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The mystery of Taco Bell's Drive-Thru Diet

December 28, 2009 |  5:07 pm

taco bell drive thru fast food diet mcdonalds subwayTaco Bell’s “Fresco” menu items long ago joined the ranks of healthful fast-food options, which already included McDonald's limited-edition Go Active! Happy Meals for adults (complete with pedometer) and Pizza Hut’s “Fit N Delicious” line.

But now, the pseudo-Mexican fast food chain has a new infomercial starring a woman named Christine Dougherty, who says she lost 54 pounds on what the company calls the Drive-Thru Diet – a nickname for the seven items, including tacos and burritos, that the chain is offering, each with less than 9 grams of fat. 

Christine’s story is a little skimpy on the details – she says in her statement and video that she reduced her total daily calorie intake by 500 calories to 1,250 calories by choosing Fresco items and “making other sensible choices.”

How much of that was Fresco and how much was due to “sensible choices”? Let’s put it this way: The most notable difference between the regular and the Fresco tacos is replacement cheese with salsa. (For a little perspective, there are 100 calories in an ounce of Mexican-style shredded cheese, and about 10 calories for your typical salsa, according to this calorie calculator.)

This doesn’t make for a huge caloric difference between the Fresco menu items and their “regular” counterparts. The Crunchy Taco Supreme is 200 calories; the Fresco version cuts that to 150. The Fresco burrito supreme with steak keeps it at 330 calories, while the normal version hits 380. That 50-calorie cut doesn’t even come close to cutting the 500 calories Christine said she dropped each day.  

I’m guessing “other sensible choices,” such as eating carrots as a snack or holding the whipped cream on that caramel macchiato, had much more to do with Christine’s weight loss than the type of tacos that she ate. 

 Also? The blurb on Christine is more loaded with disclaimers than a box of cheese-covered nachos is with empty calories. The Drive-Thru Diet is “not a weight loss program,” Christine says, adding, “These results aren’t typical, but for me they were fantastic!” And in smaller print? Fresco is “not a low calorie food.”

So Taco Bell makes no claims as to its tacos’ special weight-loss capabilities. And since many major fast food chains now offer healthful options, Christine could have just as easily credited McDonald's Southwest salad with chicken (320 calories) or Burger King’s veggie burger (420 calories). She could even have made that Subway sandwich a wrap to cut down on carbohydrates.

When it comes to more health-conscious consumption, it doesn’t take a taco to start tracking your food’s energy content. Take a look at this counter the next time you want to evaluate how heavy your meal is. 

In any case, healthful eating should not be all about the calorie counting — consumers could theoretically cut their calories in half while on a steady diet of milkshakes and pizza. Maintaining a healthy diet also requires keeping track of those pesky vitamins and minerals, which come from a balanced intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts and other protein. Take a look at the USDA’s revised food pyramid for a better idea of what ingredients a good meal should include, whether it’s home cooked or passed through a drive-through window.

-- Amina Khan

Photo credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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Comments (30)

I too have lost weight using TACO BELL as a food diet.

I start with a large ice water.

I add into my meals pintos and cheese and mild sauce.
Each pintos and cheese is 180 calories.

I take home extra pintos to reheat as needed 1 or two beans.
I have on hand if I get hungry the next day to place in my own bowl, microwave and reheat with mild sauce packets.
My favorite way to eat it is with shredded lettuce added
on top after I reheat my portion controled beans.
I also like to add chopped up onion and or tomato.
Adding more veggie in stretches the beans.
I use the beans once or twice a day three or four times a week. I like to eat fruit or steamed veggies in between.
OF course it helps I am a vegetarian.
Exercise daily and portion control for the prepacked beans
gave me my jumpstart on my weight loss.
I have a long way to go and am experimenting with my own beans to cut the sodium.
TACO BELL is there if I need a fast food protein.
And very reasonable!

She ate 1250 cals for 2 years ???? That's very punishing. And because she's been on that diet so long, I'll bet she's reached her max weight loss and now she'll need to continue to eat 1250 cals to maintain her new low weight. Who wants to eat like that?? Women deprive themselves so severely in order to be skinny. I'll bet this girl cracks and she's back up 20-30 pounds within the next year.

I've lost weight eating McDonald's almost every day. I love the bacon ranch salad with grilled chicken and the yogurt parfait. Yummy!

You know, dieting smart is about being able to maintain it, not just about calorie counting. Cutting 100 calories out of a taco is significant if you are going to eat more than 2. It's between a 25-35% decrease in calories. That's huge! That means if you eat the same amount as normal, you go from a 2000 calorie diet to a 1500 calorie Ir even less diet. That fits in to Christine's plan actually. The reason taco bells diet can work for weight loss is it gives you the feeling of splurging on a big meal and let's you maintain the rest of your healthy day. I for instance have cut my dirt from 2200 to 1600 because whenever I want to gorge myself or eat something naughty, I get 4 chicken soft taco frescas. That's only 640 calories!! Most people splurge and go to in n out and get a double double and fries at over 1100 calories. That's 460 calories I saved and I am full for hours. Cut that in half for a snack for a guy. Plus it's cheap. Cheaper than lean cuisene same calories and infinitely more satisfying. Obviously it takes more than tacos to diet, but taco bells new plan helps you satisfy cravings so you can keep to the plan. I say it works if you look at the big picture

Good information for taco bell diet... Thanks to share this..

 


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