Lay Off Ronald McDonald: The Truth about Fast Food and Fat

May 20th, 2011

OK, clowns can be creepy, and I’ll knock children over to run to the exits if a miming clown breezes into the room.  But the attack of raging nutrition advocates on Ronald McDonald is ridiculous and, well, distasteful.  The typical slam at fast food joints goes like this:  “They prey on kids and stupid, ill-educated adults.  Fast food drove the obesity epidemic.  People would be better off eating the wrappers than the food inside.”

In a unique study of fast food and obesity – “Burgers, Fries and Lawyers” — published by Stanford, I came up with the following conclusions:

  1. People with college education have driven the obesity epidemic!  Among college-educated women obesity tripled between the 1970s-1990s.
  2. Americans are consuming more calories — but they are snack calories in between meals at home and the office.  Fast food snacking has gone up by just 6 calories – roughly the value of one Cheez-It.  It’s all that nibbling while sitting in front of the laptop or television that made you fat.
  3. What about super-size portions?  They’ve become more super-sized at home and at non-fast food restaurants.  The average home-made hamburger is a half-pounder.  The 21 Club’s fabled $30 burger is made with rendered duck fat.
  4. School cafeteria food is usually worse.
  5. I developed a “dollar cost per gram of protein” basis, and showed that fast food compares favorably to supermarkets.

After I delivered a televised talk on my findings, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show made me the “Moment of Zen.”  By the way, the life of McDonald’s honcho Ray Kroc makes for fascinating reading.

Finally, I’d say the fast food joints have improved.  I’m often in airports, and when I need a nutritious, tasty meal or snack, I’ll grab a McDonalds Southwest salad or a Starbucks oatmeal with a banana.  As far as I’m concerned, the clowns are all over at the TSA rope lines.

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