Everyone eats fast food for one reason or another. For the most part, visiting the Drive-Thru window has more to do with feeding ourselves when time is short and money is tight, and less to do with nourishing our bodies with healthful fuel. Many fast-food chains now offer “healthier” menus for the calorie-conscious, but by nature, most of the food served in fast-food chains are highly processed and doused in chemicals.
Take Wendy’s new natural cut fries, for example.
The restaurant introduced its new spuds last fall but recently began marketing them with new TV ads. For those who haven’t seen the commercials, the advertisements show overly-happy people hanging out inside human-sized fry boxes, laughing and insisting that the new French fries are the most delicious fries they’ve ever had.
As part of this massive marketing campaign, Wendy’s has labeled these fries natural cut, in part to entice customers to their taste and to push the supposed benefits of choosing fries that still have the skin, are cut from “100% Russet potatoes” and are seasoned with sea salt.
What the fast-food chain fails to mention is that the natural cut fries are still delivered to the restaurant frozen in bags, while the phrase implies that the fries are cut from fresh potatoes in-house.
For Wendy’s, the phrase “natural cut” just means the potatoes skip the step where the skin is steamed off and go straight to the slicers during food processing, according to a Yahoo finance article. The fries are then sprayed with sodium acid pyrophosphate, a chemical used to keep the golden color when placed in frying oil at the plant and at the restaurant, and sprinkled with dextrose to also keep the color. The frying oil itself is also highly processed and includes a silicone-based chemical (dimethylpolysiloxane) to prevent the oil from becoming foamy after hours of cooking.
Unfortunately, Wendy’s isn’t the only culprit. Many other fast food chains market their products by using the term “healthy” loosely. Some imply that a low calorie or fat count constitutes a healthy choice. Let me explain:
The Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sub at Subway is listed under their “6 grams of fat or less” menu, highlighting the low fat content (4.5 grams) and modest calorie count (380). However, the sub includes 18 grams of sugar (thanks to the sweet onion sauce) and a whopping 900 grams of sodium.
At McDonald’s, the salad menu includes two bad-for-you entrees: the Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Crispy Chicken (370 calories, 20 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat) and the Premium Caesar Salad with Crispy Chicken (330 calories, 17 grams of fat, and 4.5 grams of saturated fat).
Whether it’s looking at processed chemicals or overall nutritional information, selecting a healthy food choice is different for everyone. Although many foods served at large fast-food chains are made with machinery in a processing factory and covered in chemicals, there are still some options that might not be so bad for you. Fortunately, almost all of these restaurants post their foods’ nutritional information online.
As for Wendy’s fries, marketing them as more natural might be trickery, but according to a recent taste test, they are an upgrade from major competitor McDonald’s.
Don’t care about calories? Splurge and dip the fries in a frosty. Your cholesterol will forgive you (or at least I will).
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