Waistline-Friendly Fast Food?
More fast food chains and restaurants are jumping on the health food bandwagon. But are these lower-fat choices a whole-hearted effort to fight obesity?
Joining the War Against Obesity? continued...
Whether diners last decade really expected healthy restaurant
food to be bad tasting is up for debate. But it's clear that food suppliers are
taking more blame than ever for their customers' expanding waistlines -- and
paying for it at the corporate bottom line.
"Clearly, food companies feel the fingers pointing at
them," says Alice Ammerman, RD, DrPH, nutritionist at the University of
North Carolina. "So it makes good marketing sense for them to do something
more along the lines of offering solutions, rather than providing more
additions to contribute to the obesity epidemic."
After battling some health-conscious finger pointers,
McDonald's recently made another attempt at healthier fare -- a new line of
"meal-sized" salads that the company proudly says ended many
consecutive months of slumping sales. Of course, less publicized is that the
new Crispy Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad weighs in at 660 calories and 51 grams of
fat when you add a packet of its accompanying dressing -- compared to the 600
calories and 33 fat grams of a Big Mac.
"And it seems as though they give you two packets of
dressing when you order it," says Ammerman. "But it's your choice if
you want to add the dressing."
It's Your Choice
Ah yes, "choice" -- the real reason why Applebee's has
teamed up with Weight Watchers, says Ybarra. "We want to provide our guests
with the widest variety of meals options we can. If they're looking for
healthier alternatives, the Weight Watchers options will offer that. If they
don't, we have other options, as well. It's a simple matter of providing our
guests with a choice."
In other words, if you choose to get fat on
all-you-can-eat rib fests, perhaps you shouldn't blame Applebee's with a
lawsuit later on. You could have selected any of the dozen or so Weight
Watchers choices soon to be offered, or other waistline-friendly offerings
currently on the menu.
"I'm willing to give everybody the benefit of the doubt and
say that buried in these corporations are individuals who really care about the
health of the people who buy their products. But I can't believe that the
lawsuits we're seeing don't have something to do with the timing of these
changes," says Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, chair of Nutrition and Food Studies
at New York University and author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry
Influences Nutrition and Health.
"Recently, there have been two very serious investment
analyses that say these companies had better watch out," she tells WebMD.
"Even if these lawsuits never come to fruition and have no grounds in which
to win, they are still putting the companies in a position of vulnerability,
particularly because of the documents they are going to have to