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...
History suggests that he's right. There's the McLean burger,
whose name proved to be closely more related to levels of profits and customer
popularity than its fats and calories. And Taco Bell's Border Lights, whose
sales also quickly fell south-of-the-border. Even Applebee's, now basking in
the glow of its Weight Watchers-partnership media frenzy, had an earlier
attempt at low-fat fare in the 1990s that bombed.
"Yes, there were earlier efforts to have a designated
portion of our menu as lower fat or healthier fare that unfortunately didn't
take off," Applebee's spokesman Frank Ybarra tells WebMD. "But we think
part of that may have been issues with flavor and taste. Guests now expect that
items considered healthy need to also taste good. That used to not be the
perception of those items."
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."