Taco Bell Diet: Truth or Hype?

Find out if the Drive-Thru Diet® from Taco Bell is healthy or just hype.

If you spent any time watching football games on TV over the holidays, you probably saw the commercials for Taco Bell's Drive-Thru Diet®. Many viewers laughed if off as a joke, but others are wondering if this "diet" could really be effective. Here's what you need to know.

1. Although there is a disclaimer on the website about this "not being a weight loss-program", the wording on the television commercial and the website lead you to believe that it is. The "diet" is really only an offering of low-fat items from the Fresco menu at Taco Bell. The diet does not offer daily low-calorie menus, suggested calorie levels, or portion control tips. However, there is a list of links to other sites with reputable information on Healthy Living.

2. Also, if you go to the website and click on Christine's Story, the first sentence states, "the Drive-Thru Diet menu is not a weight-loss program. It's about making different choices." So, they have not lied, but the commercials and the homepage of the site certainly lead you to believe that it might be a real diet program.

3. Christine claims that she lost 54 pounds over a period of two years. This is a healthy rate of weight loss at a little over 2 pounds per month. She says that she reduced her calories to 1250 per day while still eating meals at Taco Bell. The fact is that most people who reduce their intake to 1250 calories per day are likely to lose weight, whether they eat at Taco Bell or not.

4. Taco Bell should be commended for enlisting the help of a qualified nutrition professional–Ruth Carey, the registered dietitian for the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers. Her expertise lends credibility to the effort, and she is correct in her assessment that most Americans are on-the-go and will eat foods purchased through a drive-thru on a regular basis. She says that her role is to offer consumers tips for healthier choices while eating at quick-service restaurants.

5. The 7 items in the Fresco menu all are relatively low in calories and have less than 9 grams of fat per serving. They are certainly healthier options than the other cheese-and-sour cream laden offerings on the rest of the Taco Bell menu. However, if you're eating these items on a regular basis, you may end up lacking calcium and fiber. For the best fiber choices, select the Fresco Bean Burrito (11 grams), the Fresco Steak Burrito Supreme (8 grams), or the Fresco Chicken Supreme Burrito (8 grams). The sodium content of all of the items except the Fresco Crunchy Taco is fairly high, ranging from 640 to 1410 milligrams per serving. The recommended daily sodium intake is 2400 milligrams per day, so one Fresco Chicken Burrito Supreme puts you at over half of your daily recommended sodium.

6. There are still plenty of high-fat items on the Taco Bell menu, so if you're planning to include these Fresco items in your weight-loss plan, be sure that you can make it through the drive-thru without yielding to the temptation of ordering a Chalupa Supreme and Triple Layer Nachos.

Bottom Line: The Drive-Thru Diet appears to be nothing more than a marketing ploy, perhaps to tap into the popularity of Jared and his Subway weight loss. However, the message from dietitian Ruth Carey is practical and helpful advice for folks who regularly eat fast food: "If you replace your typical high-fat fast food items with these Fresco menu items, you can consume less calories and less fat than you did before." And when it comes to weight loss, eating fewer calories and less fat is an effective strategy.

 

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By Anne Cain, RD and Holley Grainger, RD
Jan, 2010
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