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. but if you eat there and get the runs, isn’t that a weight-loss program?

    no worse than Alli at that point.

    …i’ll munch on my ‘meat and cheese cubes, raw mushrooms and peppers with a nice dallop of mayo’ lunch thankyouverymuch!

    Diane wrote on January 20th, 2010
  2. I loved your discription of the Gordita! And then…”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.”” was hi-larious!!! So perfect!

    Connie Remington wrote on January 20th, 2010
  3. Brilliant!! It made me laugh out loud!! Litterally!! But it is SO SO TRUE!!
    Thank you for that!

    Joanne wrote on January 20th, 2010
  4. Mark- you have out-done yourself with this one! Our spears are raised high in approval. (Now there’s a swag idea for you!)

    Anne Jensen wrote on January 20th, 2010
  5. Funny Stuff…. To even consider consuming any of that FF Crap is beyond me.. As far as T Bell goes(the founder recently passed maybe he was a fan of the Lardita… RIP)
    Anyone remember the food poisoning/salmonella issues a few years ago..?
    Shop wisely, eat wisely,exercise & Live well..!

    Al wrote on January 21st, 2010
  6. Funny Stuff.. It amazes me that people still eat that FF Crap.
    All due respect I believe the founder of TBell recently passed…RIP(Maybe it was the Larditas)
    Regardless of the new spin they put on it..They’re looking for market share.
    Shop wisely,Eat wisely,exercise & Live Well !!!
    Peace Love & Good Happines Stuff

    Al wrote on January 21st, 2010
  7. Do’h Sorry for the Dupe reply…Errrrrrr

    Al wrote on January 21st, 2010
  8. Love the donation to the American Diabetes Association part. Really enjoyed article. In regards to the meat issue. I can attest for what Mark is saying about the sub-human quality of their meat. My wife and I have some friends in Fresno who own and operate a grass fed and finished cattle farm. They told us they were doing research on beef production and had the opportunity to be given a tour through one the local meat processing plants. The plant serviced all major fast food chain restaurants here in California, and at the bottom of the rung, with the lowest quality meat (basically ground up leftovers) was what was treated, packaged and shipped to Taco Bell. They told me they would never eat Taco Bell ever again.

    Nahtan wrote on January 21st, 2010
  9. interesting…very interesting

    charlie wrote on January 22nd, 2010
  10. All the more Reason to wonder……
    “Who the Hell still eats that CRAP?”

    Al wrote on January 22nd, 2010
  11. This made my day. Thank you for the laugh 😀

    Gabrielle wrote on January 22nd, 2010
  12. It’s not just Taco Bell either. It’s a whole Yum! Brand strategy

    I love the picture of the kids eating fried chicken and corn. Corn. Is. Not. A. Vegetable.

    Jennifer wrote on January 25th, 2010
  13. This made my year! Thanks Mark! :)

    Todd Dosenberry wrote on January 25th, 2010
  14. Haha I am loving the post, but what will make me even happier is if Taco Bell miraculously pulls all 8 of your tips off and holds you to that $10,000 donation, “Which of course is the Foundation of Diseased Cows Made of Human Parts and Feces.”

    Kris wrote on January 29th, 2010
  15. I thought the satire was entertaining and I liked his delivery. Unfortunately, what I felt that he should have mentioned that he didn’t was that there are millions of other people who are healthy and some unhealthy who enjoy Taco Bell and the type of food they serve. Who is he to speak for everyone? What makes his holier-than-thou opinion more qualified than mine? Nothing.

    Does every Prius driving hippy have to try and sanitize the world? If the little bastard wants healthy food, why the hell is he at Taco Bell in the first place? This guy apparently doesn’t have enough to do and while I do admire his delivery and honesty, I think his smug and sarcastic attitude overshadowed his point.

    I’ll bet in his spare time he finds just as much enjoyment harassing people who don’t recycle.

    Anon wrote on February 13th, 2010
  16. Haha, I liked this a lot.

    If you want a similar, hilarious book to read, get Paul Rosa’s “Idiot Letters”– an experiment in writing to corporate America.

    VERY funny.

    Leslie wrote on February 27th, 2010
  17. I stopped and got a hardshell taco and a Mango Strawberry Fruista. The drink was wonderful. The taco tasted O.K. but there wasn’t enough meat on there to cause any kind of problems. Not to worry!!!

    Kay Nicholas wrote on February 27th, 2010
    • *wipes tears from eyes* Good Lord, TOO FUNNY. Especially #6! Estomago Grande! El Diarrhea!

      Roohan wrote on March 5th, 2010
  18. God I hate Taco Bell. I never understood how anyone can eat here. Its really scrapping the bottom of the barrel. Even when I was a kid I hated it. The times when my family made me eat there it just hurt my stomach.

    YoNoQuieroTacoBell wrote on March 8th, 2010
    • I call it “Taco Hell”…a place where Mexican food goes when it has lived a bad life…(Ha!)

      Phil-SC wrote on March 13th, 2010
  19. I don’t know why I read this thing, we don’t even have Taco Bell around here…
    About the “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 don’t think it’s such a good idea. maybe it’s just me, but eating while I can see the alive form of the animal infront of me is like torture. I haven’t been eating in Mc Donalds for 5 years because of this. Ofcourse it can be a good thing for someone who’s trying to lose weight, but I don’t have such a problem.

    BelloTacobello wrote on March 13th, 2010
    • If you can’t eat while seeing the alive form of the animal in front of you, how can you eat it in the first place? Aren’t you just hiding the truth from yourself? Not trying to be mean, I just sincerely don’t understand.

      kldt7 wrote on May 13th, 2010
  20. Excellent except for the salsa bar idea. Imagine how the salsa bar would look at a late night taco bell in an area with a lot of late night drunks.

    Scott wrote on March 13th, 2010
  21. This is FANTASTIC! I truly hope many people read this. Fast Food is not healthy, it just isn’t. Now, that’s not to say my family and I do not enjoy it once in a while, but it should never substitute eating at home. I too would eat at Taco Bell more often if they make the above changes.

    Sarah G wrote on March 26th, 2010

    That’s my friend Ryan, he eats T-Bell like 3-4 times a week and is still thin as f@#$

    Sean Gilmore wrote on March 29th, 2010
    • Awesome. Just awesome.

      Jared wrote on April 14th, 2010
  23. While I love seeing healthier options at my favorite fast food places, I hate seeing the healthier options being about as filling as oh I don’t know… a grape.

    The fresca menu is tasty but I’d have to eat all day before my stomach stopped clamoring for more. Being hungry does not have to be a part of eating healthier.

    That said, great letter! I loved it!

    Debra wrote on April 14th, 2010
  24. Very nice! Natural Living is great. There should be more people exploreing what the world has to offer, Thanks.

    Joseph Levesque wrote on May 28th, 2010
  25. we must live close to the nature very nice … liked it …

    mesotheolima wrote on June 20th, 2010
  26. Such a witty article… loved it!

    Tatiana V. wrote on June 28th, 2010
  27. This is brilliant! I nearly laughed myself silly

    Laura wrote on July 8th, 2010
  28. This is amazing! I truly hope many people read this

    bryan wrote on July 9th, 2010
  29. I love you.
    -George Clooney

    Clooninator wrote on July 19th, 2010
  30. Absolutely fantastic! I will need your billing address though as I just spat coffee all over my monitor and adjacent wallpaper laughing.

    “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.”

    Cheers for the laugh and the cajones to write this.

    See you at TB,

    Haydn wrote on September 30th, 2010
  31. Loved the article but just a thing… Taco Bell Is NOT A Mexican Restaurant. Any REAL Mexican that goes into the states and taste taco bell, know there is nothing mexican on it.

    Rivera wrote on October 18th, 2010

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