Let’s just deal with the fact that fast food is not good for you, shall we?

Obviously, I am not the only health conscious consumer out there. I can't imagine I am the only one to call bull on some of the marketing being done by fast food companies.

I just got a flyer in the mail about the newly renovated McDonalds. It used to have one of those Playland things (I will admit, they are the kind of things that would make me drive out of my way to another McDonalds, if I really ate that kind of stuff). Now they are reintroducing the new McDonalds with the rGYM. Looks an awful lot like Playland except now it comes with a tagline "Who knew exercise could be this much fun?". Let's be real. A healthy lifestyle includes limiting most kinds of fast foods and a slide and ball pit ain't gonna change that. "Hey Johnny, why don't you go work off that hamburger and fries...pick you up in 2 hours when it's time for your cholesterol check". McDonalds thinks you are stupid. I don't have kids so I don't know what they think of me. They have only seen me once in the last 4 years (and it involved feeding a 6 year old) so they can think whatever they want.

You know who else thinks we are stupid? Krispy Kreme. I admit that I love them, but I've probably only been about three times. Because donuts are not health food. Krispy Kreme would have you believe differently with the introduction of their Whole Wheat Donut. Honey, please. You are saving 20 calories and negligible fat grams. Did I forget to mention that they are still fried? Donuts are not a health food.Did I already say that?

What we have here is a failure to communicate. Well, it's actually marketing spin. Marketing hyperbole as health claim.  They use it as the former and hope that consumers take it as the latter (because if they are whole wheat, it should mean that you can have 2, right?). It just ticks me off. If they had any of my business, I'd take it away from them.

This isn't a soapbox issue for me (much) because I think that people should eat what they want, but make wise choices that include moderation. At the same time, I find the marketing misleading and insulting.

Comments (27)

  1. KW says:

    This is an interesting topic. Fast Food, in general, is NOT healthy. I’m not a nutritionist or some sort of that…….but I think the reasons why they are not healthy are mainly because of 1) the ingredients they used in the food 2) the way they prepare the food. (our home made burgers contain only a few ingredients, fast food burgers have >10). Here is an interesting article on why McD’s fries tastes so good <http://www.rense.com/general7/whyy.htm&gt;.

    What the fast food companies should do is to invest in coming up with fast food that are healthy. They have started doing this, such as removing trans fat oil….but this is not enough. They should serve burgers, fries and others without any added chemicals or artificial flavors. They should serve more pure water than sodas. But will they do that? NO….cause doing that is very costly. Instead, they will invest in marketing to change the consumer perception that their food is not healthy.

    So, will I go to a fast food restaurant? sure….but I will only buy salads and baked potatoes. 🙂  

  2. Avid_Supporter says:

    Not that I’m for big government, but I can’t imagine it will be long before they step in on these kinds of claims.  

    I remember watching "Super size me" and the most telling part was that Mikey D’s came out with a salad line just as the movie was finishing production.  They were trying to say "See, we have you best interest at heart."  In reality, some of the salads had just as high of a calorie count as a Big Mac when you factored in the dressing and fried "chicken" they put on it.  Some of it is just insulting.  

    BTW, congrats on the marathon!

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    KW – good points. I think it also explains why we see stores like Whole Foods making so much money. I frequently go in there and grab something fast for dinner.

    Avid – it was only 5K…I may never run a marathon! My legs hurt just thinking about it. I will say that Wendy’s did a good job with the healthier options well ahead of the other fast food places. But most of those places have that icky lettuce that is sprayed with all kinds of stuff to keep it "fresh".

  4. mrscrooge says:

    Thanks for posting this. Personally, I’m not that surprised though. Did you hear about their promotion last year where they gave away toy Hummers with happy meals? Thats right kids.. nothing says over-indulgence like a nice shiny Hummer! Now finish up those fries will ya 😉


    If you’re curious about similar PR/Marketing stunts, check out "Trust us, we’re experts". I’ve got a copy at home!


  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    mrscrooge – that is scary. Just remember, we are training these kids to run our country and take care of us when we are old : )

  6. tod hilton says:

    What about Cheetos? Those are health food, right? Well, at least the puffy ones cause they’re mostly air. Other than that, you and I are on the same page with this topic. 🙂

  7. Bad_Brad says:

    I also saw "Super Size Me" and although I was leary at first as I know the guy who produced that movie is a pretty hardcore vegan activist, I was admittedly shocked at what I saw.  I could not believe that he put on that much weight that fast.  I also knew that this stuff was not healthy for you, and clearly, eating McDonald’s exclusively for a month is not something any rational person would ever do (I hope), it was still a bit alarming at how fast that stuff can curtail your health.  Not only did he put on weight, but he quickly developed other health issues – blood pressure, stomach problems, etc.

    Given how convenient and how cheap McDonald’s is, however, I’m not sure that the fix isn’t already in on this one.  I’m not sure what can be done about it.  I know people who actually think they are making a wise family budget decision when they eat at McDonald’s – they actually believe it’s cheaper to feed their family McDonald’s than it is to prepare a meal at home.

    For a convenient meal, I favor microwave meals any day.  They are also not the cheapest thing in the world, and certainly not perfect from a health perspective (they do have some preservatives added), but at least the meat and vegetables are reasonably good quality and there are no processed meats.

    Maybe schools need to move away from teaching kids exclusively stuff on standardized tests and move back to good old fashioned home economics and (gasp) actually give kids recess and gym class to develop exercise habits?  Nah.

  8. Christine says:

    I dunno…I see your point, but I think it’s more about the parenting than about the marketing.  A once-a-week lunch to McDonald’s that involves an hour of running around on the playground with a happy meal doesn’t seem to correlate to obesity to me.  It’s when it’s every day that there’s a problem.  

    Also there are choices you can make at most fast food restaurants that aren’t that horrible.  It’s more about what parents give their children than what children are taught to want by marketing.

    However, if parents are dumb enough to think that they can take their kids to Mickey-Ds every day and it’ll be "healthy"…eep, if that’s the case, they need a complete re-education that can’t be fixed by one fast food restaurant’s marketing department.  I actually think that is a very big question for our society, because we will pay the price for our own food choices down the road.  We are already starting to pay them now with the Boomers’ medical costs.

    The Krispy Kreme bit just cracks me up though!!  What is the point??

  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    Christine – I see your point. I guess i want to be careful because I don’t have kids and I can imagine someone with kids not really deferring to me on selecting fods for their young ones. I don’t see an occassional trip to a dfast food restaurant as a problem but I wopuld hope it’s perceived as a treat.

    I guess my biggest issue was misleading marketing. If you are smart, then you are on to them. If you aren’t, then you are totally led down an unhealthy path. Either way, I think it stinks.

    OK, not that I really watch Dr. Phil that much but there have been programs like that with morbidly obese kids and the parents aren’t even thinking about what they are doing to their kids! And I do think some of those parents would fall for some of the ridiculous marketing claims, partly because they want to. I think it’s dangerous to equate love with food. Having said that. I LOVE food…just less of it than I used to.

  10. eR0CK says:

    I’m a big fan of K.I.S.S. and with that said I’ll leave you with this

    … the only good food is whole food.

  11. Wine-Oh says:

    As someone who has food allergies, I avoid fast food. I always find it interesting though that when I take road trips, the only thing around is fast food. Places like McDonalds try to go after the healty crowd by offering salads and such, but its not the same. Oh an did anyone see the documentary "Super Size Me" ? That will show you what fast food can do to you.

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    eRock – I agree! The only place where I have a problem with whole food is with sugar. I am sure it’s all kinds of unhealthy but I like splenda. Sugar makes me feel sick.

    Wine-Oh, and a different kind of fast food. Like Dunkin Donuts and Hardees. Pack your lunch for the turnpike because there’s not much to pick from! I once drove cross country living primarily on diet Mountain Dew and Funyuns. I was younger then. Gross, huh? Oh, I have a weakness for Doritos though. I just have to stay away.

  13. Christine says:

    I think when you boil it down, it becomes a question of whether or not people have common sense about food anymore.  Often, people know full well that McDonald’s, KFC, and the like are not healthy for them, and even people who get salads and load up on croutons, dressing, and fried chicken strips realize they’re not eating healthy.  (Come ON, whom are we kidding???)

    Healthy food is more expensive to produce.  And frankly, people don’t want to buy it, so companies don’t produce it.

    I think the question of whether companies should be responsible for/involved in public education efforts that hurt their bottom lines is a tough one, and it’s not only applicable to the food industry.  You could also claim that newspapers need to be part of an effort to educate people on critical thinking instead of blindly following a reporter’s opinion.

    Sometimes it does help companies, like how Starbucks’ efforts to promote shade-grown trees has helped to rebrand them as socially conscious.  If it weren’t in their better interest as a company, I’d be shocked if they did it.  Only companies that have to as a result of massive lawsuits engage in that kind of self-defeating marketing (like Philip Morris).

    In a nutshell, the problem is not solely related to marketing–the problem is that we’re suckers!!  And should marketers be wholly-responsible for that?  It’s questionable.

  14. HeatherLeigh says:

    I agree, Christine. I don’t think the companies are responsible for it but they also should not take advantage of it.

  15. Steve G says:

    I hate to "pile on" but Christine’s totally right. Companies would not produce this junk if enough people did not purchase it.

    It appears that people don’t have the common sense to know that a 4 patty burger is not the best thing to eat. Because that’s what’s on sale, today, at Burger King. But it does not surprise me that people eat it. Being diabetic I live in the "how many carbohydrates?, how much sodium?, how much fat?" World.

    So I read the nurtrition information or else… Nutrition information labels is another place where the marketing magic happens, check out the "serving size" data. It’s interesting how many servings are in some bags of chips or how much fat and sodium is in health food.  In fact if you read the labels, it’s wild how much food that’s on the shelf, even food marketed as "health food" is bad for you. People can’t be buying this stuff if they take a moment to read the label and consider…

    So the fast food industry is not totally culpable if people make bad choices. What I DO ding the fast food industry on is not having the sense of corporate responsibility to avoid producing this stuff in the first place. Sure people will buy a 4 patty burger, but is it the best thing to do to your customers especially if you want long term customers?

    Given the recent lawsuits against fast food companies one would think that one of them would get the big picture and be a market leader as opposed to following the pack (or maybe I should say Stack 😉 ) and spinning the truth.

  16. Simone says:

    Your invoking of the name "Krispy Kreme" makes my blood boil. I lost a sizeable amount of money on their stock. I shouldn’t complain really, I made it back elsewhere.

    Btw, don’t eat any of the food you listed in your post. This of course is a no-brainer.

  17. Wine-Oh says:

    I usually pack some things in the car to munch on. That and it gets me to the destination faster as I dont have to stop and eat.

    I have a weakness for wise puffed cheese doodles. I was actually disapointed when our cafeteria had the crunchy ones today. Maybe it was a sign to lay off them.  

  18. HeatherLeigh says:

    Steve G – I am also a label reader. I guess I wasn’t necessariy trying to get at the culpability issue but just point out that the marketing is erroneous and insulting. If you are going to have a Krispy Kreme donut, then have  it. But the company trying to eke out a little extra profit by capitalizingon the people that kid themselves is shirt sighted. Plus, they may be cannibalizing sales of the regular donuts.

    Wine-Oh – as long as you don’t say anything about the astrinaut diapers, I am not going to be alarmed by your comment : )

  19. Preston says:

    It always makes me laugh when companies try to make their products look healthy.  Like when a yogurt says its fat free but the sugar is higher than normal.  I hate all that Coke Zero stuff and the low carb low calorie sodas.    It’s not the carbs and calories that make sodas bad for you.  It’s the sugar!  I think fast food is terrible for you but I think people forget all the other unhealthy foods they eat throughout the day.  Super Size Me really hit me hard and I’ve hardly eaten fast food since.  But, we can’t only blame McDonald’s for the child obesity.  That’s the parents fault.  It’s not like a child can decide to go to MickeyD’s on their own.  When I have kids I’m gonna brainwash them into thinking Santa Clause doesn’t give presents to children who eat fast food!  Not really, but it would probably work….

  20. RandyE says:

    Well not that I know this from experience…ahem… but it should be noted that Cheesy Puffs or Doddles actually burn quite well. So if you are camping and having trouble starting a fire they actually come in handy. I guess that makes them a valuable part of the safety kit as well as a tasty snack.

  21. Wine-Oh says:

    LOL um no astronaut diapers were used in the posting of this comment (or ever).

  22. NativeWisdom says:

    My trouble with fast food is that you can find it on every corner.  I was in NYC and I found a McDonald’s faster then I could hail a cab!

    I do have a weakness and that is dark chocolate.  My rationale for eating dark chocolate is that is contains more antioxidants.  However,  I do practice moderation and I believe that is the key.  

  23. HeatherLeigh says:

    Preston, great idea : ) Haha! I agree that parents need to make those decisions and not get suckered in by some pseudo exercize gym at the local McDs.

    RandyE – good to know. This may come as a surprise (or not if you know me in person) but I don’t camp. So I hope to never have to find that out for myself. However, I love trivia. Especially the kind that will serve no purpose in my life and that fits!

    Wine-Oh – phew!

    Native – I love dark chocolate myself (my favorite candidate in addition to saltwater taffy). At Trader Joe’s here they have a sugar free one (they call it low carb, but it’s low carb bc it’s sugar free). I also practice moderation with the dark chocolate. I can only handle a little at a time anyway without feeling sick.

  24. RJD says:

    Something to keep in mind about Supersize Me is that his caloric intake was around 5000 calories per day (2000-2500 is the usual recommendation).  5000 calories of lettuce (if you could conceivably stomach that much) or apples would pack the weight on, too.

    On the other end is the lady who ate McDonald’s every day and lost weight (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8916080/).

    You have to be careful with wanting to limit marketing speils.  What’s next–suing Ford because their cars aren’t fun to drive?  Limiting Hollywood from claiming Date Movie 3 is funny?  Blatantly false health claims are bad, but at some point you have to do your own reality check.

  25. HeatherLeigh says:

    RJD – nobody is saying we have to *make* them stop. On the other side of the coin, if it’s crappy marketing, I am going to talk about it. That’s the risk they take when they create it; that someone is going to call BS on their stupid marketing.

  26. RJD says:

    A lot of the comments here seem to be taking Supersize Me as some sort of gospel, and that’s bad, too.  Doubt needs to be applied both ways.  Just because it’s a movie and the guy got fat doesn’t mean it’s an absolute truth.


    I think there’s a correlation between negative sales figures and increased patty count on the burgers.  The worse that company’s sales seem to get, the more meat gets piled on the bun.  Those things are totally gross!  And do we even need to talk about the "early bun delivery" line in the one commercial (speaking of crappy marketing)?  People are obviously buying them, though, because they keep coming back.

    Anyhow, the company’s responsibilities are to its shareholders.  If there wasn’t a market for the product, the product would go away.

  27. HeatherLeigh says:

    RJD – I think the main responsibility is to shareholders but there’s some responsibility to society at large, I’m just not sure how to articulate that the right way. I thikn that some social goodness is good for shareholders too though.

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