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The Drive -Thru Diet

If you haven’t been living under a rock these past few weeks, you’ve heard of Taco Bell’s Drive-Thru Diet. Christine Dougherty lost 54 pounds on the “Drive-Thru Diet” –consuming Taco Bell Fresco menu items. I’ve received several inquires as to the safety and feasibility of this “diet” from patients, friends, and co-workers alike. Even my itty bitty friend in Cincinnati sent me a Facebook message last night suggesting the Drive-Thru Diet as a topic of blog discussion (thank you, Mar!) :). So, here we are!

What we don’t know are the details of Christine’s intake. How many times a day was she eating Taco Bell’s Fresco items? How many at a time? What was she consuming “sensibly” outside of the Fresco items? What we do know (supposedly), is that Christine “lost 54 pounds,” “reduced her intake by 500 calories a day,” and “consumed 1250 calories a day”.

Drive-Thru Diet Flaws:

1. Calorie consumption. Assuming Christine weighed approximately 180 pounds to start (a safe assumption with a 54-pound weight loss), a basal energy calculation would calculate Christine’s energy needs to be 1540-1689 calories a day. Assuming Christine performs “seated work with little movement and little or no leisure activity” her requirements would increase to 2156-2377 calories a day. Subtracting 500 calories a day to produce a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories per week (1 pound ~ 3,500 calories), Christine’s needs would equate to 1656-1877 calories a day, leading me to the belief that 1250 calories per day is inadequate for Christine. This information, again, is based off a starting weight of ~180 pounds, assumes no physical activity, and was calculated using the FAO/WHO BEE equation with an activity factor of 1.4, suggested by the Manual of Clinical Dietetics put out by the American Dietetic Association.

2. Sodium. The sodium content in a single Fresco item ranges from 600 milligrams to 1410 milligrams. A recommended intake for adults without chronic health conditions such as hypertension, suggests 2,300 milligrams a day.

3. Fiber. One item on the Fresco menu contains 11 grams of fiber (!), but the remaining options contain a mere 2-8 grams. Most of the Fresco menu items contain a meager 2-3 grams of fiber.

4. Vitamins and minerals. A variety of fruits and vegetables is required to intake adequate vitamins and minerals each day. Lettuce and tomatoes every day isn’t what I would call variety, you?

5. Feasibility. Is eating off the Taco Bell Fresco menu a time or two each day any way to live? Cheap and maybe convenient, sure, but don’t we all enjoy some variety in our diets? As much as I love both tacos and burritos, I need not eat one, or the other, or both EVERY day to lose OR maintain weight. PASS!

6. Gimmick. Some of the Fresco menu items are a nearly insignificant 50 calories less than their standard menu counterparts. If you replace the cheese on a Taco Bell taco with salsa*, you get a Taco Bell Fresco taco. SURPRISE! (*this is what they do)

7. Preying on the weak. If you go to the Drive-Thru Diet website, you can’t miss this statement, “Drive-Thru-Diet® is not a weight-loss program. For a healthier lifestyle, pay attention to total calorie and fat intake and regular exercise. Taco Bell’s Fresco Menu can help with calorie reductions of 20 to 100 per item compared to corresponding products on our regular menu. Not a low calorie food. For complete nutritional information please visit TacoBell.com.” Even Taco Bells knows what it takes to lose weight, and it’s not Taco Bell.

Words of wisdom: Bite it, write it. Eat less, move more. Limit preservatives and eat cleaner, less processed foods. Include variety with a diet high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Consume healthy fats such as those found in nuts, oils, and seeds.

When I first heard a commercial for the Drive-Thru Diet, I laughed….nearly uncontrollably. While I wish nothing more than for anyone and everyone to reach their health, nutrition, and fitness goals, I strongly discourage the Drive-Thru Diet as a means of reaching your goals. In opposition to the Drive-Thru site, I do not encourage anyone to make “Frescoluctions” (laaaaaame).

Questions: What do you think is the biggest flaw in the Drive-Thru Diet? Do you think the popularity of the Fresco menu will increase? And, I shudder to ask, but do you know anyone attempting to lose weight on Taco Bell’s Drive-Thru Diet?

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  1. January 7, 2010 / 7:05 am

    I am glad to see you post on this. You know, you could lose weight on a Big Mac diet if you ate the right amount of it a day. That doesn’t mean it is good for you.

  2. January 7, 2010 / 8:05 am

    Bite it, write it– I’ve never heard that! What a great, simple weight-loss slogan.

    I hate this Taco Bell thing…you can lose weight on ANY “diet” if the calories are cut low enough. Doesn’t mean it’s nutritious.

    Of course, I guess for half of America, cutting calories would be an awesome first step, even if they were still eating fast food.

  3. eaternotarunner
    January 7, 2010 / 8:14 am

    The idea that any food that processed could be healthy is ridiculous! I really hope no one is getting taken in by this “diet”

    And 1250 calories? I would starve ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. January 7, 2010 / 8:39 am

    I agree with everything you said. It’s all a marketing scheme. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the negative backlash though. It just goes to show that people are getting smarter about their health and aren’t falling for this sort of thing anymore.

  5. lessonstolearn
    January 7, 2010 / 8:42 am

    What companies will do to sell their products! The commercials won’t convince me that Taco Bell is a healthy choice. But will someone lose weight on the diet? Sure, they probably will because most people will lose weight if they consume only 1250 calories of Taco Bell( or anything else). Taco Bell isn’t a magic food, it’s just a limited number of calories that’s simply not enough calories for most people. It frustrates me because someone will lose weight and feel like the diet is a success, but it’s not because it’s based on unhealthy food, too few calories, and a limited diet that is probably not sustainable. *sigh*

  6. January 7, 2010 / 9:13 am

    Loved your reivew. Unfortunately there not that many people out there that would do the math and find all the flaws with the Taco Bell diet. There are people at work who are already talking about doing the “taco bell diet” together… makes me sad.

    Personally I can’t stand drive thru anything.. simply because you are sitting in your car eating something that a) is not good for you and b) not even paying attention. I believe in eating and enjoying every bite and not eating to fill up my belly.

    • January 7, 2010 / 2:20 pm

      Wow! I was just about to post saying that I though most people were smarter than to follow a fast food diet…

      But then I read that people at your job were already talking about doing it? Oh. My.

  7. January 7, 2010 / 9:37 am

    the words Taco Bell and Diet don’t mix!! The quality of the food alone is enough to make me stay away from that place. Don’t they use the worst quality meats allowed by the FDA?

  8. January 7, 2010 / 9:38 am

    i think yes, people will try this diet. I really want to learn more specifics and it, and I want to find out how many times she at at Taco Bell per day. Your analysis was fantastic, but if Taco Bell would give us more information, perhaps this analysis could be more positive, you know? IF they were to mention that she also increased her fruit and vegetable intake, and whole grains, yadda yadda, but then ate a Fresco menu item once per day..that’s a whole other story! You know? Annoying.

    Thanks for your sweet comment on my “About me” post. It really meant a lot!

  9. Mary
    January 7, 2010 / 9:39 am

    Haha…thanks for the shoutout, Nicole ๐Ÿ™‚ I figured you could throw out some words of wisdom on this marketing ploy! When I first saw the commercial, I think it was during a few of the bowl games last weekend, I honestly thought it was some kind of tongue-in-cheek marketing campaign to make fun of some of those fad fast food diets… then I realized they were completely serious, and they were in fact trying to become a fad fast food diet. You gotta give credit to those marketers though. One successful, if “exceptional” diet to promote, and they’ve got themselves a campaign that everyone’s talking about. At least there’s people like you out there to make sure we don’t fall for it ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. January 7, 2010 / 10:22 am

    Oh I don’t even know where to start. I agree with all of the conclusions you have drawn here. Somewhere the math isn;t making sense. It still doesn’t encourage a healthy lifestyle as in activity levels, which is a major factor. Oh what will they ever think of next.

  11. January 7, 2010 / 10:41 am

    Great post! Very informative and helpful :-). For good or bad, I kind of think that the popularity of the Fresco menu will increase simply because of some people’s desire for convenience as well as Taco Bell’s catchy advertising. I do hope most people realize this isn’t a legitimate “diet plan” though.

  12. January 7, 2010 / 11:08 am

    Great review of this diet! I think the biggest problem is the potential lack of balance in the diet.

    On the bright side maybe this will make Taco Bell a bit healthier. (i.e. subway began offering apples or yogurt instead of chips and water or milk instead of soda). What do you think?

  13. January 7, 2010 / 11:10 am

    It seems they will come up with anything these days! Great review, I wasn’t sure of all the details and you summed it up great. When will everyone realize moderation, healthy eating and activity is the way to go? Have a great day!

  14. Stef @ moretolifethanlettuce
    January 7, 2010 / 11:47 am

    i laughed when i heard about the taco bell diet, but then i was saddened and angered bc i realized so many people are vulnerable to this type of fad/fraudulent diet and “taco hell” is totally taking them for a ride! love that you dissected the supposed diet with all of your RD wisdom—thanks!

  15. January 7, 2010 / 11:48 am

    I also laughed uncontrollably when I saw this ad. Really Taco Bell…do you think that you can lose weight eating your food. I commend the woman for making money from her weight loss.

    I agree with your recommendations! If only I can stick to a plan. I did so well on detox and I am trying to figure out how I can maintain this in everyday life.

  16. January 7, 2010 / 11:58 am

    I actually heard about this post from another blog and have yet to see the commercial…that would be my lack of tv watching! Anyways, it seems ridiculous!! It’s not the taco bell, it’s the cutting of insane calories that’s allowing her to lose weight. Taco Bell certainly isn’t “clean eating”. I hope this doesn’t become a trend!

  17. January 7, 2010 / 12:05 pm

    Thanks for the review! I think this diet is a joke! But that’s just me ๐Ÿ˜‰ Gotta love good marketing!

  18. January 7, 2010 / 12:53 pm

    This is almost hysterical to me, as well! Thankfully, I’m not HUGE on Mexican food…so TB has never done it for me. I can see how the healthier items in moderation would be okay, but I guess I’m not a believer in diets that limit you to certain foods ALL the time. What happens when you start to eat “real” food again? Not to mention (like you noted), you have to be lacking some vital nutrients!

    Oh, Christine….I’m glad it worked for ya, but I hope Americans see the “Results not typical” disclaimer on these advertisements. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. January 7, 2010 / 2:16 pm

    I have mixed thoughts about this but I definitely think there will be people out there giving it a try. I also think some people might twist it the wrong way, thinking taco bell’s fresco is healthy, and then order 4 fresco tacos.
    I would really be interested to know what else she eat and her activity.
    Great info!

  20. January 7, 2010 / 3:23 pm

    I haven’t seen the commercial, but I read about it on Gina’s blog. You bring up some great points. The sodium content alone of the items is insane (as is the sodium in most processed and other fast food items). It’s sad that probably quite a few people will order off the fresco menu and think they are “being good.”

    And here is an idea, if Taco Bell wants to help America lose weight, they should make all of their items healthier… I know, not very likely…

  21. January 7, 2010 / 3:28 pm

    I agree with you. This “diet” is absurd! I see nothing wrong with going to TB once a week if you’re on the road and have limited options, but to put the word diet and TB in the same sentence is absolutely ridiculous. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it. It only reinforced what I was already thinking about it. Well done! ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. January 7, 2010 / 3:59 pm

    I love your breakdown of the drive thru diet flaws, very informative. Of course this diet is all a commercial. But I’m sure there are at least a few folks out there that will try it ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. January 7, 2010 / 4:25 pm

    Thankfully, no one that I know is thinking about trying this diet! If anything, we have all been laughing and discussing how riduculous it is. Great post!

  24. January 7, 2010 / 6:26 pm

    a freaking men to what u just said!!! theres NO way she could have had energy and stuff with that low of calories. its soo lame

  25. January 7, 2010 / 8:14 pm

    I hate that Taco Bell is using this to lure people BUT I am a Taco Bell customer and I love their fresco menu…sometimes I am in a rush and starving and this IS a healthy alternative (IMO) to other fast food items

  26. January 7, 2010 / 8:42 pm

    Love this post, too funny because my fiance and I just saw the commercial for this and laughed, too funny!! Thanks for the sweet comments girl!! Happy New Year to you beautiful girl!!! xoxo

  27. January 7, 2010 / 10:26 pm

    I spoke about this in class today. Everyone laughed because it’s soo ridiculous! Thanks for sharing!


  28. January 8, 2010 / 12:41 am

    I hope to God nobody’s gullible enough to buy into that crap. But I think the best it will do is encourage health-conscious people to choose from the Fresco menu when they are forced to eat at Taco Bell.
    Seriously, diet is NOT about calories…It’s about the quality of the food, damn it!

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