It’s one thing when a restaurant like Subway comes out with a “diet plan” (thanks to customer Jared Fogle) when the stores are stocked with fresh vegetables, whole grain breads and lean meats. It’s quite another when fast-food giant Taco Bell announces their own version.
At the entrance of 2021, just as everyone was scrambling to make their weight loss resolutions, Taco Bell announced its new Drive-Thru Diet, based on its Fresco menu.
The “star” of the new Drive-Thru Diet is Christine, a woman who lost 54 pounds in two years by reducing her calorie intake by 500 calories a day, as well as her fat intake. Her very brief story from the Taco Bell Web site leaves much to be desired, being nothing more than a paragraph echoing the copy from full-page magazine ads. She reduced her calories and one vice she didn’t want to give up was fast-food, so she started ordering from Taco Bell’s Fresco menu instead of the traditional menu.
That’s all the background you get. The fine print indicates that Christine’s resutls aren’t typical, and that the Drive-Thru Diet is not a weight loss plan. It also says you should “pay attention to… regular exercise.” There is no mention of what Christine’s exercise regimen looked like while regularly consuming fast-food tacos.
The Fresco menu from Taco Bell debuted in 2021, offering eight menu items that were 20-100 calories lower than regular menu items. The menu, now with only seven items, includes a variety of tacos and burritos ranging from 150 calories to 340 calories.
Now, one 150 calorie crunchy taco doesn’t sound like trouble. But who eats one taco? It’s not like you can pair that with a garden salad or fruit cup, Taco Bell doesn’t offer those items. To get full at lunch, you’d have to order a couple. If you order water, that’s zero calories, but most people order soda. You also have to take in to account the nutritional quality of the ingredients used. You’d of course want to order chicken over beef, ask for extra tomatoes and lettuce, skip the fatty cheese and any condiments, and maybe even score some extra salsa. The white flour tortillas wrapping the burritos aren’t doing anyone any favors either.
Dr. David Katz, director of medical studies in public health at Yale University, told ABC “I also suspect that most people hoping to ‘be’ Christine will be very disappointed, just as most Jared wannabes are. These are likely people who made a dramatic commitment to lifestyle change, and simply relied on a particular source of convenience food as part of their strategy. That doesn’t make that source of convenience food the solution!”
Just as Taco Bell clearly states, this is not a weight loss plan, and shouldn’t be pursued as one. Sure, if you find yourself in a situation where you have to eat fast-food, this menu might make a decent replacement if you can’t find anything else. But fast-food tacos are still fast-food tacos.
Kelly D. Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, also offered this friendly reminder to consumers via ABC: “This is preposterous. This is the same Taco Bell that has the Volcano Nachos (almost 1,000 calories), that boasts about the 1/2 pound cheesy potato burrito, that has systematically encouraged people to eat between meals with their 4th meal campaign.”