Reason #4,862 Why Taco Bell Is a Bad Diet Restaurant

Calorie counts on restaurant menus aren't all they they're cracked up to be, according to an investigation by Scripps Television. Over a period of several months, the station tested "healthy" options at chain restaurants like Chili's and Taco Bell in several cities. The results were, well, disheartening:

The Macaroni Grill sample showed the widest variance from the menu's claims. Its "Pollo Margo[sic] Skinny Chicken," which was supposed to have 500 calories, actually had 1,022, according to the testing. The chicken dinner was supposed to have 6 grams of fat. It had 49....

Taco Bell's products also contained more calories than the company claimed. Its "Fresco Grilled Steak Soft Taco" had four times as much fat and almost twice as many calories as advertised. The steak taco is supposed to have 4.5 grams of fat and 160 calories; testing showed it to actually have 20 grams of fat and 297 calories.

This is a classic case where fraud should be punished--lying to your customers about nutrition info is already a legal no-no--but mandating widespread calorie reporting probably won't make counters more honest, it will just make this kind of dishonesty more widespread.

But there may not have been malice here. Most likely, somewhere in a lab at Macaroni HQ, there is a perfect, Platonic, and rather smallish preparation of Pollo Magro's Skinny Chicken that fits the specs described on the menu. (Actually, this menu[PDF] from Macaroni's corporate parent website claims a mere 330 calories for the dish.)

But short of going for some pretty unappealing options, like sending everything pre-packaged to every location (which would undermine various claims to freshness, homemadeness, etc.) the food will always be pushed and padded, shrunken or swollen, depending on customer taste, local custom, and whether or not the line cook's girlfriend broke up with him last night.

Getting a few more calories than you intended is a risk you take by eating out, and one that every adult understands. Again, lying to customers on purpose is unacceptable, but bound to happen in the world of individually-prepared restaurant dishes. And as Jacob Grier, from whom this link originated, points out, a little common sense is called for as well: the "skinny" meal involves a big hunk of chicken and a decent amount of feta cheese.

More on menu labeling here

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  • ||

    It's every easy to lose weight eating a Taco Bell. Buy it, bring it home, and throw it straight into the toilet. Just cut out the middleman.

  • ||

    Eat until you're full.
    Take a shit.
    Eat until you're full.
    Repeat throughout lifetime.

    This isn't that difficult, folks.

  • NP||

    Don't mean to state the obvious, but...

    Reason #4,862 Why Taco Bell Any Eat-Out Place Is a Bad Diet Restaurant

    Fixed that for you.

  • Episiarch||

    I always wanted the dudes at Taco Bell to put extra in my food. I mean, when you were up partying until 4AM the night before, you want those Big Beef Burrito Supremes loaded, man.

  • gorgonzola\'s foil||

    "But short of going for some pretty unappealing options, like sending everything pre-packaged to every location (which would undermine various claims to freshness, homemadeness, etc.)"

    Why, oh why do you hate on Applebee's and airlines?

  • philosophystudent||

    Being off by 500 calories is pretty significant, especially when the item is supposed to be only 500 calories to start with. There's no way that natural variance causes a dish to double in calories.


    "but mandating widespread calorie reporting probably won't make counters more honest, it will just make this kind of dishonesty more widespread."

    That's absolutely ridiculous and unfounded.

  • ||

    I always wanted the dudes at Taco Bell to put extra in my food.

    I don't want the dudes at Taco Bell -- teenagers making minimum wage, working the night shift and serving a bunch of drunks -- putting ANYTHING extra in my food. If ya get my drift.

  • ||

    I worked in restaurants for years. I can tell you that the cook who makes your meal isn't too concerned about your waistline. When you see those guys reach for the butter they don't measure out a tablespoon like it say on the recipe, they just grab a hunk. It's not like it will taste worse for having too much butter.

  • ed||

    Can't they just put: "Up to 10,000 calories" on every item? It would not technically be incorrect.

  • ||

    That's absolutely ridiculous and unfounded.

    I sort of thought that too (not that I agree with the calorie mandate, which I don't). I don't see any evidence that the calorie counts on grocery-store items are inaccurate.

  • ||

    Can't they just put: "Up to 10,000 calories" on every item?

    In the case of the double bean-and-cheese burrito, you'd have to add another zero.

  • ||

    That's absolutely ridiculous and unfounded.

    Just like the IRS requiring waiters to document the amount of tips they receive so they can be taxed has resulted in perfect honesty on the part of the waiters.

  • Devonai||

    I lost 70 pounds by calorie counting, and in my experience everything is about estimates. Generally speaking, canned food seems to be the most accurate for calorie content. I also found published estimates for fruits and vegetables to be accurate.

    For me, the mathematics worked well. I lost an average of one pound a week by subtracting 500 calories per day from my estimated total allowance. Exercise became more than just a good idea; the harder I worked out the more I got to eat that day.

    Eating out is still a rare occasion for me, but I pretty much ignore the published calorie content of the meal and go with my own, experienced estimate. It works.

  • ||

    I agree that posting mandates are evil. But I can't forgive Macaroni Grill so easy. They are my current favorite chain restaurant. Not that I ever check the calories when I go there.

    But I do check, just before lunch I logged onto Arbys.com and looked up the count for their new flatbread fajitas. I was surprised to find out it was under 500. I had one for lunch, if that thing was under 1000 calories, then I'm Roger Federer.

  • Episiarch||

    I don't want the dudes at Taco Bell -- teenagers making minimum wage, working the night shift and serving a bunch of drunks -- putting ANYTHING extra in my food. If ya get my drift.

    Buck up, little trooper. It all gets mangled by the acids in your stomach anyway. I mean, you must have plenty of experience ingesting other men's fluids already, right?

  • ||

    Epi,

    This is just for you. So as to not open myself up to charges of threadjacking, no one else follow the link please.

    "Seriously, what is so un-feminine about Hillary Clinton?"

  • ||

    Some of the calorie counts for the study are misleading (at beast)...one of the salads that they surveyed was served with bread & butter. Eat just the salad, you get the calorie count the restaurant claims. Add the bread & butter, you get the survey count.

  • Food Victim||

    Oh lordy! Won't someone save us from Big Food? Help us! HELP US!!!

    PS If I were Taco Bell, I'd tell the gomment to go fuck his self.

  • ||

    Of course Taco Bell can't get the calorie content right, their drive-thru employees haven't gotten my order right in decades. Order a side of jalapenos and by God you'll get charged for them but they'll never be in the bag.

    Sorry, I just like to bitch about that when I get the chance.

  • ||

    No, restaurants shouldn't be forced to provide this information. No, nothing should be done when there is some reasonable variation from the listed value (there's going to be some distribution around the average since not every piece of food in the world is exactly identical.) But...

    Better than 8x the fat? You don't have to be wearing Che underwear to think that that might be a wee bit fraudulent.

  • ||

    A lot of places have fine print that state that the calorie count doesn't include things like sauces, cheese, etc -- they're "optional". :)

  • ||

    Dammit, if I eat out, I eat a lot. Tasty, high-calorie food in large portions. If I want healthy food I'll stay home and cook it myself. I do not understand people who think, "I'm going to go to Taco Bell and get something healthy!"

  • ||

    I do not understand people who think, "I'm going to go to Taco Bell and get something healthy!"

    Perhaps they're not entirely wrong. I suspect that the alternative for some of those people is to stay home and eat a bag of Doritos. Not that I've ever done anything like that.

  • ||

    "but mandating widespread calorie reporting probably won't make counters more honest, it will just make this kind of dishonesty more widespread."

    That's absolutely ridiculous and unfounded.

    Philosophystudent -- are you familiar with the writings of a man named Lao-Tzu?

  • ||

    "The more laws that are written, the more criminals are produced." - Lao-Tzu

  • Episiarch||

    NutraSweet, HA HA HA

    I am inundated at work right now but I'll try and look for some nuggets in there when I can.

  • EJM||

    I guess Scripps did a multi-market special report for May sweeps. Just in case, the stations involved would be...

    KNXV in Phoenix
    KSHB in Kansas City
    WFTS in Tampa
    WXYZ in Detroit
    WPTV in West Palm Beach
    WEWS in Cleveland
    WMAR in Baltimore
    KJRH in Tulsa

  • ||

    I mean, you must have plenty of experience ingesting other men's fluids already, right?

    Well, only that time I was sucking the balls off your dad and he accidentally pissed in my face.
    Ruined the moment.

  • ||

    You're not to inundated to use a fancy word like "inundated" it seems.

  • Elemenope||

    Mr. N: Are you familiar with the writings of Xiang Yu?

    MR: Why, do you want to start a book club?

  • ||

    What I like is when the person I'm eating with makes a big deal about getting a nice, healthy salad, then lathers it up with enough 1000 Island Dressing that it might as well be a bacon double cheeseburger as far as calories are concerned.

  • ||

    I'll take the 4x4 and fries from In-N-Out every day out of the year. I don't care if I die at 40, 100, or tomorrow, as long as my last meal is one of their juicy, fresh, four-layers-of-meat-and-cheese cheeseburgers.

  • Episiarch||

    Well, only that time I was sucking the balls off your dad and he accidentally pissed in my face.

    Ruined the moment.


    He has a tendency to do that. "That's funny...you kiss just like my dad!"

  • Rhywun||

    I do not understand people who think, "I'm going to go to Taco Bell and get something healthy!"

    What about lunch?

  • ||

    Since someone broke the seal, I do have to say that I'd love a purely Feministing thread, if only to find out what would be the best name to post under there. I'm thinking "ShavedForMyMan" would go over nicely there.

  • ZMan||

    Actually feta cheese isn't that unhealthy at all. Plus a little definitely goes a long way.

  • ||

    Mr. N: Are you familiar with the writings of Xiang Yu?

    MR: Why, do you want to start a book club?



    Are you trying to ... torture me?

  • Bingo||

    John-David: How about "Skinny_and_Happy"

  • ||

    Again, lying to customers on purpose is unacceptable, but bound to happen in the world of individually-prepared restaurant dishes.

    Actually, I think that what is bound to happen with individually prepared dishes is that you will have inaccurate calorie counts a lot, even if you aren't lying on purpose.

    So, if restaurants start over-estimating their calorie counts, can I file a class action suit because they were promising more than they actually gave me?

  • SIV||

    Why complain about getting more than you pay for?

    Far more restaurant customers appreciate the extra food than are counting calories on a diet.

  • ||

    Actually, I think that what is bound to happen with individually prepared dishes is that you will have inaccurate calorie counts a lot, even if you aren't lying on purpose.

    Well, this matter could be settled by a simple statistical sample. Randomly select 50 burritos from 50 different Taco Bell locations, analyze the calorie content, and if the published calorie amount is lower than, say, the 30th percentile of the observed calorie amounts, you know they're not being accurate with their totals.

  • ||

    Indeed, RTFAing reveals that this data was collected from a random sample. So it's not like they just analyzed one chicken dish or one taco, and thus the excuse that individual variations in preparation are causing these discrepancies doesn't hold water, since any such variations would be averaged out.

  • ||

    Far more restaurant customers appreciate the extra food than are counting calories on a diet.

    So does that mean it would be OK for a restaurant to label a dish "peanut free" when it has peanuts in it? I mean, there are a lot more people who like peanuts than are trying to avoid an allergic reaction from them.

  • thoreau||

    They should be glad that the peanut ration was increased in what was previously a peanut-free zone.

  • Robert||

    Who grills macaroni?

  • ||

    Who grills macaroni?

    Beats me. But Sonic will deep fry your macaroni and cheese.

    And its awesome.

  • ed||

    In other news, McDonalds has completed the oil switchover in all their U.S. restaurants. It's a sad day for America and American french fries.

  • $||

    "I do not understand people who think, 'I'm going to go to Taco Bell and get something healthy!' "

    Sometimes it's because you're going with friends or a husband who's NOT on a diet.

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