Run for the Border.

Fresh from the “WTF?!” Files: Taco Bell has a diet menu?

Not to be left behind by other fast food chains plugging more healthy options, Taco Bell has bumped up the marketing of their “Fresco” menu items, dubbing it the “Drive -Thru Diet”. Their spokesperson Christine Dougherty claims to have lost 54 pounds over the course of two years while eating Fresco Menu items.

The discerning person knows that the idea of a Taco Bell diet menu probably has as much validity as their “salads” (900 calories, 11g of saturated fat and 1700mg of sodium?! Seriously?) but the way this campaign seeks to mislead is disquieting. Both in the commercial and on the website, the semantic wrangling begins right away. Christine says that she lost the weight by eating items from the Fresco Menu while making other “sensible choices” and reducing her caloric intake to 1250 per day. “These results aren’t typical, but for me they were fantastic!” she quips. Taco Bell bends over backward to tell you that this diet isn’t a diet – “The Drive-Thru Diet is not a weight loss program”“Not a low calorie food” – all while treating you a montage of pictures of the newly svelte Christine.

But it’s not Taco Bell’s fault. It’s just that you don’t understand English. At least that’s what Tom Wagner, Taco Bell’s vice president of consumer insight said to Daily Finance: “We mean “Drive-Thru-Diet” to be a noun, not a verb.”

In the words of Bubbles, “You equivocating like a motherfucker.”

The items on the Fresco Menu aren’t terrible as an occasionally digression from a regular diet and exercise plan but a closer look at the nutritional information reveals that they are only slightly lower in calories than the regular menu items, high in sodium and low in dietary fiber. The “other sensible choices” that Christine mentions offhandedly are likely far more responsible for her weight loss than anything on the Fresco Menu. For example, Christine probably was not drinking regular soda. According to Taco Bell’s nutritional information their regular soft drinks on offer range from 200 to 550 calories depending on serving size.


Is it too late to hope that all of this is a joke?

When I first noticed this ad it was followed by the one for those ridiculous Reebok EasyTone sneakers. Coincidence?

  • Scipio Africanus

    I mean.

    I can’t dispute much of what you’re saying here. No, this is not what you should habitually eat if you’re trying to lose weight.


    In 2010, after a solid 30 years of diet and weight-loss culture having bombed-atomically on Western society and culture:

    1. Anyone who really calls themselves dieting *knows* they need to either count calories outright, or at least be logical and rational about what they eat and their caloric intake; and

    2. Most of the big fast food chains are trying to pretty up the ugly truth that fast food only slows down efforts lose weight.

    I don’t really see this as especially egregious and I also give most people enough credit to *know* that this fresco menu is bassically the same thing as the stale-o menu Taco Bell usually pedals. (I say thsi as a reformed Taco Bell junkie – they had my order memorized in high school.)

    Memyselfpersonally, I think the entire country should adopt the standards that NYC has imposed on fast-food and chain restaurants of posting calorie counts. That alone has halted me from getting a full McDonald’s deluxe breakfast plenty of times.

  • People need to educate themselves on their health and food. Some of the unhealthiest people I know are college educated and/or middle class so this isn’t about poverty and the undereducated. I don’t, however, dismiss that factor for a certain amount of people. That’s an easy a cop out to hide the poor willpower we have when it comes to eating bad food. I will also acknowledge the fast-paced lifestyle we live makes grabbing fast food easier than getting home at 6 and cooking dinner.

  • Val

    I can’t believe that anyone actually fell for the Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet. When I saw the commercials I thought they were tongue-in-cheek and poking fun of other fast food places that pretend to serve healthy food.

    And your quote from Bubbles is making me want to pull out my Wire dvds and watch the series for the 20th time. Lol

  • I thought it was a joke, kind of like the Jack in the Box bowl cut day commercial.

    That said, I know as someone who spent most of ’09 following a weight-loss plan that there is some advantage to knowing which fast food is less bad for you. You can’t always plan well and have healthy snacks on hand.

  • tabitha

    dum… isnt’ this just Subway all over again? Jared ate Subway sandwiches and lost all that weight? i guess Taco Bell figures they can get in on it too.

  • Agree with that last sentence especially cindylu. Taco Bell isn’t telling us to eat them everyday but sometimes you do find yourself unable to eat the healthiest meal possible. I saw a book that listed the healthiest items on the menu of every fast food and chain restaurant you can imagine.