5 Lame Attempts At Health Food By Famous Restaurant Chains
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 ...
McDonald'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.
Taco 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.
Burger King's Satisfries
If you eat at fast food restaurants regularly and don't agree that Burger King has always had the worst french fries in the game, you are part of the problem. There's a damn good reason the formula of their regular fries has changed twice in the past decade or so, and that reason is that they blow. Which is why, when it came time to try and lighten up their menu, they focused all of their efforts on introducing a second french fry option called "Satisfries." The audacity!
You haven't even figured out how to make normal fries yet!
Anyway, the idea was that, because they used an oil that was something something science, these newfangled fries contained 30 percent fewer calories and 40 percent less fat than BK's regular fries. Of course, that meant they also contained approximately that much less flavor, but at least they were more expensive than the regular fries!
Even without all those obvious drawbacks, Burger King only had to look back at recent history to know right up front that this was a plan that had as much chance of succeeding as your average military occupation of Afghanistan.
And it's half as delicious.
As this article about the dismal failure points out, consumers tend to react unfavorably when they think one of their favorite things is being tampered with. That's a lesson McDonald's learned the hard way when they announced they'd start cooking their fries in a less fatty oil and were immediately inundated with calls from angry customers complaining about the impact the change had on the flavor of the product ... even in places where nothing had been changed yet.
Not only did Burger King eventually cease this stupid idea, but on the same day it was announced, they also put Chicken Fries back on the menu. If you're unfamiliar, those are french fries as deep-friend phalanges made of fowl. In other words, they are the polar opposite of healthy. At the end of the day, that's really all anyone wants from Burger King.
Dairy Queen's Breeze
I mean, why? Just why? Look at the thing in the picture directly above this sentence. What in the world could that possibly be made of that would make it better for you than the average Blizzard? It still has candy in it, for one thing. There's no such thing as health candy. No, I won't click on your links that suggest I'm wrong. If it's healthy, it's not real candy. Beyond that, unless they're blending it with whipped air, it doesn't look like a significant drop in calories has taken place there.
Is it made with diet Snickers?
That's because it hasn't, and that's precisely why the Dairy Queen Breeze, introduced in 1990, was not only a failure, but a complete and total waste of everyone's time. The only real difference between this and a regular Blizzard was that it was made with frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. What kind of caloric savings does such a radical change equate to? Well, one ounce of DQ soft serve ice cream has 35 calories. The frozen yogurt used to make the Breeze, on the other hand, has only ... 25 calories? When you're talking about a difference that can be nullified by something as simple as a careless employee accidentally adding an extra .25 ounces of Butterfinger shards to the mix, you aren't going to keep a lot of people's attention.
"Keep talking, I'm listening!"
Inexplicably, Dairy Queen kept this sham going for more than a decade, which is impressive, considering the multiple reports of frozen yogurt spoiling before it could even be sold. That's about as much demand as a thing can lack before it just ceases to exist by default, whether it's still around or not. If there's a bright side here, it's that the Dairy Queen Breeze was pretty damn tasty. Would you expect anything less from a cup full of almost-ice-cream and candy, though?
Wendy's Tomato Surprise
Having an item on a menu with the word "surprise" in the name is a red flag that a grenade of grossness is about to be hurled in your direction. In 1985, Wendy's proved that to be true when they debuted a "healthy" menu option called the Tomato Surprise. What was it? Why, a hollowed-out tomato filled with tuna, of course! It came with a side salad of cottage cheese and pineapple on lettuce. A great choice for anyone who's looking to shed a few pounds in their mid-to-late 70s.
Honestly, cottage cheese and pineapple? No one but your grandparents eat that, and even then, it's probably just because ice cream was outside the price range of most consumers during the Great Depression. Also, tuna inside a tomato? Only a fast food restaurant could turn what's essentially eating a salad into a thing you'd be embarrassed about if someone saw you do it in public.
It gets better.
Shockingly, the powers that be never had the necessary moment of clarity that would've resulted in this abomination being stopped before it ever escaped the chamber of horrors in which evil Wendy's scientists created it. Quite the opposite. They spent a jaw-dropping $10 million in '80s cocaine money promoting it. In fact, this food crime was just one part of a larger initiative that Wendy's referred to as the "Garden Spot," which featured a whole slew of healthier menu options -- including multi-grain buns, because that should fix everything.
Nothing will undo the damage done by this commercial, though.
Wendy's patrons ignored the Garden Spot in droves. Or, as a company spokesperson explained it, "Nobody would bite." You'd think a quote machine like that could've chipped in at some point during the creative process to help come up with something more compelling than a tomato stuffed with canned fish. Whatever the case, for the most part, the garden section was shut down in most Wendy's locations by the next year.
Not all of the items introduced during Wendy's initial entry into the health food racket have been discontinued. For example, baked potatoes remain on the menu to this day. Sure, now they're covered in butter, bacon, cheese, sour cream and any number of other calorie-laden toppings, but still, way to adapt.
You don't need to go to a fast food restaurant to find nasty food. Just take a time machine. Check out 7 Gross Foods Your Grandparents Ate (That We Taste Tested) and 7 More Disgusting Foods Your Grandparents Ate (That We Taste Tested), and try not to vomit.
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