Monday, January 03, 2011

Fat of the Land

The month of January is largely characterized by the shocking
realization that our caloric intake over the holidays approximated
that of Sherpas ascending Mt. Everest.

And just to reinforce that notion, most TV commercials this month
will be hawking diet plans, gym memberships or weight loss surgery.

Shamed into submission, we vow to shape up. Assuming we listen to our
inner skinny person, we should all look like citizens of Sparta by
the time spring rolls around.

But there’s trouble up ahead. You can bet your broccoli floweret that
the fast food industry will attempt to lure us back into bad habits.

Indeed, just in time for the diet season, Burger King is offering the
Ultimate Breakfast Platter. That would be scrambled eggs, hash
browns, sausage, a flaky biscuit and three pancakes with syrup. If
you’re counting, it’s 1,310 calories and 72 grams of fat.

Not to be outdone, Dunkin' Donuts is launching Pancake Bites, with
bite-sized sausage links wrapped in a maple-flavored pancake.

Burger King counters with Funnel Cake Sticks, covered in powdered
sugar with a cup of icing sauce for dipping.

Jack in the Box has the breakfast pita pocket stuffed with scrambled
eggs, sliced ham, bacon, and melted American cheese. According to one
report, the breakfast pita has 438 milligrams of Cholesterol. That’s
146% of the USDA recommended daily amount.

That’s a great breakfast if you’re going to plow the back 40. If you
work at a desk, you’re in trouble.

There’s no letup for lunch or dinner.

Papa John’s is presenting a “gourmet” double bacon pizza with six
kinds of cheese.

KFC’s double down sandwich features two thick boneless Kentucky Fried
Chicken filets, two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey
Jack and pepper jack cheese and the Colonel's Sauce whatever that is.
That checks in at 1430 milligrams of sodium, just about your average
daily allowance.

The heavyweight champ is the Burger King pizza burger featuring four
quarter-pound Whopper patties on top of a nine-and-a-half inch sesame
seed bun. The burgers are then covered in pepperoni, mozzarella
cheese, marinara and Tuscan pesto sauce. Figure on consuming 2520
calories, and 144 grams of fat when you push away from the table
assuming you can.

If that isn’t bad enough, a new study shows that
toxicperfluoroalkyls, which are used in surface protection treatments
and coatings to keep grease from leaking through fast food wrappers,
are being ingested by people through their food and showing up as
contaminants in blood.

That’s right, the wrapper could make you ill.

The above is not an attempt to whet your appetite. Instead, it’s a
declaration of war.

As we did with tobacco, it’s time we do battle with an industry that
makes us ill.

You can argue that as an American, it’s your God-given right to pack
on the pounds. But consider this: As your waistline expands, so do my
health care costs.

More than half of Americans will have diabetes or be prediabetic by
2020 at a cost to the U.S. health care system of $3.35 trillion if
current trends go on unabated, according to analysis of a report
released by health insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc.

There’s good news from the front. A state law which went into effect
Jan. 1 requires that calorie counts have to be included on the menus
of restaurants with 20 or more locations in the state.

The state law will be superseded my federal regulations this spring
which will cover more restaurant chains and more items, including
alcoholic beverages.

That’s a start. But we need to start putting warning labels on fast
food, just as we did with cigarettes.

And, just as we restricted where and when people could smoke, we need
to restrict the number of fast-food outlets in this country. There
are nearly 14,000 McDonald’s in the U.S. and nearly 32,500 worldwide.
By comparison, there are 5,759 hospitals in the U.S.

Just something to chew on next time you order.

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