During a recent visit to the Doctor, I happened to be watching The Today Show while in the waiting room. I caught an interview between anchor Matt Lauer and Tim Zagat, founder of the Zagat Surveys. The topic of his most recent survey was “Fast Food”. A category that I could have reviewed across the board. As I listened to the interview I discovered some interesting bits of information.
1. The average American Family eats Fast Food about 10 times a month
I am surprised that this number is not higher. I did not partake in the survey, but I assume the questions were directed toward family meals at full service or fast food restaurants. In my experience I had been eating out fast food almost daily while working. Time was the one ingredient in a work day that I could not produce more of, so I often found myself cutting corners where I could. I skipped breaks or took shorter lunches, often resulting in grabbing a quick meal at a McDonald’s or Wendy’s. I would say that I ate fast food an average of 3 times a week on my own and 3 times a week as a family. I was looking at about 24 times a month I was eating out simply because I did not invest the time in my health.
2. 69% of the surveyors are in favor of government mandated calorie reporting
I never ever ever reviewed the calorie counts for the amount of food that I was eating. For example: My favorite food at Wendy’s was two plain Spicy Chicken Sandwiches and a large Coke. This calculates at an astonishing 1190 calories, almost half of a traditional 2000 calorie diet. Let’s say that I was working a 4am to 5pm shift and had that meal for lunch. I would get a call from my wife asking what was for dinner, seeing as I didn’t take the time for groceries we would decide on more fast food. There is a Five Guys right up the street from us, and with the convenience of online ordering all I had to do was click what I wanted, pay for it via credit card, and then “walk to the front of the line” to pick up. Great marketing and delicious product, but let’s look at the calorie count of my favorite meal. A cheeseburger (with ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce), a bacon cheeseburger (with grilled onions, barbecue sauce, and hot sauce), and a large Coke. This meal weighs in at an unbelievable 2,165 calories for one meal. It was a good thing I don’t like french fries or I could look at tacking on an additional 310 calories for 1/2 of a regular order of fries.
I could sit here and say that the information wasn’t readily available for me, but that would be bullshit. The information was there, I just never took the time to review it. The places I chose to eat at are at the first and foremost a business. They are going to do what they can to get you in the door. A lot of places offer the nutritional information if you ask for it. I agree with the 69% of people surveyed that there needs to be calorie reporting. I also feel that there needs to be a greater awareness about the information available to the consumer. Milk made me strong as a kid, I knew this because of the commercials for it showing the little kid growing up into a muscle-bound dude that is completely OK with the girl of his dreams only wanting him for his bod.
3. The Healthy Options survey
The top five came down as Subway, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and KFC. I certainly can understand Subway because they have been promoting their low-calorie and low-fat products ever since Jared put on a size of 32″ waist jeans. The other companies that are now “recognized” for promoting healthy options came as a surprise to me. I do know that Wendy’s and McDonald’s offer salads. I don’t know of any healthy options at Taco Bell or KFC, so decided to look it up.
Taco Bell offers options called the “fresco menu”. In fact they have a dedicated website for it called the “Drive-Thru Diet®”. I have to say that I am impressed in how they are marketing it. They are promoting the menu as not a weight loss program, but rather how to make healthier choices. Taco Bell shows how to reduce the calorie count in their products by up to 100 calories. Reading through the site showed me that Taco Bell fully recognizes that their products are not “low-calorie food”, but promote ways to reduce your caloric intake by opting for different things at their restaurants. This is a great tool for those who look into their dietary intake.
I always associate KFC under their previous moniker of “Kentucky Fried Chicken”. When I think of what to eat at KFC it usually is fried chicken, biscuits, and mashed potatoes w/gravy. This isn’t a stretch since I grew up in Texas where chicken fried steak is a source of State Pride. (Texas has a way of being proud about weird things sometimes).
I was surprised to see that they too are making an effort to promote some of their healthier choices. They offer a free 30 day membership to eFit4Me, and even some health coaching by John Calipari. KFC also points out the benefits of choosing grilled over fried, vegetables over biscuits, etc. The info is there, but not without some effort in locating it.
Even though there are companies with healthier options, I would have never considered them without first looking into what is available. Although they discuss lower calorie food and making better choices there is one glaring consistency across the nutritional charts at every restaurant. The amount of sodium in each product. Sodium is a key preservative, and I can see why it is so important for nationwide ingredient distribution. However, high sodium intake can lead to higher blood pressure complications. I could choose a salad at fast-food restaurant without realizing there was over 1300mg of sodium in it. One regular cheeseburger at Five Guys contains 1350mg of sodium prior to adding any toppings or condiments. Whew!
4. The Survey Outtakes are hilarious
With comments like “Rule #1: don’t look inside the burrito.” and “How can a salad have 1,700 calories?” all I can do is laugh. It seems that the surveyed members knew what they were getting into and gave honest opinions. If you have a chance, check it out over at Zagat. Zagat’s interview is also up on YouTube, you can click here if you would like to see it.
*Note: I had a blast digging up some of the info, if you are interested in where I looked or how I found it, please comment below!