Designing Truly, Healthy Fast Food

November 12, 2010

A team of Harvard researchers predicted last week that by the year 2050, 42 percent of adults will be obese.

A team of Harvard researchers predicted last week that by the year 2050, 42 percent of adults will be obese. And to make things worse a new report by researchers from Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity in New Haven, Conn., reviewed 3,000-plus kids meals  and found that just 12 met the nutritional criteria for preschoolers, and just 15 met the nutrition criteria set for older children. The second report published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), notes that obese teens are 16 times more likely to become severely obese adults than their normal weight peers. 
Fast food, while a major contributor, is not the only cause of the obesity epidemic in America. While there are many contributing factors to obesity, such as over-eating, poor food choices, genetic disposition, and lack of exercise, the problem goes far beyond individual behavior.  We cannot focus on fast food alone; we must look at the entire food chain.
Supermarkets can help curb this appetite creating “fast-food” solutions in the store with fresh, grab-and-go options along with more nutritional consumer education. In-store dieticians and community programs can be a key element to the movement offering nutritious meal planning workshops and tips to reading food labels.
There are plenty of other examples of “good” fast-food brands that are trying to work their way across the county. Miami, FL-based  Pollo Tropical – now with 120 locations throughout Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut, Central America, South America and they just introduced its ‘21 Days to a New You’ meal plan outlining recommendations for breakfasts, lunches and dinners over a 21-day period with total calorie intake ranging from 810 to just over 1,000 calories for lunch and dinner. 
Panera Bread has over 1,230 locations nationwide (and in Canada) and offers up whole-grain breads options for sandwiches served with an apple with it instead of chips as well half-size soups, salads, and sandwiches to control portion size.  
The slow but steady success of these chains illustrates the possibilities. CPG manufacturers can get in on the action by not only cut back on sugars, sodium or fats, but also by putting advertising dollars behind healthier choices. Together, the food industry can change the way Americans eat by designing a truer image of what healthy eating is all about.