Are Chain Restaurants Trying to Kill Us?

Men’s Health just released its list of the 20 worst restaurant foods in America, and it’s kind of shocking. A 1,700-calorie chicken wrap at T.G.I. Friday’s? A California Pizza Kitchen chicken salad with 2,200 calories? Of course, not so surprising is that this crazy Domino’s invention made the list.

Check out the full Men’s Health report here.


20 Responses to “Are Chain Restaurants Trying to Kill Us?”

  1. 1 James December 1, 2009 at 9:28 am

    This a public health menance far worst than smoking, alcohol, drugs, or any disease I can think of. The cost of obesity related health problems are soaring and it attacks everyone, our children included. Come on all you maxi-conservatives tell me again how unregulated Capitalism is good for America, how these geniuses of business aren’t greedy, they are just giving us what we want. These guys are standing on the corner in your neighborhood feeding you, your family, and all your friends basically poison. And in effect they are getting a government subsidy because we are all paying for the problems that these a$$holes create. I sincerely hope that with health care reform we will also get publicly funded education programs aimed squarely at this problem. America has become disgustingly fat. This is easy to regulate, simply refuse them business licenses if their menu’s and serving size is out of line with reasonable health standards. I hate to see more intervention but these businesses will never regulate themselves and the public as a whole is totally confused about diet and health issues.

  2. 2 Alex December 1, 2009 at 9:49 am

    if you are overweight, you know what you’re eating, and its probably not good for you. Its called personal responsibility, and americans dont have any.

    Eating healthy is not easy, and americans want easy.

    America is on the start of a downfall – the climate is eroding, americans are fat obese, the economy is faltering, and its all going downhill.

    Until we clean up the climate, tell americans to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for their earth, for their personal finances, for each other, and most importantly their health and themselves, we will not be able to succeed.

  3. 3 Nick December 1, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Agree w Alex that Americans need to take personal responsibility (and Canadians too, for that matter — been to Montreal lately ?)

    But — how do we do this without the information. Those of us who eat out often, because business demands it, are confronted with mystery menus that tell us nothing about whats in the food. We can’t spend a business meal quizzing the waiter/waitresses about calories and saturated fat; they may not even know the answers.

    Unfortunately, this ends up meaning a government mandate — more bureaucracy and higher taxes to pay for it. But if the restaurant owners won’t take responsibility for purveying fatty, salty, artery-clogging meals, who else do we turn to but the giovernment?

    • 4 James December 1, 2009 at 12:10 pm

      Nick, Amen, I’d like to see menus with calories advertised first in large print,I mean big numerals first followed by a brief description of the food selection, that way you could see a comparative calorie count right up front. A simple health index could be added at the end of the description ranging from 1 to 10. With an index of 1 being the lowest health risk. The index would be determined by the amount of fat, salt, additives, and/or sugar or other harmful ingredients. By this method consumers could at least gauge their calorie intake and the comparative health risk they are selecting. As to personal responsibility you can’t do that unless you know what you are consuming and at this time that information seems to be intentionally with held.
      Restaurants are missing a huge marketing opportunity here. The public and the media are very focused on this problem, why isn’t someone capitalizing on that? Given the enormous supply, distribution, and delivery infrastructure currently available in the US, they should be able to deliver healthy meals at prices lower than the consumer can produce it themselves at home. Advertise that along with a sincere effort to produce healthy products and just think of the enormous support such a business would get from every sector.

  4. 5 Carl Todd December 1, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Its not just in America. A recent NY Times article points out that the original Greek diet is one of the World’s healthiest but Greek officials are worried about the rapid increase in obesity and its related problems in Greece.

    The culprit is the same driving force that is common in a free market capitalistic system – namely do what you can to increase your market share and get the highest return on your investment.

    The food and drug companies have figure it out – make people want and/or need more of your product.

    Food chemists have learned to stimulate taste the physically turns off one’s apostate and causes the body to crave more of what they are eating.

    The pharma companies are not looking for a one shot cure for a disease or condition but a “block buster” drug that you must take daily to control the condition. Funny how the paths of the two cross tho unplanned.

    We need laws the prevent independent researchers from taking grants from companies that are marketing the products being researched. As the Wall Street Journal reported 40 years ago the experts results justified the payees position. Instead the money should be donated to a general research fund and an independent governing council of the central fund should determine the allocation of funds to the needed research projects.

    All commercial oriented product researched results must be clearly so identified when quoted as an athuorataive source for why one should rely on the product being benificial for them.

  5. 6 Gabriel Rizk December 1, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Alex, you have a point with American’s lack of self-control. I would dispute, however, James’ claim that the solution to lack of self-control is to give control to an unnacountable third party – like the Federal Government. If all it takes to maintain the fatty menus in America is a few corporate kickbacks to the right people in the FDA, then I do not see the point in giving them any more control.
    Perhaps it is better for Joe Average to learn personal responsibility, rather than relying on Big Brother to save him the trouble/hard work – or perhaps I’m expecting to much of the American people.
    By the way, calling the US economy unregulated is more than a minor misnomer. The US economy has not even been close to a free market since the early 1900s. To take a heavily-regulated economy that has failed miserably and trumpet it as an example of failed Capitalism, is little more than a “Straw-man” argument.

    • 7 James December 1, 2009 at 4:46 pm

      No one wants “government control” much less control granted to an unaccountable third party. However in this country we have successfully regulated many things, for instance, safety equipment on vehicles. Cars and trucks are required to have certain minimum equipment to qualify for licensing very much to the benefit of all citizens. Did various trucking and vehicle manufacturing industry lobbies fight these requirements, of course they did, but a greater wisdom prevailed and now we have some of the safest highways in the world. Similar things can and should be done with food, food production, food processing,
      nutritional standards, etc. This is not rocket science. However, industry advocates have worked very hard to portray their clients as the good guys while they are in fact poisoning us for profit. One technique they have used, not obvious to many, is to confuse the issue of nutrition and healthy food and its relationship to overall well being. We are not designed to take in just anything that will fill our stomaches, in fact the human system is an incredibly sensitive organism that these pirates for profit have no business messing with, at his point they are the “unaccountable third party” in the process!

  6. 8 ChrisAnn Richards December 1, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Just watch FOOD INC (out on DVD) and it will explain how the food industry does not care about what we eat and how the Food & Drug Administration does not care what is in our food.

  7. 9 Alex December 2, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Food Inc. is a great movie – worth watching – really opens your eyes as to how the food industry operates.

    But also, i think restaurants should just offer their calorie content online – if you want to see it, you can. No need for gov’t bureaucracy and you still have to take personal responsibility for yourself. Even if you’re out on business – you should know that anything smothered in cheese or fat is PROBABLY not going to be good for you. If you’re traveling for business you probably have a decent job, which means you have some idea of what is good for you vs what isnt – and you dont need a calorie content to tell you whats bad (for example, DONT EAT THE FRIES YOU MORONS!!!)

  8. 10 Franz December 2, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Does you thinck that most of the fatties in this grat country is in the midwest and’ whatnot? I have noticed many ties on Fox news and other stations that the obesiest are ofttimes in the center of the contry! I wonder if this is bezuz there is les water because they arent near the coastlines which has plentiful stuff from the oceans, like the Pacifid anc Atlantic!

    Just my 2 cent.

    • 11 James December 2, 2009 at 12:41 pm

      Unfortunately obesity is the most prevalent in poor communities. Yes, those who can least afford the cost of the health consequences are the most affected. So we now have large populations of poor people with no health insurance afflicted with heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, blindness, high blood pressure, cancer, and all the other effects of obesity. States like Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, tend to have the highest rates of obesity– States like Colorado and Idaho where active outdoor life styles are available have the lowest rates of obesity.
      Oceans have nothing to do with it.

  9. 12 FATANDHAPPY December 2, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Only the thin die young…. of cancer.

  10. 13 David December 2, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Wow, I am happily surprised to see these appropriate comments coming from my fellow US americans. And even more so since this is a corporate blog so I assume (I hope correctly) that you are corporate types and not raving liberal greens. Nick and James, pardon me, but you are part of the problem. One does not really need to see the calories on the menu. It is common sense and self-discipline. Rule no. 1 – processed foods are high calorie; they are not natural. Eat as close to nature as possible; think of what humans were eating for more than 250,000 years prior to developing industrialised society. Rule no. 2 – foods in their natural state (no sauce, no breading, etc.) are the healthiest. Why? Because that is what humans were eating for 250,000 years – that is what are bodies need. Rule no. 3 – processed beverages are high calorie and or NOT natural. Water with a lime and perhaps a little sugar or tea are much better and healthier alternatives. My theory is that corporations in the USA have twisted our values and our eating habits – GET BIGGER PORTIONS! AREN’T YOU HUNGRY! and all the advertising that is used to brainwash people to eat crap. Soda pop is liquid candy bars – ALL sugar and artifical. As a child I grew up drinking milk and water at my meals (60’s and 70’s) and restaurants did not exclusively serve soft drinks. One could easily get fruit juices. By the way, I travel for business internationally, and in other countries soft drinks are not even on many menus, and one can order FRESH squeezed fruit juice at the cheapest and the best restaurants! Cigarettes have a ban on advertising, why not food.

  11. 14 James December 2, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Unprocessed foods are NOT available generally in restaurants and certainly not in a fast food or casual dining place which is the topic here. I don’t disagree with your point, but one will starve to death trying to follow your guide lines in any fast food establishment. Even the raw apples in McD’s are treated with perservatives and God knows what else. We have an Obesity problem because alot of the food we eat has had all the nutritional benefit removed from it leaving only empty calories behind, the food is unsatisfying nutritionally so we want more of it. This starts as early in the process as the nutritionally depeleted soil the food products are grown in. You can eat all the raw vegetables you like but that doesn’t mean they will provide any nutritional benefit, even the soil that was available 250,000 years ago has gone the way of the dinosaur with the help of Corporate America! We have to start somewhere and to me the first step is to develop real and nutritionally sound guidelines devoid of special interest nonsense. Educate the people so that at the very minimum they know what they are getting on their plate and keep it as simple as possible because most Americans are reading at about an 8th grade level! Hopefully corporate America will get the message and start developing food products that actually feed people without destroying them and making them obscenely FAT! Today if you want real food you will have to grow it yourself.

  12. 15 Gabriel Rizk December 2, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Point noted, James. However, I would like to reiterate that the ideal solution to the problem with food quality is personal responsibility on the part of the consumer.

    Though the underhanded tactics of both the producers and regulators are regretable, “Buyer Beware” remains the best option for a consumer driven economy.

    I wonder if we’ll see an increase in cheap, accessible restaurants during the recession or if heightened public awareness about the health issues will encourage consumers to eat at home.

  13. 16 Broker December 3, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Lotsa nanny state liberalism on this blog today. Sorry, I don’t need Hillary Clinton looking over my shoulder in a restaurant telling me what to order. Restaurants offer fatty, fried, salty because it sells, healthy stuff doesn’t sell as well. There was once a fast food chain called Delites of America that offered low fat hamburgers, salads, yogurt etc. They went broke because very few people patronized them . When people go out to eat many want something they like even if it is not good for them. My wife cooks healthy stuff and I drag yogurt and fruit to the office every day to eat healthy and avoid the stuff you mention. We don’t eat out much but when we do I don’t need some twerp from the Obama administration telling me what I can and can’t eat. People should accept responsibility for their own lives and well being, not hand their life over to a bureaucrat.

  14. 17 James December 3, 2009 at 10:51 am

    I really don’t think Hillary has any interest in telling you what to eat and I am about as far from being a liberal nanny as it gets. Don’t confuse responsible government with just plain bad, incompetent and morally compromised government. The whole point is the public doesn’t know what it is eating and can not make responsible informed choices because the food industry doesn’t want them to know and frankly has zero interest in telling them. If you talk to obese poeple I think you will find that few if any of them would choose obesity over health. Obesity is a personal handicap and a huge social problem that you and I are paying for every day in lost productivity, health insurance costs, medical expenses, and human tragedy. I don’t like paying for other peoples problems, they need to stop eating cookies get off their fat a$$es and exercise, but you and I both know that the food industry is blatantly misrepresenting it products to the public when it advertises so called “low fat”, “natural”, “organic”, “nutricious”, vitamin enriched” etc.
    I don’t want the government to tell you what to eat, I want them to establish independant unbiased standards for healthy nutritious food, and provide a means of measuring our choices against that standard. Attempts at this have been made in the past but the process was overtaken by countless special interest groups who swayed the FDA to put out information that was favorable to their bottom line. And to add to the confusion these same people now diseminate false and misleading information coupled with fear mongering about big brotherism. Are these your friends in Corporate America, and if so what have they done for you lately?
    Finally this is not a bi-partisan political issue, this is not liberal vs. conservative, fat vs thin, this is about your health, your childrens health and the health and viability of the US. No other industrialized western nation suffers from this financial and social handicap, so why are we tolerating it?

  15. 18 Nick December 3, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Lots of good points here, encouraging responses.

    All I’ll add is that I travel for business, I eat out for business, and that typically means wherever a client/prospect wants to go. Most don’t want to go to macrobiotic organic whole-grain vegan restaurants (…not sure that I would either…) So I’m looking at an unfamilar menu, 3,4,5 or more times each week, trying to guess what’s really in the chicken or the fish or the salad. And guess what, a lot of surprises; chefs can get really creative. As long as there isn’t a mandate to display calorie/fat/health information, it’ll remain luck of the draw… call it health roulette.

  16. 19 Paul December 4, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I agree very much with the notion of personal responsibility and lament it’s cultural near-extinction in many arenas. Yet, I don’t think some regulation/accountability vs personal resopnsibility is an either-or proposition. I think that stating one should just “be smart enought to make good choices,” is an elitist position.

    Tobacco has known major health risks, has addictive qualities, and costs our society a great deal in dollars and suffering. Therefore we tax it, regulate it, and prevent advertizing, especially to children.

    Alcohol has known major health risks, has addictive qualities, and costs our society a great deal in dollars and suffering. Therefore we tax it, regulate it, and prevent advertizing, especially to children.

    Drugs have known major health risks, has addictive qualities, and costs our society a great deal in dollars and suffering. Therefore we tax it, regulate it, and prevent advertizing, especially to children.

    Fatty/salty/processed foods have known major health risks, have addictive qualities (same dopaminergic reward pathways as the others above), and cost our society a great deal in dollars and suffering. Why are we so horrified to call it what it is? Our kids are being constantly direct-marketed to, thousands of ads a month. The USDA is allowed to be incharge of government health advisories (as opposed to Health and Human Services) even though their primary consistuents are food-produces and agribusiness, not the american populace. It by this mechanism that these foods are actually PROMOTED by making them cheaper than healthier choices, while obscuring any risks.

    It’s fine for me, well educated, affluent enough to choose foods based on health not cheapest quickest calories, to take personal responsibility for my food choices and suppress some of my desire for the feel-good bad foods and keep the TV off. But should our policy be that those kids who are spending 3-4 hours a day in front of the TV with a single parent who has little time or money to cook healthy foods from scratch to just figure this out on their own?

    So what do we do? We subsidize dangerous foods, allow then in our schools, allow them to be promoted (often times even as healthfoods) shamelessly, and then all share in paying for the environmental and health care costs that result.

    Now who’s stupid?

    • 20 James December 4, 2009 at 5:17 pm

      There is some scientific evidence that our bodies actually learn to be obsese from early childhood diets that encourage the growth and proliferation of fat cells. So children growing up in households with poor diets arrive at their teenage years already obsese and with little hope of turning their now inherent physiology around. Ironically children’s foods are some of the worst health offenders on the shelves in grocery stores and in restaurants. I remember when eating was just that, eating, now because of TV ads, theme restaurants, and the association of food with various cartoon characters, eating is associated with having fun. And if your not having fun while eating, then you are being cheated, and tragedy of tragedy, you are therefore sad and unhappy. Hence we have the “Happy Meal” to fix all that, except the “Happy Meal” is one of the worst food choices anyone could ever make. The poor kids would be better off eating the toy!

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