods in the world. I bought seeds yesterday to plant in my garden this summer so I can regularly make this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lilly_projects/454796599/in/set-1775708/. I dare anyone to eat this eggplant parm and claim they still don’t like eggplant! :-D
stacerella, im sure your eggplant is wonderful… but bad childhood experiences linger, LOL!Tom v.
“Welcome to our restaurant sir. Would you large plate of dog poo or a small plate of dog poo.”“No thank you, I will take neither. No matter what the serving size, crap is still crap.”That is one of the best lines I have ever heard to describe fast food!
“Subway bread is fake, not good bread. Don’t eat Subway, KFC or MacDonalds. Who are Weight Watchers kidding?”
Healthy fast food? sounds like an oxymoron to me. I’m not a fast food industry expert; but I do not think corporate america is out to make a profit by helping people get healthy. It’s a business and like one it will follow principles of investing as little as you can and making as much of a profit as possible. Good quality food is not cheapAbdiel
Its the Fast Food Industry’s latest grab for the elusive “healthy diet customer”. I remember going to McDonalds when they first put out their healthy choices salads, & felt thoroughly cheated at their idea of a healthy salad. A handful of limp lettuce, a cherry tomato, a slice of cucumber & a salad dressing with indescribable ingredients & caloric value……I pitched the lot in the bin in disgust & have never been back to try any of their other “healthy options”.
For some reason this reminded me of an episode of Frasier where he was taking part in a weight loss challenge. At the weigh in he was found to be a couple of pounds heavier and stated “that can’t be…. I’ve added a salad to every meal”.Pedantic point of order: Food cannot be healthy, it is healthful. People however can be healthy.
A while ago I went to McDs and got a salad with grilled chicken (I hadn’t planned my day well, didn’t have lunch with me and was starving). What a mistake – the “grilled” chicken had so many preservatives in it that it didn’t really taste like chicken and upset my stomach. I haven’t been back.
i like your way of explaining the complicated things….:)
Wow Tom! This is why you’re the best out there.I’ve had a difficult time wrapping my head around this issue and I’m one of those people who has blogged about it and am guilty of using the phrase “healthier choice” and not a healthy choice.http://fatlossquickie.com/blog/what-do-you-think-about-the-taco-bell-drive-thru-diet-menu/The reason that I’ve had such a difficult time with it is because, like you said, there are some people who will refuse to give up fast food and saving some calories with the ‘diet menu’ items is better than going for their typical high calorie crap.I guess that I was looking at the issue as a compromise. I didn’t want to risk sounding too harsh or too strict. But it’s compromises like this that put us in the position of settling for mediocrity. Sure it’s a bit better than the usual crap, but it’s still crap like you said.I do think that it’s a step in the right direction and I can’t wait for the day when I can get a sweet potato at a drive thru without a hundred ingredients added to itAlthough I do think that this is a step in the right direction, I’m really concerned that their hearts are not in the right places and that they are purely looking at profits instead of your health.There’s definitely the issue of personal responsibility, but these marketing campaigns are sure making it difficult to make the personally responsible choices. But I love a great challenge ;)Even though these ‘diet menus’ have better bad choices to make that are reduced in calories I can’t possibly eat just one or even two of these items and feel satisfied. I would have to eat three and that would be it right up there with the high calorie bad crap on the menu.Plus the sodium content is outrageous and I didn’t even dig as deep as you to see everything else that’s added to this “edible food-like substance” …I love that line as scary as it is.My family enjoys pizza a few times each month, but we’re not much for fast food. I’m busy just like everyone else, yet for a long time I’ve considered fast food as reaching into my freezer, grabbing a meal that I prepared in advance and warming it up in the microwave for a few minutes. Or when I use to spend most of my work day in the car, fast food was reaching into my cooler and grabbing some healthy left overs from the night before even if it was a cold chicken breast and semi warm sweet potato.We all have a choice and it’s important to really dig deep with our goals. Is our goal to achieve specific numbers such as weight and body fat percentage, or is our goal to continue becoming the best that we can be?If your goal is becoming the best that you can be, then you have to take calories and the nutrient density as you have stated, in order to be provided with the fuel to perform at your best each and every day.I can’t thank you enough for your efforts at digging deep into all these issues. It’s always an eye opener for me and forces me to step up my game.You ROCK Tom!Scott Tousignant
The only fast-food I eat is Rio Wraps. I get the RiOriginal on honey wheat, and the only ingredients are chicken (cut from a whole chicken breast—-I’ve watched), black beans, rice, lettuce, and guacamole. That’s it. It’s hard to make a healthy choice at “fast-food” places, so I avoid them entirely.
Thanks for your enlightening piece on the fast foods. I’m really not a fan of MACD,Taco et al,and i strongly believe more people should speak up and tell it as it is. Bravo!!!
Tom,I agree wholeheartedly with your post.And, your site is geared toward “healthy” people.Looking at the big picture, though, there are 300 lb teenagers with 400 lb parents who watch a lot of t.v.. If they can absorb enough info to make lower calorie choices and get some of that weight off, they might live long enough to start learning a little more about true health and real food.So, I for one think it’s a good thing.Those of us who know better won’t fall for it and those who do fall for it, might be led to a better understanding. They have to start “somewhere”.Karen
This is awesome! You hit the nail squarely on the head and as a health coach trying to get people to take baby steps and at least make the “health-ier” choice is important for those people. For some that’s all they’ll do! But your bottom line was perfect – crap is still crap! That it is!
Interesting take on fast food! I thoroughly enjoy all your mini articles. I have also purchased your e-book, though it takes some time to finish going through the entire book, but it is one of the best books I have ever purchased.Thanks and keep up the good work.
I’m going to be using this terminology from now on as a little reminder to myself when making choices:This is not food. It’s more like ……… an “edible food-like substance.”Thank you, Tom.
I don’t care if you triple dog dare me to try that plate of vomit parm, not gonna dig it. Putting ketchup on a turd won’t make it tasty.
Good article Tom. I feel cheap, fast foods are the main reason we have an obesity crisis and health care crisis right now. We ought to tax the fast food industry and processed food industry to discourage people from buying this food, and use the tax money it to finance the health care in the US.
Brilliant. I’ve been staying away from McDeathwish and the like for a while now and hadn’t really looked into their so-called “healthier” options. No aspect of the food industry can really be trusted any more. It’s why I have my own garden and my own chickens. Frankly, I’m terrified of what they put into food these days. It’s like something out of Upton Sinclair.
Good post! Props for the Michael Pollan reference.Everyone go and read “In defence of food” now!
Tom, great article. Most people don’t understand the difference between healthy and low calorie foods. But I do believe there is one place where fast food is healthy – Chipotle Grill. They make burritos using only naturally raised meat and organic beans and vegetables. No articial ingredients, at least that I know of. The tortillas of course are not the best for avoiding simple carbs, but you can order the burrito in a bowl, without the tortilla, and it is a great and satisfying meal. And no, I’m not employed by or associated with Chipotle, it just seems like a good place to get a quick healthy meal. We should support and encourage more places like this.
Excellent article Tom!I am a chemical engineer & since I know a thing or two about chemicals in food and food processing in general, I am so glad that you wrote about this topic.Why do we need artificial flavors to flavor the chicken?Why does sugar have to be added to everything?It’s time for people to get educated about this, so that they can make informed decisions about what they put in their bodies.
Excellent as usual Tom. I’ve only had the whole food religion for thepast year or so adn sometimes I still stray into a procesed food now and then, buy holy crap, look at all those addatives.My personal transformation this year has changed eating habits in our office, but I still ache to see people bringing in Lean Cuisine and “Smart Choice” frozen lunches. I guess its a starting point for them … thinking they are doing better, but I just feel like saying anything is preaching or coming off as a know it all.If only there were a way to market whole food as effectively as the fast food folks do we might make some progress.
Excellent blog! I wish we could hang this up in all fast food restaurants. I enjoy going out to eat with my family and friends but get tired of trying to decide which of “the lesser two evils” to eat from the menu. Restaurants need to get on the bandwagon and make REAL FOOD! Real food that is actually Healthy choices. I wouldn’t touch a fast-food restaurant for no reason and I won’t take my kids there either.
Wonderful post, Tom!List of ingredients of fast food items are like ancient cryptic writings. Isn’t it interesting cats generally do NOT eat pieces or leftovers of fast food? (Normally they die for meat, bones etc.) Crap is crap!By the way, I am so sad for you since you miss a great food called “eggplant”. Why not consider NLP techniques to manipulate childhood experiences? :))
Tom you hit the nail right on the head. I will definitely agree with you on the eggplant. I think the SubWay thing was a joke also he just cut calories he did not eat a variety of good foods. It’s kind of like those smoothies they are trying to sale drink these everyday and loose weight. It’s just hard to believe that people fall for this crap each and everyday. I line this stuff up right there with the biggest looser. Everybody wants the easy way out they don’t want the hard work that comes with it.Tom your book has changed my life I feel so good I will never go back. Each week I shoot to get better stronger and healthier. I can’t believe people would even eat at Mcdonalds that place is worse than dog crap.
Tom, I agree that these new menus are really just offering ligher versions of junk, but there are a couple of things to bear in mind here. The first, of course, is that food is to diet as weather is to climate. An occasional lapse shouldn’t be viewed as a trend, and with the lower cal choices, consequences can be better managed. But the real benefit is that these offerings signal that an emerging trend toward less calorie-dense options is finally making inroads into popular culture. This generation may not reap the rewards, but subsequent ones can. We can’t eradicate the scourge of fast-food offerings, but at least we’re starting to neutralize them. Baby steps, but in the right direction.
I am a Weight Watchers lifetime member. I don’t touch their foods. After reading the ingredients on many of their products, nobody should!
tom, thank you for the research and the ingredients list, when you see what goes into this junk and then it is marketed as healthy!! its quite incredible and sad that so many people are being deceived and in the process being made ill. an informative and well written article.
Chicken isn’t just chicken???!!!What’s in the lettuce then? ;)Thanks for posting this. i had no idea! i do occasionally have a salad with the grilled “chicken” at McDonalds!!!!! but never again!
Hey Tom -I just started a “12-week transformation challenge” yesterday, but I did a personal food experiment the previous week (wanted a better “before” photo – LOL!).I went to Luby’s every day for a “healthy” lunch (chicken breast or fish, mashed potatos, broccoli and corn muffin).Ended up gaining a jelly roll of belly fat, even though my other meals were in line with “Burn the Fat” recommendations.Some of my personal training clients still insist that Luby’s is healthy and has good choices for losing body fat – obviously their desire for salt and fat are clouding their better judgement.TheoP.S. I followed your recommendations for fat loss while preparing for my 1st natural bodybuilding competitions in 2008 and 2009. Was pinched by a my posing class instructor at 4.5% bodyfat 2 weeks out (. . . think I went on stage at about 3.7%). I was totally shredded, at age 54 and 55, thanks to BFFM.Thanks for info that actually works, Tom!!!
Tom,This is my first post ever – to anywhere, but your comments were so accurate and well stated that I HAD to reply. Personally, I find that fast food and all these artificial ingredients NEVER satisfy my appetite or my soul. My body never feels satisfied, because this isn’t real food. Instead I end up with a headache, stomach gurgling, and hunger.I, unfortunately, over-indulge in bagels and cookies and prepared items from places like Whole Foods. “Better” but not exactly whole & always healthy either. PLEASE do a similar article regarding fast food/take out from these healthier groceries, so that I forgo relying on these prepared foods so regularly. Better isn’t best, and – as you say – we really should strive to be our best. I’m serious, PLEASE write such an article; I need it. Meantime, thanks for your book, blogs, and getting it right. To our best life & health…though I have a ways to go.Sue
As far as I can tell, no one has responded to the first poster’s comment about 9 grams of fat in a meal being 7 too many. So here’s a delayed response: One of my favorite “meals” is just a handful of raw nuts and some cottage cheese or another protein source. The nuts will get you around 15-20 grams of fat, depending on the nut, but that fat won’t set you back one bit (unless you eat the entire container of nuts). In fact, I find nuts to be so filling and delicious that eating just two or three cashews is enough to quench cravings between meals. I’ve lost 14 pounds in the past two months eating at least one serving of nuts, and half an avocado, almost every day. I can assure you that I average more than two grams of fat at each meal, but it’s not just any fat!Great article!
Tom, I was really looking forward to this article and I loved it! Thank you for writing it. You actually reminded me of a joke from one of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan… “Its hard to eat healthy, its expensive too. Should I have this salad for 12 bucks or these eight hamburgers for a nickel? … Sorry Salad…”Many people have the mentality that eating heathy is expensive, and when you’re eating out or at a fast food place, it’s totally true! I try not to eat fast food ever. And when I go out to a nice restaurant, I order the salad or the more expensive healthier meal and rationalize it as an investment in my health.
Mckie Dz isn’t going to be selling many grilled salmon and brown rice happy meals. No matter how many little movie cartoon figures they put in the bag.Ppl believe what they are told cus it’s easier than finding out for themselves. If Taco Bell tells them their food is good that’s all the info most ppl need. Look at the corn syrup adds. Nothing about how that stuff works on brain chemistry to make you hungrier. Or how the liver has to work overtime not knowing what to do with this unnatural product. Too complicated. Too much info. Knowledge is more trouble than it’s worth. It the commercial says it’s ok, — it’s ok. No need to get all health nutty!
Hi Tom, great article, i rarely to never eat anything from any fast food frankenburger/chicken etc., joint. I brown bag it to work and cook at home. If i go out to eat its at a good restaurant that servers good meals..which isn’t much more expensive than loading up on frankenfood. I see many people eating subway and the other phony phood joints…I quite eating that stuff years ago and its amazing how much better you feel not pounding that crap into your body. Working out and trying the best to live a healthy lifestyle is a way of life. BTW eggplant rocks dude.
Tom,I just have to say beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I can’t wait to send this to my fast food swilling brother and see what he has to say. Again, nice work!Mike
I completely agree with this article. We as consumers need to stop letting others pull the wool over our eyes! This article is the exact reason I do not eat at almost any chain restaurant. My motto is “if I can’t find the nutrition and ingredients somewhere there is something to hide and I want nothing to do with it.”I want to say something in defense of WW and the comments that are being made. I am a healthy young person in every sense you can imagine however, I hit a plateau and joined WW to help me through it. Although, WW has made a “heathly” menu with McDonalds that does not mean that is what is preached in their meetings. I have had great expriences with learning how to make even healthier choices than I was already making and they offer tons and tons of information about “natural” health. I do not think we can blame a companies marketing strategy solely on the company; it is us the consumer who drives those strategies.
THANK YOU, TOM!!! These “edible food-like substances” have an insidious effect on health — trans-fats are definitively linked to arterial plaque buildup and cellulite.I would love to see you write more about these micro-poisons and cellulite. Women should realize those “100 calorie packs” (marketed to women) are just little injections of cellulite.Here’s a real 100 calorie pack: 1 big medjool date stuffed with 3 raw almonds.Hats off to your wheat germ and cod-liver oil pushing Mom! My parents did the same to me! However much I rebelled as a kid, it gave me a taste for and ‘body sensitivity’ to whole, healthy nutrition. I wonder if the kids of today who are fed more fast food in a week than I was fed in 10 years are being ‘programmed’ in ways that cannot be undone in later life.Thanks for your leadership, Tom!
Hey Tom,Great post man and its laughable how these fast food joints try to pass off their garbage as “health food.”The sad truth is that many people ‘buy it’ so its even more important for the truth to get out there.They say the only cure for bad information is BETTER information.Keep spreading the good word man,Kyle BattisSite Managerwww.BurnTheFatInnerCircle.com
THANK YOU! I just facebooked this. As a twenty-year-old who’s been a conscious eater for years and frequently has to deliver long-winded explanations about what’s wrong with our S.A.D. (Standard American Diet, another thanks to Michael Pollan), I love this article. The fact that we’ve become so seperated from our food that as a society we no longer know or even care what we’re eating is deeply disturbing. Major kudos for detailing the distinction, I love the way you put it – it isn’t even healthier, it’s just less calories! People feel enlightened when they start to look at calories and fat content, but HELLO?! What about the ingredients?! Food isn’t only equal to RDA’s and nutrition facts! Food is supposed to be a product of our relationship with the land, an energizing, pleasurable experience and also a vital part of our culture -not the product of a man in a white coat carrying test tubes.
P.S. For anyone with a Netflix account – FOOD INC. just came on Instant Play, and if you haven’t seen it, you should. :)
Hey, if you want to eat reasonably healthy fast food, go to just about any neighborhood Mexican strip mall joint. Order the soft tacos with black beans or shredded meat. I doubt the sodium level will be low but at least its real food cooked in the kitchen, not created in a lab & processed in a factory. The only additives your likely to encounter are in bouillon & not all places use that. Or, try a middle eastern or Greek place for a pita sandwich made with hummus or some kind of grilled meat (skip the gyros though, in USA most of that “meat” is made in a factory). Broaden your horizons without broadening your waist!
Jack Lalanne, who is 95 has been desperately trying to convince the public to stay away from junk food but those establishments are too much a part of our society to ever go away. Check out these great short videos from Jack at http://middleagemeandering.blogspot.com/search/label/Jack%20Lalanne
Great Article Tom.Healthy has just one ingredient.
I changed my diet to completely organic months ago … best thing I ever did … My hayfever and asthma has gone etc the amount of health benefits far outweigh the cost of buying REAL food and enjoying wholesome, nutrient dense, tasty foods. I point blank refuse to buy anything in a packet, tin etc. I can guarantee everyone here if you change over to organic (especially meats) you will never go back to the supermarket junk that they sell. I actually cannot remember the last time I had a takeaway meal ?? When buying food you should be buying the whole food as in Chicken should be 100% Chicken with NO additives, preservatives, fillers, genetically modified, or treated with hormones or antibiotics. If everyone started to apply this we could “beat” the greedy businesses that do not give a crap about our health. I for one got sick of buying poisonous crap that they call food… and I literally was progressively getting sicker (hayfever, allergies etc ) Since the change over my health has improved 200%. My skin, hair, allergies, moods and energy levels to name but a few :)
TomExcellent article, it’s about time the truth came out about these fast food menus . Keep up the amazing work and a big Thank-you for doing what you do to help people get in the best shape of their lives.
Tom,I’m behind you 100%,I’m a vegetairian,love spinache etc but one thing I can’t stomach is EGG PLANT I don’t know why,I’ve never had a bad experience with it and I’ve no doubt it’s a good food source but for me it’s like semolina and with that stuff I had the most horrible experiences at school lunches in the UK,can’t stand them.regards Damian
Loved this article (: ! Healthy fast food? Try some “Pumpcakes” (aka Tom’s amazing pumpkin pancakes!!!-K.C.
Excellent article, Tom. I’ll repost this on Twitter, Facebook & anywhere else. This should shed some light on fast food.I’ve realized things I should’ve realized a long time ago.I can relate to your brother. But will be staying away from those places from now on. Except to accompany my stubborn-headed ‘Fast-food Lovin’ girlfriend.
Wendy’s has baked potatoes.
Thanks Tom I started my weight loss program this January and I losing weight and feeling fine. Your winter contest helped me get motivated to acheive my weight loss and body composition goals.
I used to have a fast food habit. I do much better with making simple, healthful food at home now.I thought it was great this weekend when my daughter spent the day with her grandmother- they went to McD’s and gramma bought chicken nuggets.My daughter had one and wouldn’t eat anymore. She told gramma “I have better food at my house”.That’s my girl!!!Thanks for the article!
As always you are on the ball and the truth shines through!I can admit that I am also a fast food addict and I have been trying to beat the habit for many years and have succeeded at stages but when life or rather insane traffic sends me a curve ball I sometimes fail and go back to those bad habits.The only think that I can do is look at these examples and educate and motivate myself that the healthier choice is still a bad choice!Thanks for all your great advice Tom, know that it is appreciated tremendously!Best RegardsNico
Great post Tom! Your the best! Love the last 2 lines! Couldn’t have said it better myself! Thanks for clearing up all health food at fast food restaurant BS. Its all garbage and will not enter my body!Matt
Thanks I needed a good laugh!Reminds me of a saying I heard the other day…….”The whiter the bread, the quicker you’re dead.”Some people can be helped along the road to Healthyville and some cannot, no matter what you do.My son is proof of the first and my husband is proof of the second.
I stick to real food, herbivore food that is because in nature the strongest animals are the herbivores. I am Locto-vegetarian. I stopped eating meat and eggs 3 years ago. Also legumes have THE highest protein 22 grams per serving, the only drawback, its not complete protein, but to me that isnt a drawback but a way to add more variety to my diet. Hopefully I will become raw-vegan but that wont happen anytime soon since i am in college and its hard to prepare food,etc
Thanks for this post. I have gradually lost interest in fast food since I started the BFFM diet and my only temptaton anymore occurs when when I sometimes find myself past the 3 hours or so between BFFM meals when out on errands, and am tempted to get a chicken wrap at McDonalds or something similar.I will remember this blog post the next time and I will get an apple or a plain yogurt instead.Also interesting that I read this blog post today. Been on the diet for six weeks and today was my first unplanned cheat meal, or maybe a big fat ‘fall off the wagon’ episode. People at work brought in food from a fancy conference: pasta with fantastic sauces, salads, pannini, and scrumptious gelatos. I tried to stick with the seafood salad, which would have not been so bad, but eventually tried a little bit of everything, and quite a bit of a few things. Glad I fell off the wagon with real food rather than fast food. Thanks to your advice I do not feel particularly guilty and am ready to go back to sensible eating tomorrow and an extra exercise session.
Tom..1 comment: Even more people should be reading your blog.thank you for the truth.Erik
One day I wrapped up my child’s McDonald’s cheeseburger and tucked it into my purse for him to eat later. I found it 5 days later. It didn’t smell bad or look much different. I realized there were more chemicals in it than meat. That was the last time I ever got fast food.
Tom,Great post…I am in total agreement. It is not healthier, only lower calorie. My wife just posted a similar article on her website comparing a “weight management” bar and a candy bar. basically it is hard to tell the difference by looking at the ingredients. This goes along with what you are saying. Just because the marketing guys call it “healthy” it doesn’t make it healthy.As a side note, I too also used to hate eggplant until I ate Pamela’s (my wife) Eggplant Parmesan with Bulgar and Pine Nuts. It’s very tasty, but you have to prepare the eggplant correctly. I cant stand slimy or bitter eggplant, but apparently that can be avoided if you prepare it properly.
Your last line made me laugh out loud!!! Every time I pass a fast food restaurant, the smell of rancid grease is enough not to go in there and order the food… I mean, isn’t smell the first indicator of what you should or should not be eating? (Except maybe for a nice, raw cheese as an exception to this.)Fast food does smell like poo to me.
When I was in the USAF many years ago, I used to get a double whopper “value” meal about three times a week for lunch. Needless to say, it showed. I was within weight standards, but looked and felt like a big pile of dog poo. I can’t pick out the event where this changed and I stopped, although I think it had something to do with the Anthrax shots, but my life soon changed. Not only did I unintentionally lose about 50 pounds very quickly, but now I can’t eat fast food at all without feeling so bad that I get very ill. Although this isn’t healthy either, and there are medical issues I have that don’t help (gluten intolerance, etc) I rarely eat out anymore since I don’t know what’s in the food. But, I feel great and have lots of energy.
Wow, thank you for this post. I like the way you really looked at both sides of this, but when you actually broke down the ingredients – that was the real eye opener for me! Thank you!And you’re right…crap is still crap.
Julia, thanks for the reminder about nuts. I don’t eat nuts much anymore since half of my husband’s family is allergic to them, and I’m very aware of the smell being enough to send his sister running for her Epie pen. But, moreover, I was really speaking to the 7 grams of transfat being too much for anyone to consume in one “meal.”Damian, your eggplant disgust is my rice pudding disgust. Can’t stand anything lumpy in smooth puddings. It’s unnerving to me. I understand. :-)And if it weren’t for being told I need to eat meat protein by my doctor at all, and didn’t need red meat once a month when I become anemic due to broken lady junk, I would be perfectly content to eat veg and grains every day till I die. I’m not sure I can say the same for the husband, but he doesn’t complain as much as other men do, and for that, I don’t say anything when he works late and hits a fast food joint for dinner while I’m at home enjoying my homemade dinners.Balance in life is just as important as your health, but with out your health, a sense of humour and the best footwear you can afford at all times, you will have nothing. Fact.
Once again, this is incredible, Tom.You always manage to put the genius of your professional knowledge into words that anyone would understand.I hate to say it but there are many of the so-called nutrition experts/fitness models who have no clue about the difference between healthy and low calorie food… I recently had a virtual fight with one of these on FB – people like that should feel responsible since there are thousands of people following their fitness and/or nutritional plans, don’t you think?
Hi, I”m glad you wrote this article.. I agree with you on the ingredients part.. IF one has to serve chicken breast, apart from a few spices in their natural form (i.e chopped garlic instead of garlic powder) and a reasonable amount of salt, there should be nothing else in it. I’m glad that you have taken the trouble to point out this difference between ‘food cooked’ and ‘food doctored’.
LOL – love the ending, Tom. I dislike McDs so much I tear up when someone suggests we go there… When I used to work in London I loved the black coffee there and that’s it…BTW, my mom tried to feed me pizza when I was about 12 (my first pizza). I think it was just tomato based, but boy did I find it torture. I sat there chewing each piece and then spiting it out (I wasn’t allowed to leave without finishing). But today I like pizza and unfortunately it didn’t turn me off bready things – haha.Great article.
Tom, excellent points! This is the message I’m always trying to tell my friends, family, and clients too. Garbage is garbage, despite it’s caloric content.I just did a post on my blog about this topic, and a great “new” fast food option I’ve been doing lately when traveling and you’re forced to do fast-food. I would venture to say that this “combo plate” I put together is one of the healthiest fast food options out there. In fact, the Chipotle chain even claims that they try to get as much of their sources from sustainable local farms…grass-fed meats, pastured pork, free range, etc.
Living and working in London, there are several really good (REAL food) sandwich shop chains around. Pret-a-Manger and EAT are two of them. (Pret has moved into NYC now as well, not sure if they have the same menu.) Both shops have veggie sandwiches that are great. For example, shredded sweet potato, carrot, beetroot, hummous, and spinach leaves on brown bread. At both places you can get chemical-free and delicious soups as well. Wish for US-based folks that these chains would expand – maybe people can start a campaign on their web sites? Both are hugely popular here, and similar meal cost as McD’s rubbish(which I won’t eat).
Now if only the UK general public would believe that Lucozade (like Gatorade) is just sugar water and NOT a healthy drink…. (Classic Coke is actually better, as at least there is nothing artificial in it!) But that’s another rant for another day.
I have to admit, I’ve fallen prey to this many times. Its really scary to read the ingredients listing for the Mcdonalds chicken. A heart attack waiting to happen.
Great article Tom. I think its easy for people to think they’re eating healthy just because something has less calories or the word “diet” in front.
Then you look at the ingredients and realize you can’t pronounce half of the stuff in it- bad news bears.
Not to mention the parents who feed this crap to their kids! That is what I find unforgivable. Like if you want to poison yourself I guess that is your choice but I’m with the “crazies” who say that parents of morbidly obese children should be considered abusers! Such a tragedy…
Couldn’t agree more, to use the word “health” when advertising food should require some sort of FDA approval first. Also key part of a healthy diet is controlling how much you eat, not just what you eat. So you could easily consume nothing but “healthy food” and still pile on the pounds – and a lot of people do this all the time. They will then say “I am doing everything to lose weight” while consuming copious amounts of healthy food which is overloading their digestive system and causing their blood sugar levels to spiral out of control several times every day.
What really annoys me are people who keep saying “but healthy food is too expensive”. Don’t they realise that really healthy food is bought in farm shops at a fraction of the price of fast food and processed foods in stores?