0g trans fats a good first step by restaurants, more to be done

Articles
November 03, 2008

0g trans fats a good first step by restaurants, more to be done

Healthier choices come in small steps at low-priced foodservice outlets, where a product’s signature taste could take years to develop. Tinker with taste—even for sound nutritional reasons and good-for-you benefits—and risk losing the traffic they’ve worked so hard to build. That’s why it was news when KFC switched to soybean oil to eliminate trans fats from its chicken in 2006 and splashed the news on its window signs, and when Long John Silver’s, its sister Yum Brands division, began to roll out Freshside Grille, its first menu of non-fried fish, in October. The new offerings include Pacific salmon, shrimp scampi and vegetables. Similarly, ChickFilA has figured out how to free its waffle fries and breakfast biscuits of trans fats—and join the feeder’s iconic chicken sandwiches, nuggets and strips in that respect.

Healthier choices come in small steps at low-priced foodservice outlets, where a product’s signature taste could take years to develop. Tinker with taste—even for sound nutritional reasons and good-for-you benefits—and risk losing the traffic they’ve worked so hard to build.

That’s why it was news when KFC switched to soybean oil to eliminate trans fats from its chicken in 2006 and splashed the news on its window signs, and when Long John Silver’s, its sister Yum Brands division, began to roll out Freshside Grille, its first menu of non-fried fish, in October. The new offerings include Pacific salmon, shrimp scampi and vegetables.

Similarly, ChickFilA has figured out how to free its waffle fries and breakfast biscuits of trans fats—and join the feeder’s iconic chicken sandwiches, nuggets and strips in that respect.

And after nearly four years of research, Dunkin’ Donuts turned to a blend of palm, soybean and cottonseed oils to lower each serving of donuts, croissants, muffins and cookies to less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving in 2007, and scoot under the Federal threshold to be able to say ‘zero.’ 

Kudos to these restaurants for these decisions. However, SG urges more restaurants to take up the cause to offer more healthful choices, and make them very easy to find on menus—such as egg white sandwiches on flatbread at Dunkin’ Donuts. Besides the nutritional gains, alternatives help override the veto vote among a household or group of friends about where to go for food, so everyone has a selection they can live with.

And while a 0g trans fat claim may give people more confidence to consume these foods, restaurants should also tell the truth—visibly—about the fat, sodium, sugar and carbohydrate profiles of their products. Perhaps then, while consumers determine the role of these foods in their diets, they might also be motivated to plan some visits to the local Farmers’ Markets.