January 27, 2010
Forget Jenny Craig. Hit the Drive-Thru.
By ABBY ELLIN, New York Times
CAN eating fast food help you lose weight?
Christine Dougherty, a 27-year-old business consultant in Pensacola, Fla., thinks so. “I
don’t like to cook, and I wanted to be realistic without changing my lifestyle too much,”
Ms. Dougherty said. She began replacing her usual fast-food lunch or dinner with meals
from the Fresco menu at Taco Bell, which consists of seven items — including burritos
and tacos — each with less than 9 grams of fat, compared with, say, 30 grams of fat in
the Stuft beef burrito on the regular menu.
Ms. Dougherty said that she ate there five to eight times a week, exercised more and —
over two years — lost 54 pounds. By December 2009, she was the spokeswoman for
Taco Bell’s new Drive-Thru Diet advertising campaign for the Fresco menu, which
features Ms. Dougherty’s story in TV and print advertisements, and online. The
company recently began offering the menu in its drive-through kiosks, and not just
inside the restaurants.
Taco Bell isn’t the only fast-food business to have jumped on the reduced-calorie
bandwagon, but it is one of the few to promote their low-fat offerings so widely. Over
the last few years several chains have introduced lighter menu items with less fanfare:
Dunkin’ Donuts sells egg-white sandwiches. Quiznos offers a 500-calorie-and-under
menu. Starbucks has panini sandwiches with 400 calories or less. In 2004, McDonald’s
briefly offered Go Active! Happy Meals for Adults (complete with pedometer), but
these days sells items, like a grilled chicken sandwich, without promoting their low-fat
Then there’s Subway, which, besides its 230-to-380-calorie Fresh Fit subs, claims that
most of its sandwiches are low calorie, provided consumers don’t add high-fat
condiments. The chain shot to diet fame 10 years ago when Jared Fogle said that he lost
245 pounds by eating Subway fare for lunch and dinner.
Hoping to repeat that success, Subway recently recruited Shay Sorrells, a contestant on