Meals' Bad Deal for Health: Report
WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - "Value meals," "Combos" and "Super-Sized"
at America's fast-food counters may seem like a good deal for
your wallet, but they're no bargain when it comes to health, according
to a report released by a coalition of nutrition groups Tuesday.
The report suggests that "bundling"--the common practice of pairing
side dishes and drinks with fast-food sandwiches--greatly boosts
the calories and fat in a meal while actually costing consumers
more money. The same holds true for deals at movie theaters, convenience
stores and fast-food restaurants urging customers to spend more
money to get more food.
"Super-sizing costs you money to buy extra calories you don't
need," said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the
Center for Science in the Public Interest. Those extra calories
may help Americans feel like they are getting a bargain, but are
also contributing to the country's 61% rate of adult obesity,
Researchers traveled the country looking at marketing practices
in restaurants, theaters and stores and then examined the nutritional
effects of the deals.
A "Minibon" cinnamon bun at popular Cinnabon bakeries costs
an average of $2.01 and carries 300 calories and 5 grams of
saturated fat. The outlet encourages customers to purchase "Classic
Cinnabon" buns for 48 cents more. The 24% increase in price brings
123% more calories and three times the amount of saturated fat,
according to the report.
Similarly, "Super-Gulp" soft drinks at 7-Eleven stores cost
an extra 37 cents but more than triple the number of calories
to an average of 600.
"Value marketing is manipulation," said Melanie Polk, director
of nutrition education at the American Institute for Cancer Research,
one of the groups that issued the report.
Researchers have long worried that increasing portion sizes
and overall caloric intake are major factors in America's growing
obesity problem. Obesity is considered a major risk factor for
illnesses including diabetes, heart disease and some types of
A recent US Department of Agriculture study showed that Americans
consume 171 more calories on average today than they did a decade
ago. The trend continues despite falling levels of physical activity
"We Americans are quite literally eating ourselves into an early
grave," said Carol Tucker Foreman, director of the Food Policy
Institute at the Consumer Federation of America.
The study also found that people who want less food than a "super-sized"
meal provides may have to pay more to get it. Buying a quarter-pounder
with cheese with a small order of French fries and a small Coke
costs $4.40, 8 cents more than a bundled large Extra Value
Meal with 35% more calories, the report states.
"It actually costs more to buy a smaller, lower-calorie meal,"
Researchers called on restaurants to display calorie and fat
information on food counter menus beside pictures or descriptions
of food package deals. They also urged Americans to always ask
for small food sizes and resist the temptation to buy larger portions.
Polk called on consumers to share their super-sized foods as
a way to stretch calories further. A "Big One" Snickers bar delivers
510 calories for $1.02 at 7-Eleven, compared to 280 calories
for a 69-cent regular bar.
If you choose to buy a "Big One," she suggested, "cut it in
thirds and make two friends happy."
Reference Source 89