Thursday, March 13, 2014

Starbucks: Trying Harder than Taco Bell to Do the Right Thing

Give Starbucks credit for offering options to the public for better quality fast food. 

Starbucks really does try harder than most fast foodies to offer some fare that's healthier, and less laden with sugar, fat, and salt.  

I'm not talking about Starbucks' endless array of delectable cakes, muffins, pastries, doughnuts, and super-sized cookies, of course.  Coffee culture will always serve sweet bakery goods with aromatic java, thankfully regardless of the Food Police.  

Consider Starbucks' newest menu offering, the Vegetable & Fontiago Breakfast Sandwich,  a 470-calorie vegetarian meal made of:

  • a fried egg
  • a fusion of Asiago and Fontina cheeses
  • small amounts of fresh spinach and caramelized onions
  • sun-dried tomato spread
  • all on a multigrain ciabatta roll

Contrast that with Taco Bell's new breakfast concoction set to debut on March 27:  a sugary waffle, tucked taco-style around a greasy sausage patty, topped with scrambled eggs, then drizzled with Taco Bell's orange liquid cheese.  Optional "syrup" packet for dipping. No nutritional info has yet been released publicly, for good reason. Although anyone ordering this fat-sugar-salt bomb is unconcerned with balancing their diet... 

I tasted Starbucks' Vegetable & Fontiago Breakfast Sandwich, and thought it satisfying and delicious with Mediterrenean flavor. The bread was fresh, the cheese was evenly melted, and the veggies and sauce tasted tangy, not dull.  

This is hardly farm-to-table fresh produce, mind you, much less organic or non-GMO foods. The pale-yellow egg was obviously pre-formed. And at 910 mg of sodium, this new menu item contains nearly 40% of recommended daily salt intake for an adult. 

Cooking this breakfast at home, using organic produce, farm-fresh eggs, and artisan cheese and bread, is certainly a better and more additive-free choice.  But on busy weekdays, who has time for toiling in the kitchen?

Give Starbucks credit for offering the public options for better quality fast food.  

U.S. public health would be greatly improved if all fast food mega-corporations... especially Taco Bell, McDonald's, and Carl's Jr/Hardee's... made more serious attempts at higher quality menu options, as does Starbucks.  

I say, when faced with a choice, take your fast food business to Starbucks. Let's reward those corporations trying harder to do the right thing nutritionally. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Taco Bell Salad: Why No Warning Label for Lethal Salt Content?

"Beware the killer salad" sounds like the title of a bad movie or shrill invective from yet another annoying Food Puritan. 

Hear me out, though.  For children, aging seniors, and sensitive and ailing individuals, heavy doses of some fast and processed foods can be downright deadly. 

Take, for instance, Taco Bell's Fiesta Taco Salad, my 86 year old father-in-law's favorite go-to fast food.

He relishes the dish because it tastes delicious to him. Because it satisfies his hankering for salty and savory. Because a "salad" seems healthier. Because eating fast food dotted with shreds of tomato and lettuce feels more nutritionally virtuous than quaffing other Taco Bell choices. 

Recently, Dad was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and experienced pulmonary edema (i.e. fluid in his lungs).  After a five-day hospital stay, he's home and on the fragile mend. But he must make vital lifestyle changes, especially a rethinking of his food choices.  

Salt is his nemesis. He must radically curtail his salt intake or fluids will again overtake his lungs and hijack his health.    This for a man who's enjoyed blessedly robust health for 86 years. Who's never needed to learn about nutrition, or been advised to cut back on... well, anything. 

He believes that cutting back on salt means not salting food at meals, and using less salt in cooking.  Like most Americans, Dad is blissfully unaware of massive amounts of salt hidden in fast, processed, and restaurant foods.  

Sure, he understands that his beloved nacho-flavored Doritos are salty. But a salad?  Salads are good for you, right? 

Under the guise of healthy, restaurants and fast food outlets rely on public ignorance to push a panoply of salt-laden "salads" dripping with fatty condiments and sugary-filled dressings.  (See KFC, Jack-in-Box, McDonald's: Legal Deception on "Healthy" Choices .)

And, for Taco Bell's Fiesta Taco Salad, nestled in a scrumptious, deep-fried pastry shell.   The Fiesta Taco Salad - Beef boasts 1,590 mg of salt, equal to:
  • 10 orders of McDonald's small fries, or
  • 5 Jack-in-the-Box crunchy tacos,or
  • 3.5 large servings of movie theater popcorn
If Dad now regularly partakes of his favorite Taco Bell Fiesta Taco Salad, his health will deteriorate. And yes, he has been cautioned by doctors and nurses that too much salt intake can be deadly for congestive heart failure patients.  

 For children, aging seniors, and sensitive and ailing individuals, heavy doses of some fast and processed foods can be downright deadly. 

I ask you....

Why are these salt-bomb weapons of human-health destruction not required to carry warning labels? 

Why are industrial mega-corporations allowed to knowingly hawk unhealthy food products to the public, with no accompanying public warnings?

How is this different than legally mandated warning labels for cigarettes or alcohol? 

"Beware the killer salad" may sound like the title of a bad movie or shrill invective from yet another annoying Food Puritan. But for some people, deceptively salty, sugary, fatty fast-food salads can prove lethal.