As obesity rates climb sky-high—42 percent of Americans are expected to be obese by 2030, according to research presented last month at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Weight of the Nation conference—and portion sizes have grown out of control, a number of fast food restaurants have recently scrambled to revamp their image.
McDonalds and Subway now offer low-fat milk and apples with kids meals. Taco Bell rolled out a menu that replaces cheese and sauce with fresh salsa. Wendy's has entree salads with antioxidant-rich, fresh berries.
And what has Burger King done to try to recapture its market share? This week the fast food giant unveiled it's new Southern-themed menu, topped off by a bacon sundae.
Yep, a bacon sundae—coming at you with 510 calories, 18 grams of fat, 61 grams of sugar and 670 milligrams of sodium (that’s nearly half the amount of sodium you should get in a day).
“Where's the Hamburgler when we need him?” asks Elisa Zied, registered dietitian and author of Nutrition At Your Fingertips.
Burger King's choice to debut this product now just doesn't make sense. “With rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and other diet-related diseases at record levels, and in light of recent initiatives to get Americans, including children, up off the couch, it seems ironic that enormous portions of largely unhealthy foods are allowed to be created and marketed to Americans,” says Zied.
Of course, it's likely that they're just trying to cash in on the bacon food trend that's been going on for a few years. Bacon flavored vodka, bacon chocolate, donuts and cupcakes with bacon, bacon mayonnaise, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
It's not that bacon's the ultimate enemy; Zied says even she enjoys it once in a while. But Burger King’s bacon-laden sundae goes to new lengths to nail the addictive combination of sugar, fat and salt, which taps into your brain's reward circuits to powerfully reinforce your desire for more food. Zied says the nation-wide introduction of a new sensory-thrilling, calorie-packed menu item also sends food consumers a confusing message.
“On one hand, we're saying 'Americans are too overweight, and we need to eat less and move more,'” Zied says, “and on the other hand, we're tempting them by offering more and more highly palatable, nutrient-poor foods that, if consumed more than occasionally, will sabotage whatever healthful efforts they're making.”
And that's just what Burger King may be hoping for with their new sundae—that we will ditch our healthy eating habits in the face of a novel, taste bud-tempting dessert. Let's prove them wrong.
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