When we think of fast food, we think of grease, burgers, fries, shame, and more shame. It's nothing to brag about, and always associated with clogged arteries and guilt. And let's just face the facts: Customers generally don't show up at a fast food joint to prep for bikini season. But tons of obesity-related lawsuits, books, and movies, like Morgan Spurlock's 2004 documentary Super Size Me, have damaged our perception of such companies. To combat the notion that their products are detrimental to the safety of the public, fast food chains quickly started churning out "healthier" alternatives.
It's a commendable idea, but you won't be surprised to know that, in almost every case, their attempts failed miserably. For example ...
5McDonald's McLean Deluxe
In the early '90s, people were obsessed with two things: looking like they were strung out on heroin for fashion reasons, and cutting fat from their diets to make it happen. McDonald's attempted to appeal to this fatphobic demographic with the McLean Deluxe, a burger which they claimed was an astounding 91 percent fat-free. Sounds great, but anyone with even a basic knowledge of what meat is knows that they'd be working miracles if they pulled that off while still delivering a product that was made mostly of animal.
You win this time, cow.
To make up for the absence of fat, the burger was filled with a seaweed extract -- which, unsurprisingly, didn't offer quite as much flavor as a burger jammed with fat. Not a good look for what was at the time far and away the chain's most expensive menu item. It also tended to dry out quickly, which meant that each one had to be made to order. Which in turn meant a longer wait in line than if you ordered literally anything else.
Speaking of which, "anything else" would be just as good of a health choice when you take into account that, at nine percent fat, the McLean wasn't that much better than a regular McDonald's burger, which weighs in at around 20 percent fat. However, that's only based on weight; when you consider the fat content compared to calories, one McLean Deluxe would actually account for 28 of the 30 percent of daily calories from fat that the FDA recommends as a healthy level of intake. If you added cheese, it went way over.
See, what most people don't realize is that McDonald's regular hamburgers aren't all that caloric. Sure, they aren't exactly "low fat," but a McDonald's burger only has 280 calories. Those burgers you pay $37 for at fancy gastropubs have more calories in their highfalutin artisanal buns than most products on the McDonald's menu have in total.
This is you.
Never mind all the swanky condiments like their chic-sounding "aioli" spread -- which is just a pretentious way of saying "flavored mayonnaise."
Instead of trying to sell the public on seaweed burgers, McDonald's would've been better off just saying: "Hey, we aren't the healthiest place, but at least we're not Applebee's." The McLean Deluxe was a dismal failure, and within a couple of short years, it was jettisoned from the McDonald's menu altogether.
4Taco Bell's Seafood Salad
Taco Bell has had a tough time trying to sell their fan base of stoners and people who live in motels on the idea of spending money on healthy fast food. To anyone on the outside looking in, this is obvious nonsense. If a person had money for food at all, they wouldn't be at Taco Bell in the first place. You don't choose what you eat at Taco Bell; it chooses you based on the severity of the situation that landed you there.
The chain eventually abandoned the idea of caring about your arteries in the most over-the-top way possible when they just up and announced that each day now has four meals instead of three -- and even worse for your waistline, you have to eat the new one right before you go to sleep behind the steering wheel of your car in a Toys "R" Us parking lot. It's probably for the best, because their attempts at being healthy have been nothing short of disgusting.
Case in point: the infamous Taco Bell Seafood Salad ...
... a menu item so heinous that even coming across a decent picture of the thing anymore is next to impossible -- hence the grainy screenshot-from-the-Zapruder-film quality of the image at the top of this entry. It was touted as a direct competitor to the McDonald's Filet-O-Fish, because vegetables and faux crab meat are definitely the quickest path to overtaking that demographic. The fatal flaw in this campaign was Taco Bell's assumption that people ordering a Filet-O-Fish care at all what kind of sea creatures are ground and packed together to make their delicious sandwich.
They wouldn't bread it if you were supposed to see what it's made of.
The Tex-Mex "food" giants did sort of take another stab at offering customers a healthier option when they introduced their "Fresco Menu." Ooh! Sounds fancy! What's it mean? Pico de Gallo instead of cheese, basically. In other words, they took things that had probably been options forever and sold them as a "new" menu. It still exists in some places, but it definitely hasn't hit with the public in any noticeable way, even if a woman claimed to have lost 54 pounds eating at Taco Bell a few years ago. It was probably just water weight from dehydration. Explosive diarrhea takes a lot out of a person.