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Weighing in on the Fried Cheese Melt, and Other Things

Posted Aug 26 2010 9:42am

I may be slightly behind the times, as apparently Denny’s introduced their new $2 $4 $6 $8 Value Menu in April. Yet in the past couple of days I’ve heard several people mention the Menu’s most “exciting” new item–the Fried Cheese Melt. Imagine–four deep fried Mozzarella sticks and American cheese grilled between two thick pieces of sourdough bread and served with (what else?) French fries.  All for the unbelievable price of $4.  Exactly what we needed, right?

Image from ThisIsWhyYoureFat

Here’s some nutritional information Fried Cheese Melt with Fries and Marinara Sauce – 1260 calories, 63 grams fat, 3010 mg sodium

To put this in perspective To maintain my weight, I need between 1500 and 2000 calories each day (the average being ~1800 cal/day).  To reduce my risk of heart disease, I should keep my fat intake at/below an average of 59 grams each day. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults eat 2300 mg or less of sodium daily.

The Fried Cheese Melt Value Meal constitutes 70% of my daily calories, 106% of my daily fat and 131% of my daily sodium — all in one sandwich.

I am  not trying to single this sandwich out as the one and only “Enemy.” On the contrary. We are constantly surrounded by foods that are inexpensive, high in fat, sugar, calories and in other ways of very little nutritional value. We all heard about the KFC Double Down when it came out. We know that there are bowls of fat out there masquerading as salads . But the problem extends from restaurants and fast food-Not many people would sit and eat 10 teaspoons of sugar, but they may buy a soft drink. What about chips or snack foods that are soaked in oils, or contain an entire paragraph of ingredients? We have these products staring us in the face, and all the while we are being bombarded by messages telling us that “more food for less money is GOOD!” Many have referred to this as a Toxic Environment, and I just might have to agree.

I have not heard anyone deny that the high availability of cheap CRAP is a major contributor to the epidemic of obesity and related diseases. Any nutrition and dietetics expert, along with anyone else who follows the issue, will tell you that this is a huge problem.  What discourages me the most is this: We recognize the problem. We openly state that the problem exists and that something needs to change. Yet, every time I turn my head, there is a brand-new, even more ridiculously unhealthy “creation” on the market than the last!

Why pay more? Hmm, let me count the reasons...

These, unfortunately, are our affordable “foods.” Even if a person knows what’s good for him, he can’t buy it if he can’t afford it. What I ask is that more of these affordable restaurants start to consider–really consider–nutrition in their menus when they design their ‘value meals.” Some have started to do so, but Denny’s press release regarding the menu does not suggest that this was in their thoughts.

KFC's $3.95 under 395 (calories) -- Off to a good start.

We are a nation that lives for the “value” meal. The mission to “get the most for our money” is so ingrained into American culture that, frankly, I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon. Still, wouldn’t it be great if “value” referred to nutritional value, and “getting the most” meant finding the foods that would most meet our nutritional needs?’
Increasing the availability and affordability of healthy foods is not an easy job–but it needs to be done.

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