The ‘Healthy’ Fast Food Debate

By Brian Harris


If I went to a healthy fast food chain, could I order some jumbo shrimp? Not to be flippant, but it seems like an oxymoron. For too long, “healthy” and “fast” have been opposite terms in the food industry.

Chipotle gained a reputation for healthier ingredients, but then saw the tide of public opinion turn because of the 1,000-calorie counts on burritos. As this article points out, proponents of so-called ‘healthy’ fast food have high expectations. They expect to conquer obesity, solve global warming, and end factory farming, all while providing a nutritious and tasty meal.

However, they still can’t beat fast food’s speed and convenience, nor can they beat the cost. Fresh foods are labor intensive and cost more than their fast-food counterparts to ship, store, and prepare. Not to hammer Chipotle, but they know the struggles with fresh foods well after a brand-damaging E.coli outbreak in several states. Whole Foods may have gotten the nickname “whole paycheck,” but consider this fact: Sweetgarden’s salads are five to 13 times more expensive than a McDouble from the dollar menu.

Is Healthy Food Actually Healthy?

Here’s a fact that that will validate your childhood phobias:  Lyfe Kitchen’s Brussels sprouts are 53% fat. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a study that found that eating more vegetables resulted in consuming more calories and sodium overall. When we eat tomatoes outside of our home, we typically consume an extra 364 calories; at home, they’re only 59 additional calories.

“Expecting the fast-food sector to help solve the obesity crisis is like asking bars to promote sobriety,” writes Arun Gupta for the Washington Post. Though he doesn’t expressly say it, it can be assumed that he also means the fast-casual sector. The only way consumers can truly eat healthy is by reading nutritional information carefully and skipping anything saucy, salty, or fatty.

How Brands Can Stand Out

Think your offerings are better and healthier than any fast-casual or fast-food chain? It’s time to promote it—literally shout it from the rooftops over the crowded field of opponents.

Make sure nutritional information, from packaging to menu boards, is accurate and clearly displayed. Audit your locations for compliance because brand statements are always strongest in unison.

Remember: The squeaky wheel gets the non-fat substitute for oil!

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