Why Run For The Border, When You Can Just Drive on Thru? The Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet
I went away on vacation for the first few weeks of the New Year and took Jaimee’s approach to January. I hung out and ate and drank delicious things. But now that I’m back, I realize I missed a whole revolution in resolutions: The Frescolution.
Coinciding with the start of a new year, Taco Bell has launched the Drive Thru Diet and is asking Americans to make a “Frescolution”, a commitment to eating off the Fresco menu, which offers seven choices with <9 grams of fat. These menu items aren’t new, but the rebranding is. And it’s not always tasteful. The ‘Frescolution’ pledge is meant to be cheeky but it effectively enforces the idea that excess weight is primarily a function of individual sloth and gluttony. Answers to the prompt “my idea of exercise involves:” include “The baker’s dozen donut carry; ten reps of snooze button pushes; the all-you-can-eat buffet marathon.”
The Drive Thru Diet is “not a weight-loss program” but it’s sold like one, using many conventions of the diet industry. Blond, dietician-in-a-suit talking about a balanced diet? Check. Bikini-clad success story with ‘results not typical’ disclaimer? Check. Mention of the importance of physical activity? Check. The LATimes does a great job dissecting the Fresco menu and Christine Dougherty’s diet success, challenging the extent to which she can really attribute her 500 calories/day reduction (to 1,250 calories/day) to thinking outside the bun. Maintaining a significantly reduced calorie diet over two years demands more than convenience. It takes lifestyle change.
What’s uniquely insipid about the Drive-Thru Diet is its explicit focus on the drive-thru.
There’s a new weapon in helping you make smarter choices… it’s your car. THAT’S RIGHT!! IT”S YOUR CAR!!
I understand that they are positioning these products as convenient, quick, and cheap. Most drive-thru users are looking for convenience and, typically, lunch. Yet the ads don’t show people using Taco Bell as a safety-net in a hectic day. One shows someone leaving the house, getting in the car, and driving to Taco Bell to calmly order food. In that same time, you could make a bean and cheese burrito in the comfort of your own kitchen and eat it off a real plate. Maybe even put it down between bites to talk to a friend or family member. And it would still be cheaper.
My boyfriend, Ben, started cooking large batches of snooty burritos for rock climbing trips. He made a Burrito Calculator in excel to figure out if this saves him any money. His recipe includes organic brown rice, Cabot Hunter’s Choice cheddar, organic garlic and onion, organic red and green peppers, organic black beans/red kidney, organic spices (cumin, black pepper, cayenne, pepper flakes), olive oil, salt, flour tortillas, and a Secret Ingredient that will not be disclosed. Cost per burrito? $1.50. And I can barely eat half. (Disclaimer: his takes more time than a straight bean-cheese burrito; cooking the brown rice takes time)
If you make ‘em Taco Bell size, you’re under a dollar. For sure”, Ben said. “I would say, on average, for the nice sized ones that I like it’s about $1.25 to 1.30′-and that’s putting a whole thing of cheese on them. The cheese is the biggest contributor (to the cost). If I took the cheese out, it would cut the costs hugely.”
Indeed, most of the calorie savings in the Fresco items come from reductions in cheese.
Taco Bell is by no means the first fast-food chain to market lower-fat choices. Subway has demonstrated that offering healthier options can be smart business for quick serve restaurants. Subway has watched both profits and growth per store soar since the launch of the Jared campaign. Subway co-brands with The Biggest Loser and sponsors The American Heart Association’s Start! Heart Walk. Apparently, the 2009 Zagats rated Subway as the #1 provider of “Healthy Options” among fast-food providers and the number one “Mega chain”.
Many Taco-Bell locations make for dangerous walking destinations and it’s likely that a large percentage of their customers use the drive-thru. Still, naming this campaign the “Drive-Thru Diet” rather than, I don’t know, Fresco Fit, champions an eating-in-your car lifestyle that conflicts with many broader goals of healthy living. Like, taking time to enjoy food. The spots focus on individuals and their cars. People aren’t shown enjoying Fresco tacos together. The ads reinforce a lifestyle characterized by mindless eating. Why take 10 minutes out of your day to sit down, and eat lunch from a plate, when you can be behind the wheel, tearing at wrappers with one hand, and tweeting to your friends with the other? The most creative Tweet praise wins Fresco for a year!
So enjoy your Drive Thru Diet and, if you’re feeling a little peckish after your light and balanced dinner, get in your car and come back! You’ll be just in time for the 4th meal at Taco Bell.
Image from www.drivethrudiet.com
hat tip to Sabrina Lopez
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