Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
15 Jan

An Open Letter to Taco Bell

Dear Taco Bell,

It has come to my attention that you have recently created a Drive-Thru Diet. You are clearly taking bold new steps to change the way Americans view healthy eating, so I am writing this letter to express my gratitude and enthusiasm and to offer insight for further improvement.

I first noticed your “Drive-Thru Diet” ad on a billboard outside of a childrens’ extra-curricular learning studio in west Los Angeles. Ever the inquiring mind, I visited for some heavy research. I read Christine Dougherty’s 80 word story about losing 50 lbs over 2 years with Taco Bell. Very convincing. Then I watched TV personality Chris Rose interview four paid actors, and every single actor praised Taco Bell’s seven healthy Fresco menu items. Next I learned from registered dietitian Ruth Carey that some food choices are nutritionally better than others. These people clearly weren’t lying. The Drive-Thru Diet looked legitimate, so I decided to make a Frescolution. I hit a road block when attempting to fill out my pledge. The form required me to fill out “what I know.” I attempted to write, “I live a healthy lifestyle based on the 10 immutable Primal laws validated by two million years of human evolution…,” but Taco Bell overrode that with, “My idea of exercise involves the all-you-can-eat buffet marathon.” Oh well, I suppose what I know isn’t nearly as important as eating Taco Bell Fresco menu items.

So here I am, having soaked up the thorough and detailed information on your website, almost ready to embark on my two year plan of eating Taco Bell food every day. However, I have a few simple questions before starting such an exciting, healthy journey.

First, I am slightly confused by the math of calorie reduction. I understand that a Fresco taco is 20 calories less than a regular taco (kudos for that feat of engineering!). If I am trying to reduce my daily consumption by 500 calories by eating Fresco tacos rather than regular tacos, does that mean I need to eat 25 Fresco tacos a day? (20 calorie reduction x 25 = 500 calorie reduction). That means I need to eat roughly six tacos a meal, including, of course, fourthmeal. Speaking of which…

I am still trying to work out the logistics of fourthmeal. If I eat fourthmeal after midnight, is it technically firstmeal? In calculating daily calories, which day does fourthmeal count for? If I eat fourthmeal at the stroke of midnight, does it count for both days or neither? And also, if I eat fourthmeal every day, when do I sleep?

Finally, what exactly did Christine eat? If I know the combination of Taco Bell choices she made, I would feel much more confident moving forward. Did she keep a food log?

Once you have answered my questions, I will be delighted to fulfill my Frescolution.

Additionally, while I have no criticism of your company or your dietary philosophy, I do see room for improvement in your quest to convert American eaters into healthy decision makers. Below, I’ve listed a few possible menu adjustments…

1. A “Sans Queso!”option

After close scrutiny of your seven Fresco menu items, I discovered the secret to your revolutionary way of creating healthy foods: You replace the cheese with tomatoes. I’m no food lab scientist, but with careful engineering it seems you could apply the Cheese Removal Principle to not just seven menu items, but to every single product you offer. Call it “Sans Queso!” and you’ve got an entire menu full of super-healthy foods. Want a healthy Mexican pizza? Sans Qeuso! it. Sans queso! that volcano nachos and you’ve turned a 1,000 calorie item into a 920 calorie health food. It’s not a reduction of quantity, it’s an upgrade of health. You can even charge an extra thirty cents to Sans Queso! a food. The new anti-supersize.

2. A calorie total at purchase – All your food items have calorie amounts the same as they have prices. How hard would it be to include a function on the cash register that adds up the total calories of the foods purchased and prints it on the receipt? Heck, take it a step further and tell the customer directly, “Your total is $8.76 and your calorie total is 2,400. Would you like to Sans Queso! your meal for an extra thirty cents?” Bam. Satisfied customer, more profit, and less wasted ingredients. Is that genius or what?

3. Salsa – I’m not one to make rude accusations, but it does occur to me that you are a Mexican restaurant without a salsa bar. I do respect your little border sauce packets of modified food starch, autolyzed yeast extract, sugar, onion juice, and xantham gum, but including a secondary option of fresh chopped tomatoes, onions, and tomatillas could improve both taste and the amount of nutrients your customers consume. So get yourself a salsa bar. People like salsa and they like bars, it’s a win-win.

4. An “UnFried Salad” – The traditional Taco Bell Mexican salad sits in an edible bowl of fried enriched bleached flour and corn. That fried bowl sits in a second, plastic bowl. I suggest removing the edible bowl and placing the salad directly into the plastic bowl. You may have concerns about the way customers will react to this “one bowl” concept. The problem can be solved easily by using a “do not eat this bowl” warning label. Fill the plastic bowl with a bed of lettuce, grilled chicken, salsa from your newly installed salsa bar, and a couple slices of avocado (the fresh kind, not the green stuff I’ve seen your employees squeeze out of a caulking gun) That’s a healthy menu item if ever there was one. Sans Queso! that salad for thirty cents and make it even healthier.

5. Water – I can’t help but notice the 32 oz cup of Diet Pepsi that accompanies all the pictures of your Fresco menu foods. Have you considered creating a 32 oz cup that says, “Water!” I’ve never seen a fast food water cup before. Taco Bell could be the first.

6. Rename all products according to the Gordita methodology

I’d never heard of a Gordita before you added one to your menu. I had to pull out the old translation dictionary to learn that “gordita” is Spanish for “chubby.” What a brilliant concept! Right there in the name of the food you’ve included a warning for how the food will make you look and feel. I love it! You should rename other menu items to include similar warnings. A nacho bell grande could be called an “estomago grande,” a caramel empanada could be a “caramel diabetica,” and a mexican pizza could simply be “El Diarrea.”

7. A weekly taco limit – Like the bartender who cuts off the alcoholic, set a hard limit on the number of tacos a customer can buy. Consult Ruth Carey, your registered dietitian, and figure out how many tacos a week someone must eat to remain healthy. Never sell a customer more than that number.

Last, but certainly not least…

8. TELL PEOPLE WHERE YOUR MEAT COMES FROM – Consumers are fickle, skeptical doubters, and I’m sure you’ve heard some of the rumors and urban legends surrounding the origins of your meat. To jog your memory, there have been claims that your meat is of lower quality than dog food meat; that it contains feces; that there are fingernail fragments, human blood, ash, worm, copper wire residue, cellophane, and bits of Jimmy Hoffa floating around in your meat. While I’m fairly certain these accusations are false, I was unable to find any information on your website as to meat origin and quality. I even called your hotline, with no further success. Why not replace one of the 3 giant 5 layer burrito posters on each store using the third to show a picture of the grass fed, grass finished cows that I’m sure you use to make those burritos.

I do realize making these changes may take a small upfront investment. Because I feel as responsible for America’s health as I’m sure you do, I am willing to put my money where my mouth is. If you make all eight of the suggested changes, I will donate $10,000 to a charity of your choice (perhaps the American Diabetes Association?). Thank you for reading my letter and for creating a diet that does not require me to leave my car. Maybe one day you will take the next step by creating a “Delivery Diet” so I won’t have to leave my house.

Yours in good health,

Mark Sisson

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Mark,
    That was pure awesome! Loved the politely veiled snark.

    Kelly wrote on January 15th, 2010
  2. You just asked Taco Bell to turn into Chipotle or Baja Fresh!

    Mark wrote on January 15th, 2010
  3. Savage, Gonzo burn, my friend!!!
    Thanks for saying what I was THINKING.

    kuno1chi wrote on January 15th, 2010
  4. Pitch-perfect. . .well done!

    Catalina wrote on January 15th, 2010
  5. That has to be sent to headquarters.


    Dan wrote on January 15th, 2010
  6. Too funny! Caramel Diabetica indeed(too close to the truth)! The meat comments are right on. I used to eat at Taco Bell a really long time ago (I’m talkin 30 years) and it wasn’t bad. I think they used real food back then.

    Maxine Humpherys wrote on January 15th, 2010
  7. I laughed out loud while reading this at work – now my students think I am crazy….

    lady_daraine wrote on January 15th, 2010
  8. Mark –

    You forgot to add their Chihuahua! Didn’t he strangely die in the past few years? Perhaps he was a test pilot for this Drive Thru Diet and it simply drove thru him and right on to his little grave…

    This was hilarious!

    Jeff P (P stands for Primal) wrote on January 15th, 2010
    • I think he was added to the meat.

      Grok wrote on January 16th, 2010
  9. They already have a delivery diet- Nutrisystem. But it’s not exactly fast food and it’s not exactly cheap. And i’m going to go out on a limb here guess it’s not exactly Primal, either.

    Karin wrote on January 15th, 2010
  10. I think Taco Bell stole this idea from Pixar’s WALL-E. They have visions of an obese society living in automated Taco Bell pods.

    Danielle wrote on January 15th, 2010
  11. Brilliant post. Thanks.

    gp wrote on January 15th, 2010
  12. Shouldn’t that be “sin queso?

    Peter Nathan wrote on January 15th, 2010
  13. I have a better mexican food diet. Exclusively jalapeno peppers and pure imported Mexican River Water. Heck, you may lose 10 pounds a day with that course of action and it would save you from ingesting the Pseudo food from TB.

    Mike Cheliak wrote on January 15th, 2010
  14. LOL! Great post!

    Tilden M wrote on January 15th, 2010
  15. Sin queso not sans queso.

    If it were a French fast food joint it would be sans fromage.

    And the salsa would be made of Tomatillo not tomatilla.

    Excellent observation on “fourth meal”.

    Marshall wrote on January 15th, 2010
  16. This post was awesome. Thanks to the Primal Blueprint I’ve been SANS Taco Bell for years now.

    BenevolentForce wrote on January 15th, 2010
  17. You’ve really done it this time. A delightful stroke!!

    Eleanor Snyder wrote on January 15th, 2010
  18. hilarious

    Sean wrote on January 15th, 2010
  19. Great post! The sad thing is that millions of people will actually believe that they’re doing something good for their health when they eat this stuff.

    Carla wrote on January 15th, 2010
  20. I am so glad that I have gone primal enough that the sinus flush that resulted from reading #6 was tea instead of a coke.

    TexasPrimalSurfWahine wrote on January 15th, 2010
  21. LOVE IT!!!!

    Rachel Fountain wrote on January 15th, 2010

    Theresa wrote on January 15th, 2010
  23. Hilarious. I went to Una Mas for lunch with co-workers and was perplexed about what to order. Luckily had the Verde Salad sans tortilla strips and doubled the optional shrimp. The also have a fresh salsa bar which helps quite a bit.

    lars1000 wrote on January 15th, 2010
  24. This is awesome!!

    Lance wrote on January 15th, 2010
  25. AWESOME!!!! Now, please send it!

    pat wrote on January 15th, 2010
  26. The Taco Bell Diet … as in you’ll probably die-eating it! The Gordito one was brilliant … still ROFL!

    Candice wrote on January 15th, 2010
  27. Awesome!! Well thought out and creative!!

    Chris wrote on January 15th, 2010
  28. Also, keep doing what you’re doing….the world needs people like you to educate the masses!

    Chris wrote on January 15th, 2010
  29. Genius. I love the irony here. Taco Bell advertises “down” to America and assumes it’s ignorance. Your “tongue in cheek” piece comes from a higher place and fittingly enough condescends THEM. Simply genius.

    Clint White wrote on January 15th, 2010
  30. Just a fun fact: y’all know about Manual Uribe, the man who holds the world record for heaviest man in the world? You know how he GOT over 1300lbs (by gaining 900lbs in 3 years)? Tacos.


    Vivian wrote on January 15th, 2010
  31. I lurk, but never comment, but this is friggin awesome. made my day. Lord knows i used to be a taco bell freak. once i found out about the quality of the meat, it was lites out

    frankifries wrote on January 15th, 2010
  32. I find Special K new year’s challege way worse =S
    Hilarious post, “El Diarrea.”, “Estomado grande” xxxxxxxxxD

    Mary wrote on January 15th, 2010
  33. A nacho bell grande could be called an “estomago grande,” a caramel empanada could be a “caramel diabetica,” and a mexican pizza could simply be “El Diarrea.”

    Don’t overlook the Volcano Burrito, or “culo de manteca.”

    Sonagi wrote on January 15th, 2010
    • Did you mean cola?

      kldt7 wrote on May 13th, 2010
  34. Once upon a very long time ago, TB used to have marinated chicken fajitas with real onions and green peppers. They quit making them because some customers complained that they were “too messy.”

    Well, at least there’ll be some variety on The Biggest Loser as the trainers will now have another fast food place besides Subway to take the participants for “healthy” food.

    David wrote on January 15th, 2010
    • Subway xD Seriously don’t you love when people say they’re trying to be healthy so they’re having a Subway for lunch? I don’t know which one has more HFCS subway’s bread or a can of coke… At least the coke is gluten free XD

      Mary wrote on January 16th, 2010
  35. A friend at school ate taco bell right before finals week, and had food poisoning. She described the act of vomiting vomiting as resembling a pressure cleaner, and she felt terrible for days. That story has been enough to deter anyone from taco bell, even if they eat fast food.

    But yes, this letter = SO GOOD

    Liana wrote on January 15th, 2010
  36. Don’t they have the chihuahua anymore?

    Wait a sec…I may have just figured out the meat source.

    dragonmamma wrote on January 15th, 2010
  37. I love this post! I shared it with as many people I know! Great job Mark! I, like others here, really hope you sent it! If you did please update us on what they said. Thanks so much Mark for making my day!

    James Keough wrote on January 15th, 2010
  38. Looooove it!

    iisierra wrote on January 15th, 2010
  39. Your posts are outstanding this week!

    Laurie Donaldson wrote on January 15th, 2010

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