Top 10 Fast Foods in Disguise

McDonald's DisguiseSome make no qualms about it. Others (and this may be worse) market their food under the guise of health while continuing to sell the same old garbage. Sure. They may provide healthier options than the junk they typically shill. But beware. Just like the food manufacturers that made it onto our Top 10 Junk Foods in Disguise list last week these fast food joints understand that it is the pretense of health that sells – not health itself. And it’s not just individual food items marketed as the “healthy option” that we take issue with. Now we have entire restaurants that the innocent public just assumes are healthy, either because they bill themselves as such or because, hello, smoothies are health food, right…anyone…Bueller?

The following is a list of the top 10 worst offenders:

Subway – Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki

Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki

Subway…eat fresh. Subway…the way a sandwich should be. Long before Jared walked on to the scene with his slimmed down physique and big pants, Subway was promoting itself as a healthy, nutritious alternative to fast food. And yes, we’ll hand it to them: A sandwich with lean deli meats and a few veggies does beat a supersized McDonald’s meal, but once you’ve added all the extras and condiments (hello sugar-laden salad dressing!), the difference is far less staggering. Let’s examine the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki, for example. It makes the list because it makes their silly list of “6 grams of fat or less.” Because fat makes you fat, right? Well, no. Weighing in at 370 calories, this six inch sub doesn’t, at least at first blush, appear to be all that terrible, until you look at the 59 grams of carbohydrates and the 19 grams of sugar. Double those figures for the foot-long. Our verdict? You’d be better off making a quick chicken salad at home!

Jamba Juice – Smoothies

Jamba Juice Smoothies

It’s a drink. I’ll have one in place of a meal, it’s filled with “healthy” fruit and vegetable juices. They let me add supplements. it’s…hardly better than ice cream. Touted as a breakfast drink, the Sunrise Strawberry Smoothie includes an alluring blend of strawberries, banana, soy milk and non-fat yogurt as well as a whopping 49 grams of carbohydrates, 43 grams of which come directly from sugar! We don’t know about you, but that’s certainly not something we’d like to wake up to (or deal with at 10 am once the sugar high wears off!)

Baja Fresh – Taco Salad

Baja Fresh Taco Salad

We pick on Baja Fresh here only because of all the large Tex-Mex fast food chains, Baja Fresh is the one that the unassuming public is most likely to consider healthy (and taking pot-shots at Taco Bell was just too darn easy!) Either way, taco salads at most of these joints, are defined as a salad only in the loosest form possible. The no-meat tostada salad, for example, contains 1,010 calories, 98 grams of carbohydrates and 1930 mg of sodium. On the plus side, it does contain 32 grams of protein, but at this point, any attempt to call this dish nutritious is pretty much futile.

McDonald’s – Fruit and Yogurt Parfait with Granola

McDonald's Fruit and Yogurt, Granola Parfait

McDonald’s? I’m loving it, especially when I can load up on 31 grams of sugar in one, convenient 5.3 oz serving of the Fruit and Yogurt Parfait with Granola. In fact, this particular breakfast treat is so loaded with sugar, that it’s included as the second item on the ingredients list, behind only milk. Also, think you’ll be fine if you just pick the fruit out? According to the site’s nutrition information page (keep digging on the Web site and you’ll find it eventually!) the strawberries have been combined with konjac flour. For what purpose? We can only assume so that we’re “lovin’ it” even more.

Wendy’s — Baked Potato

Wendy's Baked Potato

Touted on the Wendy’s website as a “tasty way to get your veggies,” the broccoli and cheese potato consists of a “piping-hot baked potato straight from the oven topped with tender pieces of broccoli and a creamy cheese sauce.” But what does one 10 oz baked potato really give you? A whopping 320 calories and 69 grams of carbohydrate, and that’s before you “personalize it” with bacon pieces, reduced fat acidified sour cream (sounds tasty!), “Buttery Best Spread” (notice that they didn’t actually say butter) or chives (presumably where you’re getting your veggies). Sensible alternative to fries? Uhh… no. In fact, at this point, you’d probably be better off opting for the fries. After all, as they say in the campaigns, “it’s way better than fast food…it’s Wendy’s.”

Kentucky Fried Chicken – Now Trans Fat Free

KFC No Trans Fat

Here at Mark’s Daily Apple we’re all for reducing trans fats. Really we are. In fact we think it’s actually kind of admirable that KFC has taken a stab at improving the nutrition content of some of its foods. However, when eliminating trans fats is your biggest health marketing tool, you’ve got a problem. Also, if you cast your mind back a few years ago (2003 perhaps) KFC did try to capitalize on the whole Atkins craze by positioning itself as carb-concious food…at roughly 10 grams of carbohydrates per piece.

Quiznos – Sammies

Quiznos Sammies

Marketed as a 200 calorie snack, these mini-sandwiches are consistently advertised – and presumably, only tasty – when laden with cheese and dressing. However, adding these extras will hike your sandwich from a manageable 200 calories to a whopping 320 calories (depending on how heavy-handed your sandwich maker is!) per morsel. Further confusing the American Public (and, we’ll admit, us too!), the advertised sammie meal includes 2 sammies and a side, boosting your calorie and carbohydrate content to well over 800 calories and approximately 100 grams of carbohydrates. Also, have you seen how small these stupid things are? It’s a snack at best…and we’re being kind here.

Noodles & Company – Noodles

Noodles & Company
They claim to be one of healthiest fast food joints in the U.S. (even going as far as to say it’s a “hamlet of health,”), but can a place that bases their dishes around noodles really be that healthy? Well, to be honest, the website is so darn confusing, we’ll probably never find out! Looking for low carb choices? They’ll guide you to a page that suggests that you “eat up, eat right, eat well and just eat already” and then suggests that you load up on protein (chicken breast, sautéed beef, organic tofu, etc) with nary a mention of what exactly you are supposed to eat these things with. Still not convinced? Let’s look at the mushroom stroganoff, which boasts savory sherry cream sauce, fresh mushrooms and parmesan with egg noodles. Be prepared folks, because you’re about to ingest a whopping 1,000 calories, 116 grams of carbohydrates and 25 grams of saturated fat. Very healthy indeed!

Starbucks – Skinnies

Starbuck's Skinnies

You gotta give Starbucks credit for pumping out (literally) sugar-free syrups, but don’t be fooled by the green aprons, ambient music and skinny label: There are still 20 grams of sugar and 230 calories in a Venti Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte. Granted, it’s leaps and bounds better than the traditional Cinnamon Dolce Latte, which packs a whopping 50 grams of sugar and 410 calories, but still, don’t let the skinny name fool you!

TCBY – 96% Fat Free Yogurt

TCBY Yogurt

We like to think that most people aren’t fooled anymore by the notion that frozen yogurt is better for you than ice cream. But TCBY would like you to think so. With all the calcium and probiotics it has to offer (not to mention being nearly fat free!) TCBY is clearly a sensible alternative to sugar laden Baskin-Robbins fare. Turns out a measly 1/2 cup of said yogurt packs in 20 grams of sugar. 1/2 cup! And how are they still using “fat free” as a selling point?!

Do you have a “healthy” fast food experience? Hit us up with a comment…

Patrick Q Flickr Photo

Further Reading:

Carl’s Jr. – ‘Feel Good About Being Fat’

Fast Food Indulgence, Dirty Marketing Tricks and Personal Responsbility

The Consumerist: Burger King, a Cigarette Lighter and a Kid’s Meal

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