Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 15 2010

An Open Letter to Taco Bell

By Mark Sisson
205 Comments

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 Tacobell.com 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

TAGS:  humor

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205 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Taco Bell”

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    1. Hi! I’ve been reading lots of Paleo & Cross-fit stuff on the web the past 2 weeks, wondering if I had the guts to make this kind of change in my life.
      Well, I was munching on my yummy subway sandwich while reading this, and I may have reached the point of critical mass!
      Plus, my darling girlfriends took me out of town for a birthday bash, and it turned into an episode of The Hangover meets The Real Housewives. Any advice?

    2. This is so stupid. If someone thinks that Taco Bell is unhealthy, than do not go, and if fatty fat goes and eats there, that is their choice and life, so leave them alone. I would rather have choices in life, and if I want to eat a 1000 calorie taco at midnight after going out and partying, than so be it, it is my life. Those that choice to eat unhealthy and make bad food choices will pay for their mistakes, and we need less people like you who judge and let people and companies run their lives the way tey want to.

      1. Nobody is standing at your local Taco Bell and stopping you from entering, so go ahead and indulge if you want. The problem here, however, is not the fact that “fatty fat” is eating more fatty food voluntarily, but rather the fact that Taco Bell cunningly and deceitfully play with the truths about their food and advertise it as to encourage unhealthy eating without proper education and advertising ethics. They sound like they care about customers’ health but what they give them is the same crap just with different names dressed to look “healthy”

        1. I think you have summed it up perfectly, Dahae. The “healthy choices” deceit by Taco Bell is what is so wrong here. Not everyone has the time or desire to trawl through all the latest research, fast food ingredients, etc.
          I thank MDA for this work.
          BTW Taco Bell didn’t last long in Australia. Maybe we like our salsa truly fresco…

  1. I’ll take an “El Diarrhea” “to go”, please! Vintage Mark!

  2. Oh my freaking god. I think I just wet my pants. And I’m a grown-up!!

    1. You’re a HOT adult. (That’s what us adults call ‘grown-ups’)

      1. HAHA! Yea, if you are telling us you are a grown up, you probably aren’t.

        Like the following quotations:
        “I’m a brilliant man!”
        “I’m a man!”

        come on…

  3. Awesome!

    I especially love the disclaimer on the commercial that says “Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet is not a weight loss program.”

  4. I saw their ad during a football game and had to text every single person I know. Unbelievable.

  5. Priceless! I actually have a colleague at work who said she was going to go on the Taco Bell diet. I couldn’t tell if she was joking or completely serious.

  6. I don’t know why Taco Bell is even trying the “diet” angle. This is a food chain that made its fortune catering to HYMs (hungry young males).

    Their last commercial featured Kareem Abdul Jabar and his “mother” eating half pound beef burritos. The inconsistency is killing me.

    I suppose it should come as no surprise, since KFC and Taco Bell are owned by the same company, and the KFC “grilled chicken” has been playing on the health angle, probably with success. Expect Pizza Hut to follow suit soon.

    1. my mistake, it was Evander Holyfield and his “mother.” I don’t know where Kareem came from on that one.

    2. Fast food is a volume sales business. It is also much less expensive for a company to target its existing customers than to try and get new customers.

      This is simply a ploy to get some of its existing customers to consume much more of its food.

      I love when people talk about eating fast food “in moderation”. What they don’t understand is the fast food model is not about moderation. They want you to consume as much as possible as frequently as possible.

      No higher end restaurant expects you to eat their food for every meal every day of the week, but that is the goal of fast food.

  7. Mark you can get water at every fast food place..no need to drink sodas there.

    NO plastic plates please, Use paper plates only with the salads. Plasticis terrible for the environment and uses too much oil as well. The rest of the suggestions are good.

  8. LOL! Mark, shame on you for dumping on Taco Bell. Taco Bell was responsible for just about every lunch I consumed for three years during which I was getting my masters in anthropology. And the fact that no-one wanted to be in the room with me after each meal was a bonus–more time to focus on my studies!

  9. Are you preparing for a career in stand-up comedy? Your posts are getting more and more hilarious.

  10. ‘Maybe one day you will take the next step by creating a “Delivery Diet” so I won’t have to leave my house.’

    Only in a perfect world would we see a delivery car with a happy taco bell logo rushing to deliver you your nutrtrient rich fourth meal. We can only hope… maybe someday.

  11. That’s awesome! Living on the “drive through diet” will turn into the moving via forktruck lifestyle.

  12. Priceless Mark! When I first saw their commerical, I thought they were joking! Until I looked at their website. I posted on my blog about it as well. I sincerely hope you sent this to them. This is hysterical!

  13. “People like salsa and they like bars, it’s a win-win.”

    That made me LOL.

    1. If they’d serve some margheritas, maybe the alcohol would sterilize the meat. And the food would seem even better.

  14. Only you could make real food topics this funny, Mark. Kudos for tearing down Taco Bell’s nutritional philosophy in the most hilarious way possible.

  15. Thank you so much for writing this! The Taco Bell Drive Thru Diet is what prompted me to finally blog about eating Paleo the last 10 months. These commercials have been a pet peeve of mine, they just drive me crazy. Your letter had me completely rolling, tears in my eyes and all. Well said!

  16. Mark – great post! Only problem: I think they’d be more likely to go with a “Sin Queso” option, as “sin” means “without” in Spanish. “Sans” is French…maybe Au Bon Pain is your next target? Would they go for a “Sans Pain” menu?

    1. Mike, I figured using “sans” helps them expand into the French market. Two birds – one stone. Although the queso TB uses IS a Sin…

      1. ha ha ha!!!!!!!!!!
        I just fell off my chair.
        I mean, j’ai tombe sur ma chaise.

  17. oh my gaga. i went ape $hit when i saw this commercial on tv. utter madness! thank you for this, it bought the LOLs

  18. Just sent a link to the article to everyone I email with. Sure some will be scratching their heads.

  19. “and a mexican pizza could simply be “El Diarrea.” – HA, i like that. I concur with one of the above statements… and hope that you actually sent this to them.

    It’s funny that the insides of these food item reminds me of puke… which is what food is supposed to look like AFTER you’ve dished it back OUT of your body.

    Odd isn’t it?

  20. Love it! But you forgot to mention that they need to have recommended daily allowances that are aligned with the number of joints one has smoked before entering the establishment (or approaching the window).

  21. Savage, Gonzo burn, my friend!!!
    Thanks for saying what I was THINKING.
    😀

  22. 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.

  23. I laughed out loud while reading this at work – now my students think I am crazy….

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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”.

  29. This post was awesome. Thanks to the Primal Blueprint I’ve been SANS Taco Bell for years now.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. Hilarious. I went to Una Mas http://www.unamas.com/ 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.

  33. The Taco Bell Diet … as in you’ll probably die-eating it! The Gordito one was brilliant … still ROFL!

  34. Also, keep doing what you’re doing….the world needs people like you to educate the masses!

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

    😛

  37. 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

  38. I find Special K new year’s challege way worse =S
    Hilarious post, “El Diarrea.”, “Estomado grande” xxxxxxxxxD

  39. 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.”

  40. 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.

    1. 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

  41. 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

  42. Don’t they have the chihuahua anymore?

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

  43. 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!

  44. After abstaining from fast food for about 3 years, I once had the unfortunate occasion to be given a taco bell taco by a friend I was helping to move. They thought they were simply buying me lunch in appreciation for helping them out.

    I took two bites of it and threw it out when he wasn’t looking.

    I remember I used to love taco bell. But after eating real food for years now, I can’t believe how vile that shit tasted. It’s just not real food!!!!

    Everyday I drive past drive thru’s for all of the big, corporate food chains and I think to myself:

    “Fast Food = Sheeple Feed”

    Don’t be sheeple.

  45. Mark,

    Check this out. The media is trying to propaganda people about HFCS. I saw a commercial on Discovery health channel and wanted to vomit afterwards. It’s so disturbing. The website is http://www.sweetsurprise.com/.

    Check out the videos… alarming

  46. Mark you HAVE to send this! So so genius.
    I’m posting this to my FB page. This is Fuming Fuji Fantastic!

  47. This is unbelievable. I actually thought it was a joke for a long time :). Great post though. Very funny. If you’re reading the comments only, go and read it.

  48. Mark –
    SO funny – great bit of parody.
    But let’s keep in mind, it is a step in the right direction, and that is not a bad thing.

    The fact is, fast food is huge, and any step toward an awareness of healthier choices is good.
    Yum brands (parent company of Taco Bell) has something like 35,000 restaurants and some 1/3 million employees.

    It kind of galls me, people that haven’t built an enterprise looking at the fruits of someone else’s labor and demanding they change what they do (be it cars, or food, or banking, or…)

    Think you know better?
    Think you can do it ‘right’.

    Go ahead – compete.
    Let’s see the Mark Sisson world-wide healthy food conglomerate, 35,000 locations strong, thriving on doing the right thing.

    Mark, you’re a successful entrepreneur.
    Fitness / diet consultant, self-published book author, seller of supplements.
    Congratulations! You’ve done well and your message is inspiring.
    I don’t hear of anyone demanding you change the way you run your business – and I don’t think anyone should have that right.

    But me thinks that living in Malibu, doing sprints on the Hollywood celebrity crowded beach, and walking to local market that has loads of very expensive organic stuff might not be the norm.

    1. “But let’s keep in mind, it is a step in the right direction, and that is not a bad thing.”

      Like smoking one pack of cigarettes a day instead of a pack and a half.

      “It kind of galls me, people that haven’t built an enterprise looking at the fruits of someone else’s labor and demanding they change what they do (be it cars, or food, or banking, or…)”

      As a tax-paying citizen, I have every right to complain publicly about corporate and personal behaviors that impact me negatively through higher taxes to pay for rising Medicare and Medicaid costs and through higher health insurance premiums and copays.

      “I don’t hear of anyone demanding you change the way you run your business – and I don’t think anyone should have that right.”

      Do you understand what a right is? The First Amendment gives us the right to complain about business practices or anything else that bothers us. I wouldn’t categorize Mark’s post as a “demand,” but even if it were, it would be an unenforceable one.

      “But me thinks that living in Malibu, doing sprints on the Hollywood celebrity crowded beach, and walking to local market that has loads of very expensive organic stuff might not be the norm.”

      And the way most of the rest of America eats should NOT be the norm. Even people in modern food-importing countries like Japan and Korea manage to eat much healthier than we do.

      1. My goodness.
        I hope Mike’s site doesn’t devolve into a discussion of the constitution.
        But I see you must be a product of public education.

        Rights come from our ‘Creator’, not from man.
        The first amendment prohibits man from taking away our God given right to free speech.

        Might I refer you to:

        1 – Declaration of Independence
        2 – Federalist Papers
        3 – Constitution

        Better late than never…….

        1. Trolling is not nice, mmkay. Personal attacks like “you must be a product of public education” are not welcome nor warranted.

          Also, we really should not get into a political/religious discussion here. This website is about dietary self-improvement, not politics or religion.

    2. I kind of understand your point, because there are a lot of people out there who don’t have access to good food and cannot afford it. I have been looking for quality grass fed beef but I am not in a position to purchase a part of a cow as I wish I could. I have to work long hours and commute and sometimes when I get home I just don’t feel like cooking and I would stop at Taco Bell.

      However that doesn’t mean Taco Bell should try to take advantage of that and my supposed stupidity with this ridiculous advertising campaign. Maybe letters like Mark’s and comments like ours will encourage Taco Bell and others to improve the quality of food.

      Mark is providing this site and forum and is helping a lot of people such as myself. He deserves to live the lifestyle he lives and express his opinions about corporations whose main motive is money not nutrition or the welfare of its customers.

      It is up to us to use this knowledge and find ways to live our dreams and improve our health as he has done for himself.

  49. wow, what a discussion. I worked directly for the owner of 15 Jack in the Box restaurants. my job was to fix anything and everything that went wrong or broke along with two other techs. the job didn’t turn me into a millionaire but I did make a good living. I was hired Dec 2007 and by dec 2009 I had put on 30 lbs. I had the money to buy good food but I was eating free @ all our locations. now after those two years I was laid off due to the economy. thankfully in California I qualified for food aid (kind of embarrassing for a first timer) but now I buy all my own groceries and even though I don’t have access to those fancy healthy markets you guys speak of I am still able to buy good healthy food at the local save mart. the guy in front of me in line who I noticed was using his food card spent near $200 in free food, but as I looked what was in his cart he was buying all kinds of sodas frozen dinners bags of chips, etc. so obviously its just a choice. I started my primal journey a month a go @ 230lbs and now I am down to 220lbs and feeling great. I choose to.
    And just a side note to Adam who seems to be backing the 35000 location conglomerate…
    one thing I learned sitting through the Monday morning meetings with JIB is that the poorer the location with families who make minimal money the more money our restaurants made. now I don’t know what that says about the people eating there but one thing I do know is that it all comes down to dollars and if that Taco Bell Diet ad campaign doesn’t pan out for the bell then its off to something bigger and better. After seeing the owner of JIB huge home in a gated community and his and his wife’s matching LEXUS I can assure you they did not care about there consumers health just there wallets.

    1. Oh my gosh!
      They took risks, and made money!

      That is WONDERFUL!

      Think YOU CAN DO BETTER?

      GO AHEAD……..

      Stop demonizing the achievers – prove through your OWN EFFORT…….

      Make that successful chain of restaurants offering organic grass fed meat……

      You CAN’T!

      Double dare ya!

      1. Troll much, Adam? If you’re that smart, you know perfectly well that’s not the point.

      2. The point of the letter, wasn’t whether they sell tacos or are giving the people what they want. It’s deceiving people (the ones who don’t know any better; honest, but miss informed people)into thinking this is a healthy way of eating, so go out and buy these. Hey don’t just eat here once in awhile, but all the time, it’s healthy. So what does the average person, who doesn’t really know much about health do? They go out and try it. Would about the people who are willing to try anything to loose weight? They are now putting themselves into harm, by trying the taco bell diet. It’s not about selling, and being a great entrepreneur (my Dad works for himself and has his own business, so I know first hand about this) But misleading people into believing this is a great way to eat healthy and loose weight. Most people (just like I was for 26 years) think lettuce is good, and cheese is good, oh they add tomatoes, that’s good for you. All while not understanding that not all lettuce is not equal, that cheese isn’t good(the processed kind), and tomatoes are great, if they weren’t made in a huge green house, and permeated with tons of chemicals. So you see, it’s not about free enterprise, it’s about getting the facts straight. If you’re going to call it healthy, then it should be. If it’s not, then don’t call it health food. Say it’s a better choice, if it really is. That’s the point. Of course you can’t believe everything you see on TV, but it’s great to see someone standing up, and letting them know, that not everyone is quick to follow, when they say jump. They need to know there are people out there who know what is healthy and they are willing to stand up for it. Great job, Mark. I wish more people would stand up, and want to be healthy. I would love to see a restaurant that sells healthy food! Maybe you could take that 100,000 and open your own restaurant and sell your own tacos and burgers. That would be awesome.

  50. HA! I’m glad you could put together an intelligent and humorous bit that display what we all are thinking. THIS IS RIDICULOUS! Mark, you’re awesome.

  51. Maybe the “Drive through diet” should come with a little pack of vitamins?

    Last time I looked, bleached flour, iceberg lettuce, 1tbsp of morphidite tomato, and lumpy brown MSG with “natural meat flavor”, washed down with aspartame wasn’t very nutrient dense.

    Think about how nutrient deprived all the poor bastards who hop on this diet will be!

  52. Mark, this is both funny and helpful. You’ve done a superb job stating the core issues and problems. It’s only been about 30 years since I ate at a Taco Bell. Same w/McD’s. You rock, bro!

  53. Nice! I have to say, the “do not eat this bowl” warning label recommendation made me laugh out loud.

    Thanks for sharing!

    ^_^

  54. Obviously the letter got through and boy did it have an effect. The founder of TACO BELL, Glen W. Bell died after reading it.

  55. L.O.L.O.L.O.L.! Mark, you’re a Riot!! I’m late reading this just now but i’ve seen T.B.’s pathetic commercial. Any fast food drive thru is not a healthy meal. I Hope you sent that letter 🙂 they can’t read it soon enough!!!
    Mark, this post is a Classic:)

  56. Dear God! Copper wire? Thankfully I am not a consumer at Taco Bell. I like making my own tacos at home.

  57. Wow, if only this were true. But even if the meat wasn’t made from an unknown source, you still have the problem of the corn shell they use, and the flour. Since I highly doubt they would use Almond, or any other healthy flour in their food.
    It’s nice to see that they try to make them even just a little bit healthier then what they were before. Hope they really are, and not just a ploy to sell more tacos.
    The last time we went to Taco Bell and had the tacos, lets just say, we got what we paid for…. 99 cent taco, equals 99 minutes in the bathroom. 🙂

  58. I work at a large company that hosted the CEO of Yum! Brands as a guest speaker (exclamation point theirs). They own Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. Kentacohut for short.

    During a Q/A section when asked about their contribution to obesity in this and other countries, the reply was “People like indulgent foods.” Sad, and true. I actually would love to see the data around sales in fast food places from before and after the calorie counts went up. My money is on minimal change in orders, if any.

  59. The mystery meat freaks me out.

    That being said, I have been in situations where it was fast food or a blood sugar crash (yep, I know, I should have packed food – but I forgot) and I tried the fresco soft taco and had far less digestion issues later on – that little change from cheese to toms, onions, and cilantro really did help.

    But, again, the mystery meat freaks me out and I eat at Taco Bell maybe half a dozen times a year.

  60. That was a wonderful perspective on the “healthy” diet items that are advertised by places like Taco Bell! People love shortcuts and not changing their lifestyles to actually become healthier, so this is a perfect solution for them!

  61. You are awesome, I know you’ve heard it before, but you are!!!

  62. Come on Mark – you know the ADA doesn’t do squat! Funny post dude loved it. That drive thru diet makes me cringe every time I hear it…

  63. I love well written rants and this is bang on, and stomach turning! Thanks Mark. One thing though…when can we see wheat starch biodegradable food containers instead of plastic? Perhaps instead of throwing away the plastic bowl, you could caution them to simply use the corn one provided and dispense with the plastic entirely?

  64. Thanks, Mark for taking this one on. I ate a moderate amount of fast food last year and my weight went up from 180 to over 200. I started incorporating the Primal Blueprint in December 2009 and now I’m back down to mid 180’s. My wife has seen amazing results as well, 15 lbs so far. In my opinion, way better than any fast food diet.

  65. I don’t think it’s too far off to have taco bell deliver. Jimmy John’s already delivers, all you need is a high school kid with a car and a dream.

  66. Wow. So I’m in the middle of reading the comments and I decide to go grab something Primal from the fridge. As I’m on the way back to my desk, my co-worker walks in with – what else? A bag of Taco Bell. Unbelievable coincidence! It really validated why I’m changing the way that I eat, with advice from people like Mark.

  67. Interesting article, very funny, but I want to point out a few errors. I used to work at Taco Bell Corporate and in fact was the Product Manager in charge of the Fresco Menu a few years ago.

    It is a little deceiving when you say a “Fresco/Drive-thru Diet” item is only 20 calories less that a regular item. It totally depends on the item since Fresco/Diet simply means hold cheese, hold sauce, and add Pico de Gallo. (Your sample looks like they added only Tomatoes, but it should be Pico de Gallo unless that has changed since I worked at TB.) So, for a burrito that has cheese and mayo-based sauce normally, the Fresco version would probably save a lot of calories. But certainly for an taco, the difference is minimal.

    You joke about why they don’t do this to the entire menu….well actually they do. Fresco is a style you can get with any item, since it’s just code for how to make it (again, hold sauce and cheese, add pico).

    Also the TV Ad claims the lady lost 50 pounds over 2 years. That’s a impressive total, but not exactly fast weight loss. It’s my understanding that generally speaking cutting 100 calories a day will help you lose 1 pound per week, so this girl only cut 50 calories a day to lose 50 pounds in 2 years (104 weeks). You joke about 500 calories a day, but I think she only had to cut 50 calories a day.

    The complaints you mentions about the beef (like feces in meat) are the same complaints that are allowed in all of our ground beef (see Food Inc., Fast Food Nation, etc.). Their beef is not high enough quality to brag about, like most Fast Food, but they do monitor it closely to comply with USDA (admittedly weak) standards to protect against lawsuit.

    You talk about wanting Grass-fed beef, real Guacamole, and a real Salsa bar. Well, you can get that, you just have to go to a different restaurant that doesn’t charge 79-89-99 cents for half their menu.

    I imagine your real beef (no pun intended) is with calling the items “diet”. Yes, it’s not exactly the healthiest of diets, it’s only marginally better than a regular version of the same item. “Diet” is such a vague, misleading, marketing word that is really just comparative. I’m sure they don’t call their food “Healthy”, just “Diet” compared with their regular food.

    The sad thing is Fast Food restaurants survive by catering to those too poor or too busy to afford something better. Fast Food companies target heavy users, which is defined by someone who eats fast food an average of 17 times per month. Yes, I believe that a lack of time and money should not be an excuse for poor eating. I believe there are ways to eat healthy on a tight budget. But I am fortunate enough that I can afford “Whole Paycheck” and have the time to cook healthy food, so I don’t want to judge those who tell me they can’t. I just want to help educate and encourage when I can. And in the end that what your blog does. So thanks for the education and encouragement, and the interesting post.

    1. To lose a pound per week, one has to have a total calorie deficit of 3500. Divide by seven and you get a deficit of 500 calories per day. Come again?

      1. Fair enough. Then 50 pounds in 104 weeks would still be slightly under 250 fewer calories a day, not 500. Right?

        1. That would be correct. Of course, that really is a pittance when it comes to the typical Western diet. A 12-ounce can of Mountain Dew is 170 calories in and of itself. Nix a doughnut or candy bar on top of that and boom, there’s the 250-calorie deficit.

  68. A gordita, of which you have never heard, is a long-standing Mexican dish that is popular in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
    It is a thick corn-masa tortilla about 1/4 inch thick that is split open after cooking and filled, similar to pita bread. The masa may or mayn’t be mixed with lard. The filling is usually thick and meaty, like a stew of spicy beef, chicken, or pork and beans. It may also be stuffed with various Mexican egg combinations or fresh cheese. It is generally served with a touch of salsa.

  69. So many of the comments to this blog entry refer to people who are “too poor” to purchase quality food ….

    When I have been poor, fast food is not on the menu. Beans, rice, and frozen greens are a cheap way to feed my family, for instance. When I’m feeling a bit more flush, I might add a tortilla and some cheese and call it a burrito.

    Assuming you’re a family of 3 — 2 adults who eat 3 menu items each and a child that eats 1 plus a share of the adults’ — that’s a $7 meal IF you don’t get a drink. Add drinks and you’re at $10-$12. I seldom spend $12 on a meal for my own family of 5, unless I’m serving salad or buying a pizza.

    So — targeting the undereducated, sure. But targeting the poor?

  70. 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!

  71. 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!

  72. Brilliant!! It made me laugh out loud!! Litterally!! But it is SO SO TRUE!!
    Thank you for that!

  73. Mark- you have out-done yourself with this one! Our spears are raised high in approval. (Now there’s a swag idea for you!)

  74. 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..!

  75. 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

  76. 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.

  77. All the more Reason to wonder……
    “Who the Hell still eats that CRAP?”

  78. 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.”

  79. 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.

  80. 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.

  81. 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!!!

    1. *wipes tears from eyes* Good Lord, TOO FUNNY. Especially #6! Estomago Grande! El Diarrhea!

  82. 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.

    1. I call it “Taco Hell”…a place where Mexican food goes when it has lived a bad life…(Ha!)

  83. 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.

    1. 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.

  84. 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.

  85. 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.

  86. 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!

  87. 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

  88. 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.

  89. healthy eating should be our top priority since there are many junk foods and foods with no nutritional value these days :’.

  90. That is absolutely hillarious, Mark! I really hope you sent this and received a reply.

    I think I actually would lose weight if I limited my food intake to Taco Bell–it’s flavorless diahrrea fodder. I’d hazzard to guess that if it weren’t for after-bar drunk runs, Taco Bell wouldn’t have enough customers to stay afloat. Only someone with impaired judgement could think that stuff tastes good.

  91. While I agree with some of your points, there are a few that step over some boundaries. #2 the Calorie total at purchase, to announce the total calories could be embarrassing because everyone would hear. If you think that would make everyone eat healthier, you’re wrong. Pus, what if the order is a meal for more than one person? If I ever got a calorie count when buying food I’d walk out.

    #5 Water. There are two reasons fast food places don’t have this option. Since water is considered a “free” drink, they can’t charge for it. Also, people would get the 32-oz cup and, because most places have the soda fountain were the costumer serves themselves, people could fill it with soda without paying for it. Sad, but there are people who would do it. Other than that, it would be a good idea.

    #7 Weekly limit. This is over stepping so many boundaries it’s sad. As I mentioned earlier, what if someone is buying tacos for a party or a family meal? When they hit the limit how would that be dealt with? How would Taco Bell know how many tacos someone has had already that week? And what business is it of theirs, or anyone but the costumers how many tacos they have in a week? Don’t use the “While overweight people can’t control themselves” or “Overweight people need to be protected from themselves” arguments. It isn’t right. That would be like saying if you’re family only makes x amount of money in a month, you can have one child. It is not, and should never be, up to those who eat healthy to rule over the diets of those who don’t.

    Like I said earlier, I do agree on some of your points, but two of your suggestions step over lines that no company should step over.

  92. nice shared! I’m sure lovely this article.
    For some days, I find most of source about this topic.
    Done, I find complete here.

    thanks,

  93. why the hell would anyone have Taco Bell as a diet plan..it’s still Taco Bell lol. I think i’ll pass on that lol.

  94. I’ve read a couple of your entries. Love your tortilla recipe & the letter to Taco Bell. You have great thoughts – thanks for sharing them. I have shared you on my FB page.

  95. thank you for this.. i love tex-mex food.. but i am a little confused as to how it fits with primal.. though we weren’t there when primal was.. even in the alamo!

  96. Actually i’m a huge fan of the drive thru diet menu…as a vegan i can get my fresco style bean burrito for $1 and it fills me up at only 350 calories.

    props to taco bell for offering healthy options. I mean a crunch wrap supreme has 540 calories.

    just saying, props to taco bell for offering both healthy and vegan alternatives. thats better than most fast food places

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  98. That might have been the funniest letter ever. I can already hear the crickets of Taco Bell responding. I am guessing they haven’t sent you anything back.

  99. “Sans queso! that volcano nachos and you’ve turned a 1,000 calorie item into a 920 calorie health food.”

    You have no idea about anything that a healthy diet includes. A 920 calorie health food? Are you kidding me? I can’t imagine what you eat when you don’t eat healthy, you must be huge.

  100. Amen about the water cups! I can’t order more than a small cup of water at any fast food chain without them giving me attitude. How hard is it to make water an option??

  101. Putting the sights on taco bell for their rationalization sales pitches might be missing the forest for the trees when it comes to the fast food industry as a whole. Taco bell is no different than any restaurant actually. Any food seller must take the cheapest possible ingredients they can find and convert them into something people want to eat, and what they can make a profit on after covering their expenses of delivering. Note that I said “what people want”. Because people generally will pay for what they want and discount what they need, or just whine about not being able to afford. Burger King’s spookier-than-hell giant head King campaign was to cover up the abandonment of their “healthy” menu. It seemed that having fresh ingredients and healthier choices wasn’t as lucrative selling a nickel’s worth of french fries going out the window for every 2 bucks coming in. It’s just a reality of business and the industry as a whole. The secret really is giving people what they “want”, and if a little sales-pitch of “healthy” helps calm the customer’s fast food stigma, more power to the industry. People know that food is garbage. If they don’t, well then too bad it’s a dog eat dog world. Let them keep listening to the television for their government approved cow fattening food pyramid beliefs. They’re addicted to the insulin spikes and like falling asleep at work after a 2000 calorie lunch. Personally the $2.50 cost of a soft drink pushed me out of the drive through years ago. Maybe when taco bell dumps it’s “healthy” frescolution whatever we won’t be assaulted by a giant spooky taco head thing during every prime-time commercial break. And taco bell can go back to selling crap to the people who want to put garbage in their bodies. I surely don’t fault them for it. They are filling a demand, making good money, are owned along with many of the other chains by Yum brands and probably part of your 401k or as a fortune 500 company sure should be…

  102. It’s hard to feel sympathetic to people who choose to eat fast food, then complain about it. You made the choice. If I am eating fast food, there’s a very good chance its 3 in the morning on a Saturday after a visit to the pub. So, I don’t care much about health at that moment. But a low-cal diet would imply that you do in fact care, and if that is the case, why even eat there? I find low-cal diets on fast food menus to be the equivalent of filters on cigarettes: what’s the point? While your cause is indeed noble, as we all know the world could stand to lose a few pounds, this is like taking an icepick to an iceberg. Plain and simple, people choose to eat there, and whether they think they are making a healthy choice, they are not.

  103. hahaha if you really wanted to be healthy, then you wouldn’t spend your “meal time” in a drive-thru. You would cook your own meals & find healthier choices for snacks etc. your not going to find a diet miracle in a damn cheeseburger or anything from taco bell. I don’t care how healthy they claim their food is. so if you really are serious about eating better, then get off your lazy ass and go to the grocery store & keep that $10,000. idiot.

  104. I have loved TacoBell for 40+ years, but have given it up.

    In the last few years, they have used every excuse and “food safety scare” to delete veggies from their products.

    First, black olives disappeared.

    A tomato scare = NO tomatoes at the Bell. Lots of screaming seemed to bring them back.

    Then there was a green onion scare, and green onions were permanently deleted.

    Not only are there numerous stories about where the meat comes from, but there is WHEAT IN THE MEAT!

    More and more unhealthy.

    I’d give anything for a fast food, gluten free, preferably paleo place.

  105. have you ever thought about comeing back out with bellburgers?

  106. That might have been the funniest letter ever. I can already hear the crickets of Taco Bell responding. I am guessing they haven’t sent you anything back.